Part 5 - Cleveland to Erie
Erie to Buffalo
Sandusky to Cleveland
AMTRAK ROUTE GUIDE #20a -- Chicago, Illinois to Buffalo, New York


340.5 Pass the Municipal Stadium on the left (eastbound) and pull into CLEVELAND Lakefront Station, 200 Cleveland Memorial Shoreway.  Elevation approximately 594.

          Northeastern Ohio was once part of the “Western Reserve,” a tract of land that Connecticut claimed under its colonial charter (see MP 287.5 above).  In 1795, Connecticut sold most of the territory to the Connecticut Land Company, which sent out a surveying party headed by General Moses Cleaveland. In 1796, Cleaveland laid out a public square with radiating streets on the site of the present day downtown, east of the Cuyahoga River.  The settlement was named after Cleaveland and incorporated as a village in 1814.  Completion of the Ohio and Erie Canal in 1832 transformed Cleveland from a frontier community to a commercial center at the head of an important waterway connecting the Ohio River with Lake Erie.  With the completion a few years earlier of the Erie Canal, which connected Lake Erie to the eastern seaboard, Cleveland stood on the principal transportation route between the Midwest and the country’s eastern urban centers.

         Beginning about 1960, Cleveland entered a long period of decline.  Aging industrial plants, high labor costs, outmoded municipal facilities, the migration of population, and increasing racial tensions all contributed to political strife and a deteriorating economy. In 1978, the decline culminated in Cleveland becoming the first municipality to default on its debts since the Great Depression of the 1930’s.  Cleveland was earning an unenviable title of “The Mistake by the Lake.” By the 1980’s, a renaissance began. Civic pride was restored by solid examples of confidence in the community, such as the redevelopment of the Lake Erie shoreline and the building of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, combined with intangibles such as the inauguration of the Cleveland Grand Prix and a league championship season for the Indians baseball team.  Challenges such as improving public schools remain, but Cleveland has replaced its old nickname with “The New American City.”

          Cleveland today is the largest city in Ohio, and has a concentration of Fortune 1000 corporations.  It is also the home of the Western Reserve Historical Society Museum, plus the well-renowned Cleveland Museum of Art and Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and, of course, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  Back in the 1960’s, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught on fire due to industrial pollution, which helped spark the current environmental consciousness of the Nation.

          Cleveland is home of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, the Cleveland Botanical Garden, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland Museum of Art, the Garfield Monument, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  It is also the home of Case Western Reserve University, and the Cleveland Institute of Art.

          Geologically, we will be continuing our journey to Buffalo in primarily in a glacial environment, and will be traversing the northern edge of the Allegheny Plateau, where exposures of folded and deformed Paleozoic sedimentary rocks can be seen from the train.  Initially, along the shore of Lake Erie, the surficial deposits we are traversing consist of lake plain sediments from the Wisconsin glacial advance, which took place at the end of the Pleistocene Ice Age.

341    Shortly after leaving the Cleveland Station, the track which bends to the right (eastbound) is the track upon which the Capitol Ltd follows between Cleveland and Washington, DC (see Railroad Guide #20b).

341-342 Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport is visible on the left (eastbound).  The airport is owned by the City of Cleveland, but is no longer used by commercial passenger airlines.  It is primarily a charter flight and air cargo airport.  It is named after Thomas A. Burke, former Cleveland mayor and U.S. Senator.

344.5 Cross Doan Brook.  On the right (eastbound) is Rockefeller Park. You should be able to see exposures of Devonian-aged black to green Ohio Shale along the creek.  Rockefeller Park is also the site of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, a collection of more than 30 gardens, each one commemorating a different ethnic group which has played an important role in the heritage of the Nation, and especially of the Cleveland area.

345-346 Pass through Bratenahl, an affluent suburb of Cleveland located on the shore of Lake Erie.  Bratenahl is ranked as the 92nd highest-income community in the United States and 6th in the State of Ohio.  It was named after an early landowner, Charles Bratenahl.  The area was first settled in the mid-19th Century, but was not incorporated until 1904.

