Posts Tagged ‘The Lake Cities’

EL Monday: The Lake Cities in Kent

August 8, 2022

It’s 1967 or 1968 in Kent and the Erie Lackawanna’s westbound morning Lake Cities is at the station. It was scheduled through Northeast Ohio in the morning hours after its overnight journey from Hoboken, New Jersey. Therefore, there are far more images of the westbound No. 5 than eastbound No. 6, which reached Akron and Kent in the evening.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

EL Monday: The Lake Cities in Akron

July 18, 2022

Erie Lackawanna E8A No. 825 is leading the Lake Cities west in Akron in 1967-1969. By 1969, the Lake Cities was the last EL passenger train still operating in Akron. Note the numerous head end cars that the train is carrying. No. 825 was built for the Erie Railroad in February 1951, so it has made the journey over these tracks many times.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

EL Monday: The Lake Cities in Kent

October 12, 2020

The wayback machine has landed us trackside along the Erie Lackawanna mainline in Kent in the late 1960s.

You’ve got black and white negative film loaded in your camera and show time is at hand as the westbound Lake Cities is about to make its station stop.

Led by E8A No. 822, it will pass by us before stopping. The roof of the passenger station is above the first cars.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

EL Monday: Rainy Day in Akron

September 21, 2020

The photographer is standing on the Akron Union Station platform on a rainy day while Erie Lackawanna E8A Nos. 830 and EL 832 pass by westbound with the Lake Cities one mid-year morning in the late 1960s.

Note that EL 830 has no portholes and EL 832 has three. The Lake Cities used the former Erie passenger depot that was out of view to the left of the photographer.

It would be the last EL passenger train in Akron and made its final trips in January 1970.

Photograph by Robert Farkas


The Lake Cities in Kent

April 20, 2020

How about another Erie Lackawanna Monday from Kent? Both of these images were taken in 1968.

In the top image Train No. 5 is sitting at the Kent Passenger station. Note all of the head-end traffic cars that are assigned to the train.

In the bottom image No. 5 is leaving town for its next stop, which is Akron. It will then continue westward to Chicago Dearborn Station.

Photographs by Robert Farkas

50 Years Ago Lake Cities, Diplomat Made Final Trips

January 25, 2020

The westbound Erie Lackawanna Lake Cities cruises through Wadsworth in December 1966. By now it was the last passenger train on the former Erie through Akron.

The westbound EL Lake Cities and westbound Baltimore & Ohio Diplomat sit side by side as they board and discharge passengers at their respective stations in downtown Akron. Running on similar schedules through Akron, both made their last trips in the same month although a remnant of the Diplomat continued to operate between Akron and Washington. (Photograph by Robert Farkas)

On a wintry Saturday morning the westbound Lake Cities departs Akron. It is Jan. 3, 1970, and in three days Nos. 5 and 6 will be history. (Photograph by John Beach)

Two milestones in Akron passenger train history passed quietly this month.

It was 50 years ago that Erie Lackawanna’s Lake Cities made its final trips and the Interstate Commerce Commission allowed the Baltimore & Ohio to discontinue the Diplomat and Gateway between Akron and Chicago.

In the space of about a week, rail service between Akron and Chicago fell from six trains to two.

The discontinuance of the Lake Cities ended the last EL intercity long-distance passenger trains.

EL’s Cleveland-Youngstown Nos. 28 and 29 continued to operate until making their last trips on Jan. 14, 1977. But those were considered commuter trains.

The Lake Cities was a fine train to the end with a dining car that operated between Hoboken, New Jersey, and Huntington, Indiana; and a sleeping car that ran between Hoboken and Youngstown.

Coaches were carried between Hoboken and Chicago Dearborn Station.

Westbound No. 5 was scheduled to depart Youngstown at 7:35 a.m., Warren at 8 a.m., Kent at 8:45 a.m. and Akron at 9:10 a.m.

