Posts Tagged ‘Erie Railroad’

Appreciating the Beauty of a Silent Bridge

December 5, 2013

Bridge01

Bridge02

Bridge03

Bridge04

Bridge05

Bridge06

For untold decades this bridge has spanned the Mahoning River just west of Leavittsburg carrying trains of the Erie, Erie Lackawanna, Conrail and Ohio Central railroads.

But it’s been several years since a train rumbled between its trusses and chance are it will  never again feel the vibration of steel wheels on steel rails.

The ex-Erie Chicago line is still in place between Leavittsburg and Ravenna, but overgrown with weeds and trees.

Roger Durfee found and photographed this bridge in early November, and he and I made a visit to the structure recently during a railroad archeology outing to see how much of the former Erie remains between Ravenna and Warren, Ohio.

Snow covered the rails and right of way. Footprints and ATV tracks indicated that we had not been the first visitors here since the snow fell.

We approached the bridge from the west so all of the views shown here are looking eastward. All images were made with a zoom lens and we did not venture out onto the bridge proper.

There are still many iron truss bridges like this one that carry rails over rivers large and small. They speak of size, they speak of strength and they are monuments to a different generation of bridge engineering.

They have a beauty of their own if you take the time to appreciate it. I’m glad that we did.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

My Memory Proved to be Mistaken

December 2, 2013
Looking eastward on the former Erie Railroad mainline, part of which is now a hike and bike trail.

Looking eastward on the former Erie Railroad mainline, part of which is now a hike and bike trail.

Looking westward into  Ravenna from the Ohio Route 14 overpass of the former Erie Railroad. The North Freedom Street grade crossing can be see in the distance.

Looking westward into Ravenna from the Ohio Route 14 overpass of the former Erie Railroad. The North Freedom Street grade crossing can be see in the distance.

I have this hazy memory of driving to Alliance one day and crossing over the former Erie Railroad mainline on the northeast side of Ravenna on Ohio Route 14. I  looked down and saw that construction crews had been at work doing some grading and clearing work on the ex-Erie right of way.

I concluded that the former Erie tracks were being pulled up. Further reinforcing that belief was another memory of reading something — I don’t know where it was — that Norfolk Southern had removed the former Erie tracks east of Ravenna.

That combined with what I glimpsed, if only briefly, made sense. I knew that the former Erie between Kent and Ravenna was still used by the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway, but as far as I knew the line east of Ravenna was out of service and had been for a long time.

Someone had said the Ohio Central bought it, but no one I knew of had ever shown any photographs of trains on that line or spoke of having seen an OC train there.

I couldn’t see any tracks below as I passed over on Route 14, so the line must have been gone. Late last week, though, I discovered that the conclusions I had drawn from my memory had been mistaken.

During a railroad archeology outing to check out how much of the former Erie track is still in east of Ravenna, Roger Durfee and I paused at the top of the Route 14 bridge for a look and to get some photographs.

There is one set of ex-Erie tracks still in place. They are weed covered and hard to see unless you’re looking for them. I can see how I missed them during the brief glimpses that I had as I drove over this bridge.

The construction I had seen was probably for the trail, which runs next to the ex-Erie tracks in Ravenna and for a ways eastward.

The ABC still uses the ex-Erie to a point just west of North Freedom Street. There was a string of boxcars sitting on the main on the day that we visited. A nearby paper company is still a railroad customer.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Another Part of the Erie is Dying

November 26, 2013
Looking north on the Youngstown Line at Latimer. The Erie crossed the New York Central between the signal and the control box.

Looking north on the Youngstown Line at Latimer. The Erie crossed the New York Central between the signal and the control box.

In one of my usual quests to catch Norfolk Southern heritage units, I ventured to the area north of Youngstown on Nov. 16.

A stone train bound for Lordstown was making its way from the quarry to the “45″ stone yard in Lordstown.

The routing of these trains has been to use the former Nickel Plate Road to Ashtabula, then the former New York Central Youngstown Line to the ex-Erie Lackawanna Niles Secondary to the Lordstown Secondary.

This routing came about several years ago when NS took over the Lordstown Secondary from just east of Alliance to just west of Lordstown is out of service.

The train I was looking for had the NKP Heritage unit as third of three units. I thought I might be able to catch it on the Youngstown Line as it took the connection to the former EL at Latimer. Prior routing of these trains as well as the Warren ore trains from Ashtabula, had seen them take a section of the ex-EL Youngstown bypass into Warren and exit the EL for ex-Pennsylvania Railroad rails to  Warren and onto the Lordstown Secondary.

This is one of the few sections of the EL in the eastern part of Ohio that still saw daily movements of heavy trains.