348-349 Pass through a large railroad yard.

349.5 Cross Euclid Creek; however, you may not be able to see the creek from the train due to the other railroad tracks at the east end of the railroad yard, and urbanization in the area.  Approximately one mile south of the railroad is the Euclid Creek Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks system, in which several abandoned flagstone quarries are located.  The flagstone was quarried from Devonian-aged formations, and the Ohio Shale, Chagrin Shale, and Berea Sandstone are still exposed in the Metropark.

         One mile north of the railroad, on Lake Erie, is the site of the former Euclid Beach Amusement Park, which was built in 1895 and patterned after New York’s Coney Island Amusement Park.  Euclid Beach was very popular in its time, and contained 7 wooden roller coasters and a large carousel.  The park closed in 1969, and some of its attractions were sold to other amusement/theme parks around the country.

350-352 Pass through Euclid, which was incorporated in 1930 and named after the great Greek mathematician Euclid.  Its inhabitants include a large number of people of Slovenian origin, and the city is the home of the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame.  It was also the venue of the 1926 case Euclid vs. Amber, which opened the doors for municipalities across the United States to establish zoning ordinances.  Euclid is also the home of the Softball Hall of Fame, and the location where the cordless telephone was invented in 1969.  It is also the home of the former Euclid Beach Amusement Park (see MP 349.5 above).

353   Pass beneath Interstate 90 and enter LAKE County, named after its location on Lake Erie.  Lake County is the smallest county in Ohio.  It was established on March 6, 1840, from parts of Cuyahoga and Geauga Counties.  The county seat is Painesville. Lake County was first settled by New Englanders moving in to the Connecticut Western Reserve (see MP 287.5 above).  Lake County was also the Headquarters of Joseph Smith, who founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) in 1833.

354-355 On the right (eastbound) is the city of Wickliffe, and on the left is the city of Willowick.  Wickliffe is the location of the Coulby Mansion and Park, built by Harry C. Coulby, they first Mayor of Wickliffe.  The mansion was occupied by Coulby until his death in 1929; the building today is the Wickliffe City Hall.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

         Willowick was established in 1924, and the name comes from parts of the names of two adjacent communities, Willoughby and Wickliffe. It became a city in 1957.

357-358 Pass through Willoughby, named after Professor Westel Willoughby, a health officer from the nearby Medial College, which eventually became part of the Western Reserve Academy, which in turn later became the Western Reserve University, and finally Case Western Reserve University of Cleveland.  The first permanent settler in the community was David Abbott, in 1796, who operated a gristmill on what the Indians called the Sha-ga-rin River, which means “clear water.”  The name of the river eventually became the Chagrin River.  Willoughby was incorporated in 1883.

         Willoughby is located on the Painesville Moraine, a glacial moraine from the Wisconsin glaciation.  At Willoughby, the moraine thins, thus exposing the underlying Devonian-aged Chagrin Shale (“Ohio Shale”) near the earth‘s surface.

         Actor Tim Conway is from Willoughby.

358.5 Cross Chagrin River, which was designated as a State Scenic River in 1979.  Its two branches, the East Branch and the Aurora Branch, begin several miles south of here.  The river flows into Lake Erie.

360-361 Pass through Brentwood, which is a part of the city of Mentor (see MP 361 below).  Brentwood is home of the Great Lakes Mall, which may be visible on the right (eastbound).

361-363 Pass through Mentor, most likely named after the figure in Greek mythology who tutored Ulysses’ son (thus the common use of the word “mentor” as meaning someone who teaches or coaches another).  Mentor is a far eastern suburb of Cleveland, and is best known as the home of 20th U.S. President James A. Garfield.  Garfield’s home is now the James A. Garfield National Historic Site.

          North of the railroad a couple miles is Headlands Beach State Park, the longest public swimming beach in the state.  The beach is adjacent to Mentor Marsh State Nature Preserve, a swamp area through which the preglacial Grand River formerly flowed.  The course of the Grand River has changed by approximately 5 miles since the end of the Wisconsin glaciation, by sedimentation and erosion.

