Few who ride the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad from or into Akron Northside station probably are aware of the history of the site.
The Valley Line of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad once had a station and freight house here. Some in the 19th century Akron thought the Howard Street station was too far from downtown, so they successfully lobbied for the construction of another station on Market Street.
The depot didn’t last long, perhaps because it was a stub-end facility that required backup moves. Perhaps Akronites just got used to using Howard Street station.
B&O passenger service to Howard Street station ended in January 1963 and the station was razed.
That might have been the end of the story, but for the decision of the Cuyahoga Valley Line to begin bringing passengers into Akron and taking them by bus to Quaker Square.
For several years, the passengers disembarked at a vacant lot. Then the CVL became the beneficiary of money flowing from the National Park Service, which purchased the Valley Line after CSX abandoned it in 1985. The Park Service was helping to preserve CVL service,
In time the CVL renamed itself the CVSR and began developing stations that have the appearance of a railroad station even if they are minimalist structures.
The vacant lot where B&O’s Howard Street Station had stood soon sported a new station with an expansive paved parking lot.
That resurrection was about having a second life. The Valley Line got a second life by providing transportation to and within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
The involvement of the Park Service brought the CVL a second life for it didn’t operate in 1986 and 1987 after the Valley Line was abandoned.
The site of Howard Street station received a second life and became Ohio’s busiest railroad stations in terms of passengers handled annually.
Steam motive power on the Valley Line also has received a second life. In the early years, CVL trains were pulled by a former Grand Trunk Western steam engine.
But that ended after the 1990 season and it would be 17 years before a steam locomotive whistle again echoed through the Cuyahoga Valley.
In recent years, former Nickel Plate Road No. 765 has been a regular visitor to the CVSR and thousands have ridden behind it and/or come out to watch it.
Not every railroad line in Akron has been able to enjoy a second life, but in the case of the Valley Line at Howard Street it has bounced back from the dead quite nicely and its future is assured.
This image of the NKP 765 arriving at Northside station in September 2010 was made from the Y bridge before the fencing was added. It is my nomination from the collection of Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler for the Farkas Challenge.
Article by Craig Sanders, Photograph by Craig Sanders