Eastbound No. 6 was scheduled to leave Akron at 7:15 p.m., Kent at 7:35 p.m., Warren at 8:11 p.m. and Youngstown at 8:45 p.m.

The Lake Cities had a long history on the former Erie Railroad dating to the June 3, 1939, inauguration of Nos. 15 and 16, the Chicago-New York (Jersey City, New Jersey) Midlander.

The Midlander had sections for Cleveland (Nos. 5 and 6) and Buffalo that operated as the Lake Cities. The Cleveland Lake Cities combined and separated with the Midlander in Youngstown.

The Midlander was renamed Lake Cities in November 1947 and began operating as Nos. 5 and 6 to and from Chicago.

After the Erie merged with the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western in 1960, the Lake Cities operated between May 1961 and April 29, 1962, as the Chicago Lake Cities with the Buffalo section known as the Buffalo Lake Cities.

The train was rerouted over the former Lackawanna between Hoboken and Binghamton, New York.

Between April 26 and Oct. 25, 1965, Nos. 5 and 6 operated as the World’s Fair as the EL upgraded its passenger service to try to draw travelers visiting the New York World’s Fair that summer.

The EL netted little financial gain from travel to the Fair and once it ended the carrier began whittling away in earnest at its passenger service between Chicago and Hoboken.

The EL ceased carrying passengers on its head-end heavy Atlantic Express and Pacific Express in July 1965 and discontinued the Phoebe Snow on Nov. 28, 1966.

That day the Lake Cities began carrying sleeping and dining cars that operated between Chicago and Hoboken.

Famed railroad photograph Philip R. Hastings once described the Lake Cities as “old school passenger railroading in the best sense of the phrase.”

Hastings said Nos. 5 and 6 operated in 1968 as through it was still 1948 including carrying a heavyweight diner and making long station stops in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

But it wasn’t the 1940s. The Lake Cities was losing patronage, losing mail revenue and losing money.

EL posted discontinuance notices for Nos. 5 and 6 in mid June 1969, effective July 18 but the ICC on July 7 stayed the discontinuance while it conducted an investigation that included public hearings in 10 cities, including Youngstown, Kent and Marion.

Those hearings drew 128 people who protested the removal of the train, but 16 of them admitted to never having ridden it.

“The public liked the trains, but they didn’t use them, and this cost us a bundle after we lost the mail business,” said EL attorney Wallace Steffen.

Evidence presented during the ICC investigation showed EL still had fresh flowers on the table in the dining cars where patrons still enjoyed clean linens and cloth napkins.

The ICC said there was no evidence that EL had done anything to try to drive away passengers. The passenger cars were clean and well maintained, the crews were described as courteous and meals as good.

The menu had krusty korn kobs, a longtime Lackawanna novelty item of muffins baked in the shape of an ear of corn.

Dinner entrees included baked halibut Creole, Virginia ham southern style, and young fried chicken. There were also a few sandwich selections including sliced turkey.

By the ICC’s calculations, the Lake Cities was costing the EL $18 per passenger to operate and losing $2,700 a day.

The Commission decided not to order EL to continue the train but did urge the railroad to use its managerial acumen to make an all-out effort to save Nos. 5 and 6.

That advice meant nothing because the EL had no intention of doing that.

By law the Lake Cities could have ended on Dec. 30, 1969, but the EL agreed to continue operating it through Jan. 5 to accommodate holiday travel.

The last trips of Nos. 5 and 6 would depart on Sunday, Jan. 4 from Hoboken and Chicago.

An eleventh hour effort by the public service commissions of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York to block the discontinuance by asking a federal district court in Columbus to issue a restraining order was brushed aside by the court.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart on Jan. 2 dismissed an emergency appeal to stay the lower court’s decision.

Art House, who said he rode the last runs of the Lake Cities between Binghamton and Elmira, New York, posted on on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the last trips of Nos. 5 and 6 the final consists.

He said the normal consist was two coaches but the last weekend of service  followed New Year’s Day, which fell on a Thursday in 1970, had additional cars to handle the holiday weekend loads.