         The railroad through Mentor is built on an ancient beach ridge from pre-glacial Lake Erie, known as North Ridge.

366.5 Pass beneath Ohio Highway 44.

368-369 Pass through Painesville, the county seat of Lake County.  The city was likely named after either General Edward Paine, Captain of the Connecticut Militia during the American Revolution, or one of his descendants, Eleazer Paine, who served as a general in the Union Army during the Civil War.  The town was originally named Oak Openings, then later Champion, after General Henry Champion, who laid out a plat here in 1805.

          Painesville is the home of Lake Erie College, founded in 1856.  It is also the home of the Indian Museum of Lake County, which is located within Lake Erie College.

369.5 Cross Grand River, a tributary of Lake Erie.  The river rises in Geauga County, south of here. It enters Lake Erie at Fairport Harbor, a couple miles north off the railroad here.  Parts of the river have been designated a Wild and Scenic River.

          On July 28, 2006, the Grand River overflowed its banks and caused a state of emergency in Lake and Ashtabula County due to flooding.  The river reached 11 feet above flood level, a 500-year flood, due to a 1,000-year 48-hour rain.

          Exposures of Devonian-aged Chagrin Shale are visible along the riverbank at river level.  The valley of the Grand River here is cut into the surface of the Wisconsin-aged Painesville moraine.

370    Cross Red Creek.

372    Pass through Lane.  On the right in the distance (eastbound) is another ancient glacial beach shoreline, known locally as South Ridge.

374.5 Pass through Perry, named after Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, to commemorate his victory over the British fleet at the Battle of Lake Erie in September, 1813.  The battle was a turning point in the western theater during the War of 1812.  The city was incorporated in 1914.

         A few miles north of Perry, on Lake Erie, is the Perry Nuclear Generating Station.

377-378 The railroad is now following South Ridge on the right (eastbound).  South Ridge is a glacial beach ridge from the Lake Whittlesey stage of ancient Lake Erie.  Other deposits over which we are traveling are till deposits from the Painesville and Ashtabula Moraines, which were deposited as the Grand River lobe of the Wisconsin-age glacial ice retreated northwards at the end of the Wisconsin glaciation.

379    Pass through Madison, named after U.S. President James Madison.  The town was incorporated in 1867.  It was originally settled by pioneers from New York State seeking their fortunes in the Western Reserve, and the town was previously known as Chapintown and Centerville.  In the 19th Century, a mineral known as goethite was discovered in this area.  Goethite is an iron ore mineral which is precipitated from swamps and bogs, and is often known as “bog iron.”

         Madison is the home of the Chalet Debonne Vineyards winery.

381.5 Just south of the railroad is the unincorporated community of Unionville, named after its position near the Lake-Ashtabula County line, since it was said to represent the “union” between the 2 counties. The first home in the Connecticut Western Reserve (see MP 287.5 above) was built here.  Unionville was also the scene of a slave chase with an exciting escape, ending with bounty hunters being put on trial at Madison, which was deep in Abolitionist territory. This was a basis for the book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

382    Enter ASHTABULA County.  The name of the county is derived from an Indian word for “fish” or “river of many fish.”  Ashtabula County is the largest county in Ohio, and is also the last Ohio county we will be traveling through eastbound.  The county seat is Jefferson, and the county is known for having 17 covered bridges within its borders.  After the turn of the 20th Century, the county was home to many Finnish Americans.  The county is the home of college football coach Urban Meyer, and automobile pioneer Ransom E. Olds.

384-385.5 Pass through Geneva, named after Geneva, New York, from where many of the early settlers came.  The area was first settled in 1805, then became a village in 1866, then it was incorporated as a city in 1958.

          Geneva is the home of Nordic Air, an industrial outfit that manufactures air conditioning, heating, and filtration units for heavy industry. It is also the home of the West Liberty Covered Bridge, one of the shortest covered bridges in the country.  In addition, the City holds the annual Grape Jamboree each September, to celebrate its grape growing and winemaking culture.

