Part 4 - Sandusky to Cleveland
Cleveland to Erie
Bryan to Sandusky
AMTRAK ROUTE GUIDE #20a -- Chicago, Illinois to Buffalo, New York


281    SANDUSKY station, 1200 N. Depot Street.  Elevation approximately 596.  Sandusky is the county seat of Erie County.  Prior to European settlement, Sandusky was the home of the Wyandot Native American people, who called the place “saandusti,” which meant either “water in water pools,” or “at the cool water.”  The city was founded in 1818, and was previously known as Ogontz or “Ogantz’s Place,” in reference to a well-known Native American who lived here.  In the 1850’s, the town w as  a major stop on the Underground Railroad, which brought many escaped slaves from the South to freedom across Lake Erie into Canada.

          On September 17, 1863, Sandusky was the site of ground breaking for the Mad River & Lake Erie Railroad.  Battery Park Marina, on Lake Erie in the northern part of the city, is located on the site of the original M.R. & L.E. Railroad.  In 1842, British author Charles Dickens visited Sandusky and wrote about it in his travelogue entitled “American Notes.”  The following day, Dickens departed for Buffalo by steamer.

         Today Sandusky is a major coal-shipping port, a fishing center, and a manufacturing hub for processed food, paper goods, motor vehicle parts, aluminum recycling, artist supplies, and building materials.  It is also a major tourism center in northwestern Ohio, with easy access to fishing and boating on Lake Erie, and is a gateway to the Lake Erie Islands.

         Sandusky is probably best known as the location of the world-renowned Cedar Point Amusement Park, thought of by many fun-seekers as the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World,” containing 17 major roller coasters, including the 2013 “Gatekeeper,” which is the tallest, fastest, longest, and steepest roller coaster in the world.  Other major coasters include 1964’s Blue Streak, the first roller coaster in the park, in addition to Corkscrew, Raptor, Gemini, and Millennium Force.

         Sandusky is also the home of the Firelands Winery, the Merry-Go-Round Museum, and Goofy Golf, which, in addition to 2 mini-golf courses, also features 3 Go-Kart tracks, bumper boats, and air-conditioned arcades.  Seasonal ferry service is also offered from downtown to the Lake Erie Islands, including Kelleys Island, South, Middle, and North Bass Islands.  The tourist town of Put-in-Bay is located on South Bass Island, and is a very popular destination.

282.5 Cross Pine Creek, which flows into Lake Erie a short distance north of here.

284    Site of former Griffing Sandusky Airport is visible on the left (eastbound).  The airport closed on December 31, 2013.

285.5 The road on the left here (eastbound) leads to Cedar Point Amusement Park.

287   Pass beneath Ohio Highway 2.  On the right (eastbound) is the location of a former quarry in Devonian-aged shale or limestone, which is now abandoned and covered with vegetation.

287.5 On the right (eastbound), the campus of BGSU Firelands can be seen. This is a satellite college of Bowling Green State University.

          This region of Ohio is known as the “Firelands,” or “Sufferer’s lands.”  It is part of the western end of the Connecticut Western Reserve, which was a portion of land claimed bye the Colony of Connecticut and later by the State of Connecticut in what is now mostly part of the northeastern region of the U.S. State of Ohio. The Reserve had been granted to the Colony by King Charles II of England.  Following the American Revolution, Connecticut gave up claim to some of its western lands, but initially sold the Western Reserve to developers. It finally ceded control of this portion of the United States, and the area was organized under the Northwest Territory.  Plats in the 500,000-acre Firelands region, primarily in Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, were set aside toe be sold to residents of several towns in Connecticut which had been burned from 1779 until 1781 by British forces during the American Revolution.  As things turned out, however, almost none of the “sufferers” from Connecticut ever settled here, since land speculators purchased most of the original lands for resale.

289-291   Pass through Huron and cross the Huron River.  The town was named after the Huron River and the Huron Indians.  The word “huron” is believed to have meant “a rough person” in Native languages.  By 1749, French Canadian Jean Baptiste Flammond had established a trading post here at the mouth of the Huron River, which was abandoned prior to the American Revolution.  Huron Township was established in 1809, and the city was established between 1821 and 1824. By the 1830’s, it was a major shipbuilding center.

