Posts Tagged ‘Towner’s Woods Park’

One Early January Day at Brady Lake

January 20, 2022

It was a typical Northeast Ohio early January day in 2012, the kind that features clouds and sun that at times is more sun than clouds and then a few minutes later more clouds than sun.

Such days can make photography tricky and yet rewarding at the same time due to low sun angles that creates warm light all day when you can get sun breaking through around the clouds.

I ventured down to Towner’s Woods Park in Brady Lake, one of my favorite hang out spots because you can park next to the Cleveland Line of Norfolk Southern.

It’s not the greatest location to photograph NS operations due to the tracks lying in a cut and the trees on both side providing obstructions.

But in the winter when the leaves are off you can get some decent if not good images.

The former Erie Railroad mainline that once extended between Chicago and New York also borders the park, but being a Sunday I knew there would be no rail traffic on that line.

The ex-Erie tracks here are now owned by Portage County and used by the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway, which only operates on this segment of the ex-Erie on weekdays and even then it doesn’t always go to Ravenna and thus past Brady Lake.

A snow storm had swept through a few days earlier but by now most of the snow had melted. There remained some accumulation in areas that spend most of the day in shade or had seen heavier accumulations.

I photographed a few NS trains and at one point ventured into Kent where I captured an eastbound empty CSX hopper train as I stood on the West Main Street Bridge.

But most of my photographic endeavors on this day were devoted to railroad infrastructure images in winter.

Winter is a good time to photograph Brady Lake Tower, seen in the top image above.

I say that because during much of the year leaves block a clear view of the tower from the railroad side.

You can get all the unobstructed views you want from three sides of the tower from within Towner’s Woods Park, but if you want to create a view of the tower as passing railroaders saw it you have to wait until winter.

Even then you still have to contend with tree trunks creating “noise” in your photographs.

The tower was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1928 to control a set of crossovers and the flying junction here with the Lake Erie & Pittsburgh.

The latter extended from Brady Lake to Marcy in Cleveland. It was 50-50 owned by the PRR and the New York Central but used by the latter to move freight between Cleveland and Youngstown.

East of Brady Lake the NYC used the PRR to Ravenna and then the Baltimore & Ohio to Youngstown.

The former LE&P was mostly taken out of service not long after the creation of Penn Central.

As for Brady Lake Tower, it was taken out of service on May 14, 1966, but the interlocking plant remained intact with the tower was used as an emergency block station through 1969 and possibly sometime into 1970.

Because it is located on park land its future is assured.

The ex-Erie tracks also got much of my attention. There used to be a double track mainline here but one of the tracks was lifted in the Conrail era when this line was downgraded to become the Freedom Secondary.

I thought on this day as I have thought often while walking the Portage Hike and Bike trail about what it must have been like in the late 1960s or early 1970s when Erie Lackawanna freight trains with their colorful locomotives lumbered through here.

Oh, how I wish I could go back in time and enjoy that.

But the trail is built on former Erie right of way and didn’t exist during the EL years.

The second of the four images is looking railroad eastward to a curve after the Erie tracks crossed over the Pennsy on a plate girder bridge that can be partly seen at right.

About where the tracks curve is the site of the original Cleveland & Pittsburgh right of way, which built the line between its namesake cities and today is the NS Cleveland Line.

However, in the early 20th Century the Pennsy rebuilt the line to eliminate grade crossings and shifted the tracks slightly to the south.

The Erie used the now vacated C&P right of way between Brady Lake and Ravenna.

What got my attention in this scene is the lone pole that once supported the Erie code lines that still stands but without any wires. And note the lone tree to the left that still has its leaves, albeit rust colored.

The third and fourth images are looking railroad westbound toward Kent on the other side of Ravenna Road.

There is still some snow accumulation in a shady spot. Perhaps the snow was deeper here because it had drifted. That grade crossing up ahead is Lake Rockwell Road.

I was struck by the pattern the melting snow made on the tracks, still clinging to the ties but gone on the ballast.

Most of the infrastructure that once supported the Erie and later the EL is gone.

I’ve seen a few photographs of what it used to look like here, including an image made by the late Robert Redmond of a steam train passing a semaphore signal near Ravenna Road. I’ve found the concrete base for that signal.

In my mind at least, the EL sent some ghost trains past as I walked along the adjacent trail. That and seeing the occasional photograph made during Erie or EL days is as close as I’ll ever come to experiencing what it must have been like here in days past.

Article by Craig Sanders

Brady Lake Tower Two for Tuesday

January 11, 2022

Over the years Brady Lake has been a favorite hang out of mine to watch Norfolk Southern trains on the Cleveland Line. On occasion I’ve also caught an Akron Barberton Cluster Railway train here, too.

Towner’s Woods Park is located next to the tracks and has plenty of parking. The park also features a former Pennsylvania Railroad interlocking tower, which the PRR named Brady’s Lake.

At one time, the tower controlled switches and signals for the Lake Erie & Pittsburgh line to Cleveland that diverged here.

The LE&P is nearly all gone today and there are few signs by the tower that it ever existed. Portions of it are a hike and bike trail.

The top image was made on Nov. 4, 2005, and shows NS westbound manifest freight 15K passing the tower, which is shrouded by colorful fall foliage.