My goal was to catch this stone train taking the connection at Latimer, which was where the EL bypass crossed the NYC on a diamond.

Conrail lived up to its “consolidated” name and put a connection in the northwest quadrant from the ex-NYC to the ex-EL and ripped out the bypass from Latimer to Transfer (Pa).

Once the tracks of hotshots like first NY 100 and ACX 99, the EL right of way today is a barely recognizable path east of Latimer.

I walked around the interlocking taking several different views, including some that show what appear to be ex-NYC and Erie signals still in use.

I noticed that the connection and the former EL to the west had not been used in a very long time.

The steel mill in Warren slowly shut down its operations in 2012, resulting in no more ore trains from Ashtabula.

This leads me to believe that these stone trains didn’t run on the ex-EL after all. Even though I didn’t see the stone train, I later found out that was the case.

It passed right through Latimer on the Youngstown Line, ran around its train near Center Street in Youngstown, then headed out the Lordstown Secondary, using the Crab Creek connection near downtown. This is an all ex-NYC and PRR routing.

So like many other miles of ex-EL track in the state, this section now waits out its days quiet and rusting, waiting for trains that may never come. On my way to Latimer, I stopped in an area west of Leavittsburg – a former busy EL junction near Warren – to photograph some remains of the former EL mainline to Kent.

Whistle posts and crossing flashers still stand, but have not seen a train in probably 10 or more years.

A rusting but sturdy truss bridge over the Mahoning River reminded me that even though the Erie was built to last it couldn’t survive the economic and political climate that brought down so many railroads in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee

Looking west on the ex-EL toward Cortland. The connection is off to the right.

Looking west on the ex-EL toward Cortland. The connection is off to the right.

Wider view looking west standing on what was the EL main.

Wider view looking west standing on what was the EL main.

Looking east on the ex EL, connection to the left, Youngstown Line up ahead.

Looking east on the ex EL, connection to the left, Youngstown Line up ahead.

A lonely whistle post in Braceville, looking toward Kent.

A lonely whistle post in Braceville, looking toward Kent.

Silent relics in Braceville stand and wait....and wait....and wait.

Silent relics in Braceville stand and wait….and wait….and wait.

A rusty lock and peeling silver paint indicate years of no attention from the signal maintainers at Braceville.

A rusty lock and peeling silver paint indicate years of no attention from the signal maintainers at Braceville.

Looking east toward Leavittsburg.

Looking east toward Leavittsburg.

Closer view of the bridge over the Mahoning River. Ghosts of the Lake Cities and time freights must live here.

Closer view of the bridge over the Mahoning River. Ghosts of the Lake Cities and time freights must live here.

Lake Cities Memorialized in Downtown Kent Mural

November 5, 2013

Lake Cities

The Lake Cities, the Erie Lackawanna’s last passenger train to serve Kent, left town for the final time on Jan. 5, 1970, but now the train has been memorialized in a mural in downtown Kent.

The mural, which is based on a Herbert Harwood photograph, was created by Henry Van ‘thooft as his Eagle Scout project. It located just east of South Water Street on the north side of Burbick Way.

The Harwood photograph appears on the cover of Railroad Town: Kent and the Erie Railroad, which was written by Bruce Dzeda and published in 2011 by the Kent Historical Society.

The KHS was instrumental in saving the former Erie passenger depot, which had fallen into decay after the Lake Cities was discontinued.  The Society purchased the station in 1976 and restored it.

Opened on June 1, 1875, the depot today houses a restaurant and has become a symbol of Kent.

The mural shows EL No. 6 arriving at the Kent depot in spring 1965.

Erie Freight House in Akron Now Just Rubble

May 24, 2013
Construction of the Akron University student housing project continues on the bones of the Erie/EL Akron freight house while the B&O CPL's stand watch along the CSX mainline as viewed from Wolf Ledges Parkway on May 19, 2013.

Construction of the Akron University student housing project continues on the bones of the Erie/EL Akron freight house while the B&O CPL’s stand watch along the CSX mainline as viewed from Wolf Ledges Parkway on May 19, 2013.

Nothing but rubble is left of the Erie/EL Freight House in Akron as viewed across the CSX mainline from Wolf Ledges Parkway.

Nothing but rubble is left of the Erie/EL freight house in Akron as viewed across the CSX mainline from Wolf Ledges Parkway.

Barbara and I were in Akron last Sunday on our way to see Thomas the Tank Engine on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Along the way, we stopped along Wolf Ledges Parkway to see the ruins of the Erie Railroad freight house. There was nothing left but rubble of the former Erie/Erie Lackawanna structure. I have a slide somewhere of it in the 1970s.

Photographs by Richard Jacobs

Erie Freight House in Akron Being Demolished

May 15, 2013

Demolition of the former Erie Railroad freight house in downtown Akron began earlier this month to make way for a housing project aimed at University of Akron students.