         On April 12, 1966, more than 200 people attended announcement ceremonies at Geneva High School at which it was unveiled that the city had claimed ownership of the moon.  The "Declaration of Lunar Ownership" contained 35 signatures, and was revealed simultaneously with the city's 100th anniversary.

          A few miles north of Geneva is the resort community of Geneva-on-the-Lake, on Lake Erie, plus Geneva State Park.

386    The road on the right (eastbound) is built on another ancient Lake Erie shoreline.

393-395 Pass through the City of Ashtabula, incorporated in 1828.  Its name is of the same origin as the county’s name (see MP 382 above).  It was a major “terminal” on the Underground Railroad before the Civil War, as escaped slaves would get to Ashtabula, live in a basement of a home near Lake Erie, then catch the next boat to freedom in Canada, across Lake Erie.  The Port at Ashtabula today is an important coal and iron ore port on Lake Erie.

         On December 29, 1876, one of the nation's most notorious rail accidents occurred, known as the Ashtabula Bridge Disaster.  As Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway Train No. 5 crossed the Ashtabula River bridge, the Howe truss structure collapsed, dropping the second locomotive of two and 11 passenger cars into the frozen creek 150 feet below.  A fire was started by the car stoves, and of the 159 people on board, 64 were injured and 92 killed.  A rail ferry, also named Ashtabula, used to run from Ashtabula to Port Burwell, Ontario.  This ferry was launched in 1906, and collided with another vessel in 1958.

         Ashtabula was the home of a Rockwell International plant which manufactured brakes for the Space Shuttle and also disposed of depleted enriched uranium.  Because of the number of people of Finnish ancestry here, the annual FinnFest Festival is also held. An annual Covered Bridge Festival is also held here, and the city is home to a campus of Kent State University.  In the spring, the Blessing of the Fleet celebration takes place at the harbor.

394.5 Cross Ashtabula River.  Exposures of Devonian-aged Chagrin Shale are visible along the river, where the river cuts through the Ashtabula Moraine.

395    Pass beneath Ohio Highway 11.

396    On the beach ridge visible on the right in the distance (eastbound) is the Ashtabula Mall.

400   On the right (eastbound) is the town of North Kingsville, incorporated in 1913.  This town, and the town of Kingsville to the south, were named after a settler named King, who reportedly offered the townsfolks whiskey if they would name the town after him. The town of Kingsville was originally known as Forbesville, named after Capt. Walter Fobes, the first permanent settler.

402-403 On the north side of the railroad (left if eastbound) are the Kingsville Sand Barrens, a preserve of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.  These sand dunes formed near the end of the Wisconsin glaciation, around the glacial shoreline of the Lake Warren stage of ancestral Lake Erie.

406-408 Pass through Conneaut, incorporated as a town in 1834 and as a city in 1902.  The name is pronounced “KON-nee-ought,”  the origin of which is debatable.  It is obviously an Indian word, and some interpretations claim it means “place of many fish,” “place where snow stays late in the spring,” or “there is an increase” (referring to the rising of the waters in Lake Erie).  The place was first settled in 1799.  Its harbor was discovered on July 4, 1796, by the Western Reserve surveying party.

          Conneaut today is an ore shipping port and a recreational community. In 1898, George Huelett introduced his ore unloader to Andrew Carnegie here, and also to investor Charles Schwab.

         Conneaut is the home of the Conneaut Historical Railroad Museum, which is visible on the right (eastbound) as you pass through town. This is the last town we will be passing through in Ohio (eastbound).

408    Cross Conneaut Creek and look for Devonian-aged Chagrin Shale in the riverbank close to the water level.  Conneaut Creek also cuts through the Wisconsin-aged Painesville and Ashtabula Moraines here.