The bottom image was made on Feb. 1, 2000. The tower is easier to see with the leaves off the trees but remains somewhat obscured by tree branches and trunks.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Brady Lake Tower to be Open Oct. 8

September 29, 2016

The Portage Parks Council will hold an open house on Oct. 8 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Pennsylvania Railroad’s former Brady Lake Tower, which now sits in Towner’s Woods Park

PRRBruce Dzeda, author of Railroad Town: Kent the Erie Railroad, will speak during the event on the railroads that served the Brady Lake region.

The tower is not normally open to the public.

Built in 1928 and known until 1957 as Brady’s Lake Tower, the structure was a block and interlocking facility at the eastern terminus of the Lake Erie & Pittsburgh, which was used by the New York Central.

The LE&P diverged from the PRR at Brady Lake and ran westward to Marcy in Cleveland. NYC trains used trackage rights on the PRR and Baltimore & Ohio to access Youngstown.

Declining traffic on the LE&P led to Brady Lake Tower being closed in 1966, but it was kept as an emergency block station through 1970.

Spending Time on the NS Cleveland Line

March 12, 2016

Feb20 NS 03-x

Some of my more memorable early-in-the-year outings have been on days when it still looked like winter but felt like the onset of spring.

There is some residual snow still on the ground in places to add a touch of winter to your photographs.

Typically, those days fall in March, but Northeast Ohio this year experienced a rare spring-like day in the middle of February.

The skies were mostly sunny and the temperatures soared into the high 50s. I heard bird singing and the air just had a feel of spring about it as I left home.

I thought about traveling to some distant hot spot such as Alliance, Bellevue, Conneaut or Marion, but elected to stay close to home.

One of my stops was at Towner’s Woods Park in Brady Lake. It’s a place where I’ve enjoyed hanging out on similar days in past years when the weather was transitioning from winter into spring.

I was surprised at how much snow was still piled up along the edge of the Norfolk Southern right of way. But that snow was in the shade and would take a while to melt.

I passed the time reading the latest issue of Trains magazine while monitoring a mostly silent scanner.

After a while, the detector at Rootstown went off, announcing the approach of a westbound.

Not long after that, I got an eastbound stack train. Another eastbound intermodal train followed shortly behind, but I was unable to photograph it because I didn’t have enough warning.

For eastbound traffic, you have to hope that you hear the crew call the signal at CP 94 in Hudson.

Sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t. Otherwise, your only other option is to stand on the bridge over the tracks and wait.

My time along NS was relatively brief. I wanted to walk the Portage Hike and Bike trail and, maybe, get some CSX New Castle Subdivision action.

It turned out to be a good all-around day to be out and about.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Feb20 NS 01-x

FEb20 NS 02-x

Feb20 NS 04-x


New Portage County Trail Ideal for Railfanning

April 12, 2009

Want to walk through the former Erie Railroad yard in Kent? Looking for new vistas to photograph CSX trains on the former Baltimore & Ohio? If so, then you need to check out the newest addition to the Portage County Hike & Bike Trail system.

A new trail has opened between Lake Rockwell Road and Crain Street in Kent. Combined with an existing trail that for several years has linked Towner’s Woods Park with Lake Rockwell Road, this means that railfans can view three railroads while hiking or biking the 1.5 miles from Towner’s Woods Park to Kent.

Much of the trail is parallel with the former Erie mainline, which is now operated by the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway and owned by the Portage County Port Authority. The new trail addition continues to parallel the ex-Erie for much of its length and passes through the outer edge of the Erie yard site.

There isn’t much left of the yard today. The ABC switches an industry there that receives quite a few tank cars. But otherwise, all the tracks and buildings are gone. That is not to say that there aren’t some relics remaining. Two light towers that illuminated the yard still stand and the new trail passes both.

Look around and you will see concrete foundations where service buildings stood. Also left behind were the concrete support pillars for what appeared to have been a water tank. Now it is surrounded by trees. A concrete booth that may have held a telephone for contacting the dispatcher lies on its side. And there are plenty of pieces of coal and cinders scattered about.

The trail crosses Breakneck Creek and the CSX tracks on bridges that once carried Erie tracks. Photography of eastbound CSX trains from the bridge would work best in the morning when the lighting is more favorable. The CSX tracks come out of a curve here to head in a southeasterly direction. In the distance you can see the Lake Street/Brady Lake Road bridge over CSX, which has been a longtime favorite place for railfans to photograph trains.

Closer to Kent the trail runs next to the CSX tracks and as the tracks come out of a curve and head southward through town along the banks of the Cuyahoga River. Shortly before the trail reaches Crain Avenue, the ex-Erie is on the immediate left and the ex-B&O on the immediate right and below the trail next to the river.

For part of the route along CSX, the vegetation has been stripped away and the utility poles removed, providing a largely unobstructed view of the CSX tracks. This is ideal for photographing westbound trains. Trees and other plants obscure the view closer toward town, although CSX trains can still be seen.

As part of the trail construction, a new parking lot was built just off Lake Rockwell Road by the grade crossing with the ex-Erie. Parking also continues to be available at Towner’s Woods Park, which is adjacent to Norfolk Southern’s Cleveland Line.

This is not a true rails to trails project because no railroad lines have been abandoned. If anything the downsizing of the former Erie made this trail possible by freeing land once devoted to railroad operations.

Although the trail runs side-by-side with the old Erie, don’t expect to see many trains on those tracks. The ABC runs to Ravenna when needed and that isn’t very often. So you will have to use your imagination to “see” the ghosts of Erie and Erie Lackawanna trains on those rails.