The building was constructed by the Erie in 1916 and at one time had a clerical staff of about 30  and 150 dock workers.

The last use of the building was to store rolls of newsprint for the Akron Beacon Journal. However, for many years that paper has arrived at the building by truck rather than by rail. The freight house is located at the corner of East Exchange Street and South Broadway.

The former Erie Railroad yards were just to the southwest of the freight house. That site is now used as a bus transfer terminal by Akron METRO Regional Transportation Authority.

A passenger station built by the Erie in the late 1940s was once located on the other side of Exchange Street from the freight house, but it was torn down in the 1970s and the site now houses a bank branch.

The $20 million student housing project that will be built on the site will be named The Depot as homage to the site’s rail history and close proximity to the CSX New Castle Subdivision tracks.

“We’re at the confluence of that,” said Aaron Pechota, vice president of the NRP Group, a development company based in Garfield Heights.

A Beacon Journal article about the demolition of the freight house quoted former Erie Lackawanna conductor Fred Stuckmann, who took photographs of the building being torn down.

Stuckmann told the newspaper that when he heard that the building would be torn down to make way for new student housing, he got permission to take pictures of the inside of the facility. He later returned to chronicle its dismantling.

“I got to go inside this before it was put to sleep — to look at what I supported all those years when I was putting cars in front of it,” Stuckmann said, adding that he would post his photographs at http://rrpicturearchives.net.

Stuckmann told the Beacon Journal  that after seeing the interior of the freight house he concluded that it was beyond saving.

“I’d like to see it not be destroyed, but I realize you can’t stop progress,” said Stuckmann, 65, of Akron, who began working for the EL in the 1960s and left railroading in the 1980s.

The Beacon Journal sold the 3.4-acre Erie freight house property to the NRP Group, which created Exchange LLC for the project.

Newspaper executives declined to disclose the purchase price. But a Beacon Journal news story about The Depot project quoted an unnamed city official who is familiar with the project as saying that the sale price was about $3 million. The Beacon Journal bought the property in 1967 for more than $200,000.

The city was involved with the sale because it was expected to authorize Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, for the project. A TIF deal freezes the value of the land before any improvements are made. Taxes are paid as if the land had never been developed. Additional money collected for the increased value of the land goes for a specified time to the project instead.

Mark Moore, the city’s strategic initiatives division manager, said the TIF on The Depot project is for 30 years and is expected to raise about $19 million. The money will be split between the developer and the city.

The Depot is among four private student-housing developments that the city has approved that will provide off-campus housing for nearly 2,000 students. The Akron City Council approved plans for The Depot in April.

One Spring Day in Kent in 1986

March 20, 2013

It was a spring day in May 1986. Conrail local WYAL is switching the Star of the West Mill in Kent. The tracks once belong to the Erie Lackawanna, nee Erie Railroad.

Conrail No. 7520 is a GP10 that was formerly Penn Central/Pennsylvania Railroad No. 7030. This unit came from a series of rebuilt geeps that Conrail had that were very common yard and local power at that time.

Next there is a siding that is now a driveway and I managed to include my car in the photos. It was a 1971 AMC Ambassador and it brings back memories.

Then there are the people. The conductor is Clyde Flint and the railfan in the top photo (wearing  shorts) is Steve Locher.

I did not know either one of them when I took this photo. However, when I posted these photos on Flickr a few years ago, I got a response from Steve. He related how he used to watch and sometimes ride with the crew as they switched in Kent.

He was a 16-year-old high school student then. At 18 I wasn’t much older. Steve now lives in Columbus.

As it turns out, this was the only time that I caught a local in Kent during the Conrail days. I have shot many Akron Barberton Cluster Railway trains here in recent years and have included a modern photo from the same location for comparison.

Article and Photographs by Todd Dillon

CR_7520B

The ABCs of an Erie Shoofly

March 10, 2013
Looking east through what will eventually be the bridge that is used. Note new track swinging off to the left.

Looking east through what will eventually be the bridge that is used. Note new track swinging off to the left.

I paid a visit to Kent on Saturday afternoon and found a crew doing some track work on the former Erie mainline that is now operated by the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway. The work is being done in preparation for bridge work over the CSX New Castle Subdivision mainlines.

The former Erie bridges over the ex-Baltimore & Ohio are being raised or removed in the ongoing clearance project that will permit CSX to operate double-stacked container trains on this route later this year.

In the case of the Erie bridges at Kent, one of the old bridges is getting a short reprieve while another one is being raised.

The contractors this past weekend were building a shoefly track over to one of the trackless bridges.

The shoofly track will be used while the bridge that now carries the lone track in the area is raised and another old bridge next to it is removed.