The last No. 5 was pulled by E8A Nos. 826 and 828 and had a consist of primarily ex-Lackawanna equipment.

That included baggage express car 251, lightweight coaches 1301, 1325, 1321, 1314 and 1305, diner-lounge 747 and 10-6 sleeper Pequest. Only the diner lounge was former Erie. Coach 1305 did not operate all the way to Chicago.

The last No. 6 had E8A Nos. 825 pulling baggage express car 2013 (ex-Erie), lightweight coaches 1311, 1308 and 1318 (all ex-Lackawanna), diner-lounge 746 (ex-Erie) and 10-6 sleeper Tunkhannock (ex-Lackawanna).

Mr. House said that several railfans were aboard when No. 5 departed Hoboken during its final weekend of operation and the engraved silverware in the dining car had been replaced by plastic to discourage souvenir hunting.

An uniformed EL special agent also rode in the diner to prevent theft.

The crew on the last No. 5 to depart Binghamton included former Lackawanna employees wearing Lackawanna uniforms. The last No. 6 into Binghamton had former Erie employees wearing Erie uniforms

The sleeper and diner on the last No. 5 ran all the way to Chicago rather than being dropped at Youngstown and Huntington respectively due to there being no eastbound train to pick them up later that night.

When the last No. 5 arrived in Dearborn Station in Chicago 48 minutes late it  brought an end to 83 years of passenger service between the Windy City and the New York City region.

In the meantime, the ICC also was investigating the B&O’s plan to discontinue the eastbound Gateway and westbound Diplomat between Akron and Chicago.

B&O had posted discontinuance notices on Aug. 11, 1969, effective a month later but the ICC stayed that while it conducted an investigation.

Nos. 7 and 10 were said by the B&O to be losing $195,000 a year and averaged fewer than eight passengers a day west of Akron.

During public hearings, B&O said it could not compete with faster service between Chicago and Pittsburgh on a parallel Penn Central (former Pennsylvania) route via Canton.

Because of its daylight schedule through Akron No. 7 was the B&O’s most photographed passenger train in Northeast Ohio.

Originating in Washington, the Diplomat left the nation’s capitol at 11:45 p.m. and was scheduled to depart Youngstown at 9:12 a.m., Ravenna at 9:47 a.m., Kent at 9:54 a.m. and arrive in Akron at 10:40 a.m.

This was about an hour later than EL’s westbound Lake Cities, which stopped in the same cities except Ravenna.

The Diplomat had for decades been a name applied to a Washington-St. Louis train but it was given to Nos. 7 and 8 in 1964 when B&O dropped the Shenandoah name from those trains.

Starting in 1966, the B&O began strategically removing passenger trains and curtaining the services of those that survived.

No. 7 saw its dining car replaced in September 1966 by a food bar coach and lost it sleeping cars in May 1968

No. 10 operated as the Washington Express on a daylight schedule that ran at about the same time as EL’s Lake Cities between Chicago and Youngstown.

That changed in July 1968 when No. 10 was discontinued between Washington and Pittsburgh and the remaining Chicago to Pittsburgh segment of the train was renamed the Gateway.

Like No. 7, No. 10 was a shell of its former self, having lost its dining car in September 1966 in favor of a food bar coach and having lost its sleeping cars in May 1968

In January 1969, the Gateway was scheduled to arrive in Akron at 6:50 p.m. and leave Kent at 7:23 p.m., Ravenna at 7:31 p.m., and Youngstown at 8:20 p.m. The Gateway was the only B&O passenger train to stop in Barberton.

B&O said it would add additional station stops for the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited and the ICC concluded that those who had ridden Nos. 7 and 10 west of Akron could be accommodated by the Capitol. However, Barberton was not one of those additional stops.

The State of Indiana and City of Chicago asked the ICC to reconsider its decision not to order the B&O to continue operation of Nos. 7 and 10, saying the Commission had overstated the financial losses of the trains by about $20,000.