408.5 The Lake Erie Correctional Institute is visible in the distance one the right (eastbound).

409.5 Enter ERIE County, PENNSYLVANIA.  The county was named after Lake Erie, which forms its northern border.  Erie County was created March 12, 1800, from part of Allegheny County.  The greater part of the county is triangular in shape, and was known as the “Erie Triangle” in Colonial days.  It was claimed by both New York and Pennsylvania, and even the colonies of Massachusetts and Connecticut had claims on the land at one time.  The Erie Triangle was eventually sold to the Federal Government, and later given to the State of Pennsylvania, in 1792.  Erie County is the only county in Pennsylvania through which we will travel.  Its county seat is the city of Erie.

          The entire  portion of this route through Pennsylvania is along Lake Erie.  The railroad is still crossing the Late Pleistocene lake beds from ancestral Lake Erie, deposited during the Wisconsin glaciation.  The ancient beach shorelines we saw in Ohio, from the older Lake Whittlesey stage and the younger Lake Warren stage, continue into Pennsylvania.

          We have been skirting the edge of the Allegheny Plateau ever since Cleveland, and are continuing to do so.  The bedrock beneath the glacial moraines and lake deposits in Pennsylvania is the Pennsylvania equivalent of the Devonian-aged Chagrin and Ohio Shales, known locally as the Girard or Chemung Shale, which is part of the larger Conneaut Group.  We will still cross a few creeks incised through the glacial deposits into the shale bedrock.

412.5 Cross Raccoon Creek.

415    Pass through North Springfield, so named after its location in northern Springfield Township.  The name of the township is reportedly from Springfield, Massachusetts.  This community was established in 1852, when the Lake Shore Railroad, an early predecessor of the New York Central Railroad, opened through the area.

415.5 Cross Crooked Creek, in which Devonian-aged Girard Shale is exposed along the creek below the trees.

417    Cross an unnamed creek.  The railroad and highway at this point are both following an ancient shoreline from the Lake Warren stage of ancestral Lake Erie.

419    Cross Elk Creek.  Again, Devonian Girard Shale should be visible along the river bank below the vegetation.

419-420 Pass through borough of Lake City.

424    On the north (left if eastbound) is the small borough of Avonia, and on the south (right if eastbound) is the small borough of Fairview.  Much of Fairview is located on the ancient shoreline ridge of the Lake Whittlesey stage of ancestral Lake Erie.

426.5 Cross Walnut Creek, and again look for exposures of Girard Shale along creek bed.

427-429 Pass through Vernondale, a suburban community to Erie.

429-430 Tom Ridge Field (Erie International Airport) is visible on the left (eastbound).  This is a public airport, which opened in 1952.  It currently hosts commercial flights on Delta Connection, United Express, and U.S. Airways Express.

435    ERIE station, 125 W. 14th Street.  Elevation approximately 704.  The city was named after Lake Erie and the Erie Indians, and is the county seat of Erie County.

         The first inhabitants of the Erie area were the Erie Indians (formerly known as Erie-ez).  In 1753, Fort Presque Isle was built here by the French, who abandoned the fort in 1759 when the British took over the area.  During the War of 1812, American ships built at Erie were used to defeat the British.  The Erie Maritime Museum, located here, features a reconstruction of Commander Oliver Hazard Perry’s ship Niagara, from the Battle of Lake Erie.

          Erie is Pennsylvania’s only port city on the Great Lakes, and has an almost completely enclosed harbor formed by the Presque Isle Peninsula.  Presque Isle State Park is located at Presque Isle on Lake Erie, and is the largest State Park in Pennsylvania.  Although Presque Isle is not visible from the train, the island is an excellent example of a recurved sand spit, and the shape of the Erie shoreline has changed dramatically through the years due to effects of natural phenomena such as longshore drift, as well as the works of man, including the construction of piers and jetties, which can disrupt the natural flow of sand along the lakeshore significantly.

               In addition to the Erie Maritime Museum and Presque Isle State Park, the city is also home of the Erie Art Museum, the Bicentennial Tower, the Erie Zoo, the Experience Children’s Museum, and Waldameer Park and Water World.  It is also the home of Heavyweight Olympic wrestler Bruce Baumgardner, television star Ann B. Davis (“Alice” on the show The Brady Bunch), and General “Mad Anthony” Wayne of Revolutionary War fame.
arrowprev.png arrownext.png