Once the middle bridge is raised and the track reinstalled the bridge carrying the shoefly will be removed.

Once everything was connected on Saturday, the first move over the “new” track was a dump truck full of ballast.

Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee

A view down the new temporary track on the bridge that will eventually be removed.

A view down the new temporary track on the bridge that will eventually be removed.

A lineup of equipment sitting on a former Erie mainline.

A lineup of equipment sitting on a former Erie mainline.

The first “move” over the new track. It’s not exactly the Erie Lackawanna train 2NY100

Dumping ballast.

Dumping ballast.

New bridge supports. I'm not sure of the technical name for them.

New bridge supports. I’m not sure of the technical name for them.

The old bridge that will be removed. That's the "Davey Tree" signals on the CSX below.

The old bridge that will be removed. That’s the “Davey Tree” signals on the CSX below.

First load gone, heading back for the second load.

First load gone, heading back for the second load.

Load No. 2.

Load No. 2.

The Railroad Came to Kent 150 Years Ago Today

March 7, 2013
The former Erie passenger station in Kent, which is now a restaurant, is shown framed by an arch of the Main Street bridge. Opened in 1875, it is the most visible legacy of the Erie Railroad's former presence in Kent. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

The former Erie passenger station in Kent, which is now a restaurant, is shown framed by an arch of the Main Street bridge. Opened in 1875, it is the most visible legacy of the Erie Railroad’s former presence in Kent. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

The city of Kent will pass an historical milestone today by observing the 150th anniversary of the coming of the first train to the city. It was on March 7, 1863, that an Atlantic & Great Western train arrived in the then-named village of Franklin Mills on the banks of the Cuyahoga River in Portage County.

The A&GW, which had been envisioned by Franklin Mills resident Marvin Kent, would eventually extend from Salamanca, N.Y., to Dayton, Ohio. The A&GW was a broad gauge railroad with 6 feet of space between the rails.

The Erie Railroad would lease the A&GW in 1868, but it had been involved with the A&GW from an early stage. Not only did the A&GW connect with the Erie at Salamanca, the Erie also insisted that the A&GW be built as a broad gauge railroad.

Marvin Kent served as president of the A&GW until it came under the Erie’s control. Franklin Mills, which was renamed in honor of Kent in 1867, became a division headquarters and hosted car shops and a large yard.

The genesis for the A&GW came in October 1852 when Kent and others met in Cleveland to plan a railroad that would extend between Ohio and New York state.

They obtained charters from the New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania legislatures. Consequently, the railroad went by separate names in each state, not becoming the A&GW until 1858.

Much of the funding for building the A&GW came from European financiers, primarily located in England.

The arrival of the first train in Kent was cause for celebration. The Portage County Democrat newspaper noted that the train received a “pleasant reception.”

The railroad continued to be known in Kent as the A&GW even after it came under Erie control. The A&GW name was officially retired about 1880 and Bruce Dzeda, author of the book Railroad Town: Kent and the Erie Railroad, noted that by 1895 the residents of Kent referred to the railroad as simply the Erie.

Today, the most noticeable legacy of the Erie Railroad in Kent is the handsome restored depot that stands just south of Main Street.

The tracks in town still remain, owned by the Portage County Port Authority and used by the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway, a subsidiary of the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway. The tracks west of Kent are used in part by Shelly Materials.

The yard and car shops have long since closed. Part of the yard is now used as a hiking and biking trail.

The Kent Historical Society is marking the 150th anniversary of the coming of the railroad to Kent with a series of events this year. The first of those will occur on April 4 when historian H. Roger Grant will present a lecture on the Erie Railroad. Grant’s talk is free and open to the public. It will begin at 7 p.m. at the Christ Episcopal Church at 118 S. Mantua St.

Some of the former Erie Railroad car shops still exist and have some other use now. An ABC train passes the car shops, which were located south of Summit Street in Kent. (Photograph by Todd Dillon)

Some of the former Erie Railroad car shops still exist. An ABC train passes the car shops, which were located south of Summit Street in Kent. (Photograph by Todd Dillon)

Yet Another Change in the Grant Program

March 2, 2013

The Kent Historical Society has made yet another change to the particulars involving a talk by H. Roger Grant about the Erie Railroad to be held in April. The event will now be held at the Christ Episcopal, at 118 South Mantua St. (State Route 43). The date (April 4) and time (7 p.m.) remain the same.

Grant, a professor of history at Clemson University, will speak about the overall state of the Erie Railroad before its merger with the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad in 1960 to create the Erie Lackawanna.

In particular, Grant will focus on the career of Erie executive Robert Woodruff and how the culture of the Erie caused problems with profitability and creativity.


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