But the Commission rejected that appeal and Nos. 7 and 10 were discontinued west of Akron soon after the Jan. 6 ICC decision.

East of Akron those trains became the Akron-Washington Shenandoah, which on some days operated with a dome car.

Intercity passenger service in Akron after the events of January 1970 remained unchanged for more than a year.

Nos. 7 and 10, also underwent a schedule change.

It departed Akron at 6:45 a.m. and returned at 6:45 p.m. It made stops in Kent, Ravenna and Youngstown of which only Youngstown was also a stop for the Capitol Limited.

Minor schedule changes were subsequently made to the Shenandoah schedule and by October 1970 the Akron departure time has changed to 6:55 p.m. with arrival back in Akron at 6:40 p.m. The consist was still coaches, a food bar coach and a dome car on select dates.

The coming of Amtrak on May 1, 1971, would lead to the discontinuance of the Shenandoah and Capitol Limited and Akron would not have intercity rail passenger service until Amtrak’s Broadway Limited was rerouted in late 1990 to serve the city.

Happy Old Year 1967

January 2, 2020

It was Kent State University’s Christmas vacation in December 1967, and Mike Ondecker and I had ridden Erie Lackawanna’s Lake Cities to Marion, Ohio. EL 823 and another E8A would power the Lake Cities west to Chicago while EL 833 would be left behind in Marion. The open nose door suggests that 833 had had a problem. How strange and wonderful the railfan world of 1967 looks through 2020 eyes.

Article and Photograph by Robert Farkas

Toledo-Detroit Passenger Rail Restoration Eyed

November 1, 2018

The Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Government is contributing $20,000 toward a feasibility study of reinstating intercity rail passenger service between Toledo and Detroit.

The study is expected to cost $50,000 and the City of Toledo has been asked to provide the remaining funds needed.

The study is expected to examine such questions as which route will work out the best and which railroad is most likely to be cooperative.

Toledo and Detroit are linked by routes of Norfolk Southern, CSX and Canadian National.

It is expected that whichever route is chosen will require capital work to bring it up to passenger standards.

The last intercity service between the cities was discontinued in April 1995 when Amtrak ended the Toledo-Detroit leg of the Chicago-Toledo Lake Cities.

Take the Challenge: What Photograph Reflects Your Favorite Akron Railfanning Memory and Why

May 26, 2016


With the Akron Railroad Club about to celebrate its 80th year, I have a challenge. Pick one photo from your many that captures an Akron railfanning memory.

Perhaps it will be from your early years or one you took this week, but chose one with meaning to you.

Let’s post a memory on the blog from as many members as possible. Let this be a blog “celebration” of our heritage.

If you would, tell a little bit about why this is special to you.

Here’s mine: Erie Lackawanna 818 with the westbound Lake Cities is passing under the Union Depot walk bridge on a snowy late-1960s morning.

Mike Ondecker introduced me to railfanning in 1965. He told me steam might be gone, but many early diesels also were disappearing.

He had the knowledge and I had the camera. We started going railfanning as many times as possible.

At the time we both went to Kent State and called Kent and Akron our two favorite locations.

The weather did not matter. We went out.

The EL was our favorite railroad and I took quite a few black and white photos and then switched to slides.

Yes, I also took Baltimore & Ohio, Pennsylvania Railroad, Akron & Barberton Belt, Akron, Canton  & Youngstown, etc., but the EL had a special place in my heart.

Many of my current friends are railfans I met years ago including members of the club, so railfanning to me is about both friendships and photos.

Article and Photograph by Robert Farkas

EL Passenger Service Ended 45 Years Ago

January 6, 2015


Although the Erie Lackawanna’s Lake Cities was discontinued 45 years ago today, thankfully through this photograph we can still relive a moment in its and Akron’s history.

It is a warm morning in the late 1960s, and the westbound The Lake Cities is approaching EL’s Akron passenger station while Baltimore & Ohio’s westbound Diplomat is awaiting its coming departure from Akron Union Depot.

Photograph by Robert Farkas