NYCSHS 2008 Annual Meeting visits Cleveland

Attendees of the 2008 NYCSHS Annual Meeting toured the greater Cleveland area on Sunday. We started our day with a sumptuous brunch at the Station Restaurant, located inside the former depot at Berea, Ohio. Wayne Freed from Utica is alongside the former big four main, with the closed BE Tower and a freight on the former main line in the rear. Wayne recorded and released a DVD of the Hickory Creek charter trip that Bill Strassner arranged for last year's Annual Meeting.

After the brunch, we head over to brookpark RTA shops, and board our chartered light rail car set. RTA Rapid Transit (known locally as "The Rapid") is a rapid transit and light rail system operated by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (known as the "RTA"). The system includes the heavy rail rapid transit the Red Line and the light rail Blue and Green Lines. All three lines join at the former Cleveland Union Terminal, now know as Tower City Center in downtown Cleveland.

As we ease out onto the RTA main, the adjacent freight activity is heavy and entertaining. Even though our train unit might be classed as a "light rail vehicle," the RTA features one of the heaviest duty installations ever, with heavy rail and full catenary.

On board our chartered train are some well-known Society members including NYCSHS Secretary Jim Suhs and former NYC employees Larry Baggerly and Pete Hansen. Larry gave us a detailed running commentary about greater Cleveland and railroad operations from his memories of working for the NYC.

Our train is coming down the steep approach from the west. You can see the many drawbridges and industrial areas of The Flats. A fair amount of industry is located along Cleveland's riverfront downtown. Terminal Tower can be seen in the distance, behind the drawbridge span. Our train is on the Cuyahoga Viaduct, which once carried the electric trains of the NYC into Terminal Tower.

Approaching Terminal Tower, here is an example of an obsoltete CUT-style catenary bridge, with unusual tapered support legs. The New Haven also utilized tapered legs, just not as dramatic as the ones for CUT. Excess CUT bridges have been removed and recycled. One can be found at Northeast, PA near the station which is now a railroad museum.

After arriving at the end of the RTA line on the riverfront, we were shuttled to the Lake Shore Electric Railway in a restored GMC "Fishbowl bus. The bus came from the museum collection, and provided a comfortable ride for the short trip up to Dock 32 on the shores of Lake Erie.

Our fearless Cleveland tour leader and NYCSHS Treasurer Shel Lustig explains the local territory, such as the location of the former NYC facilities on the lake front. And yes, as per the sign, he held onto - but did not drink - from that water bottle, thus obeying all rules. Former railroad Rules Examiners tend to obey regulations, for the most part!

The collection at the Lake Shore Electric Railway was fascinating, as they had an amazing amount and variety of traction equipment. Our hosts were very friendly, knowledgeable and rightfully proud of their collection. The cars came from the Trolleyville USA collection that closed its doors in 2005. A group of enthusiasts and businessmen, in cooperation with the City of Cleveland, had the collection relocated to a temporary location the waterfront. The goal of the group is to eventually operate their collection of trolleys along the waterfront.

Larry Baggerly and Bill Strassner headed out onto the dock area, and proceeded to try out the hand car sitting on former dockside trackage. A museum official came out, and said it was okay and even encouraged us to ride, so Rich and Nancy Stoving took a turn also.

The LSER has an interesting collection that goes beyond trolleys. Pete Hansen checks out an 1883-built four-wheel 'bobber' caboose from the New York, Ontario & Western. What's this car doing here so far away from home? Sometime in the 1920s, the little car was sold to the Iowa Southern Utilities Railway, where it was in use until it was acquired by Trolleyville USA in 1974.

After a tour of the museum, we were shuttled back to our chartered train and headed back to the shops. Here is a view of the newer NYC drawbridge No. 1 over the Cuyahoga River as taken from our transit vehicle going over the roller coaster route from the waterfront. A discussion was had regarding the tragedy when train Penn Central train OV-8 ran into the counterweight of the draw decades ago.

--Photos and captions by Bill Strassner