          The lakefront area has recently been renovated, and a former Con Agra Foods elevator was located here, but was sold to the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources (ODNR) in 2006, who later demolished the solo by implosion, thus clearing the land for more commercial development.  The ODNR also constructed public boating and fishing facilities on the waterfront.

292.5 Cross Old Woman Creek.  Just north of the railroad is the Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve, a freshwater estuary which features Great Lakes type marshes, swamps, and upland forests. Like Sandusky Bay, the estuary here is a drowned river valley (see MP 273 above) with a baymouth bar at its downstream end, as it enters Lake Erie.

293.5 Pass through Ceylon, likely named after the island country of Ceylon in the Indian Ocean (now the country of Sri Lanka).

294-296   On the left (eastbound) we pass several lakeside communities in the distance, such as Ruggles Beach, Mitiwanga, Heidelberg Beach, and Beulah Beach.  All these communities are perched above the lake, and Wisconsin-aged till deposits overlain by glacial lake bed deposits are exposed in the lakeside bluffs.

297.5 Cross Sugar Creek and pass through Volunteer Bay on the left (eastbound).

300-302   Pass through Vermilion, named after the red color of the local clay, which was used by Ottawa Indians as paint.  The town was first settled in 1808 by William Hoddy, and incorporated in 1838.  Vermilion was once a large fishing port, and was once known as the “Village of Lake Captains,” with many beautifully maintained captains’ homes in its historic district.

          Vermilion is the home of the Inland Seas Maritime Museum and the Great Lakes Historical Society Museum.  The city hosts the Woolybear Festival, which is a one-day celebration featuring the longest parade in the State of Ohio.  Each June, the city holds the Festival of Fish, and the South Shore Boat Regatta is held in August.

301.5 Cross the Vermilion River, and look for exposures of gray Ohio Shale. of Devonian age, along the banks near water level.  Note also the water tower with the words “Vermilion Sailors,” the name of the local sports teams.

302   Enter LORAIN County, named after Lorraine, France, at the request of Herman Ely, the founder of the city of Elyria.  The original proposed name for the county was “Colerain.” The largest city is the Lake Erie port city of Lorain, and the county seat is Elyria.

305   Cross Brownhelm Creek at Brownhelm Station.  The community if Brownhelm is located approximately one mile south of the railroad. The community was named after Col. Henry Brown.  The “helm” suffix is anglicized from the Saxon word “ham” or “hem,” meaning “home.”  The community was settled around 1818.

306.5 Pass beneath Ohio Route 2.  The small quarry on the right (eastbound) is likely producing building  tone from the Devonian-aged Berea Sandstone.

307    On the right (eastbound) is another small quarry in the Berea Sandstone.  In the mid-19th Century, several quarries were developed in the Amherst area in the Berea Sandstone, and produced large quantities of high-quality building stone.

308    Cross Beaver Creek.  If you look quickly and carefully, you may see exposures of Berea Sandstone and the older, Devonian-aged Ohio Shale, along the stream.  On the ground in this area, there are several smaller ridges and hills, which are largely ice-contact features such as eskers, plus some ancient shorelines of glacial lakes; however, the area is too urbanized  to clearly see details of these features.

308-309  Pass through Amherst, the “sandstone center of the world,” due to its abundance of Berea Sandstone.  At one time in the 19th Century, there were 9 active sandstone quarries in the area.  The town was laid out in 1830 by Judge Josiah Harris, and was previously named “Amherstville” and “North Amherst.”  The name came from the town of Amherst in New Hampshire.

         Tee old New York Central Railroad station in town, visible on the right (eastbound), is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Notice the old coaches and caboose on display here.

311    Pass beneath Ohio Turnpike (Interstate 80/90) again.  Just north of here, Interstate 80 and 90 split from each other.  I-90 heads northeast and eventually becomes the New York State Thruway, while I-80 heads east across Pennsylvania and becomes the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

312.5 Pass beneath Ohio Highway 113.

314.5 Cross West Branch Black River, which joins the East Branch just north of the railroad, to become the Black River, which flows north into Lake Erie.  Look for exposures of Devonian-aged Berea Sandstone along the river here.

315    On the left (eastbound), notice the brown Berea Sandstone exposed along the river adjacent to the railroad.

315.5 Cross East Branch Black River and stop at ELYRIA station, 410 E. River Road.  Elevation approximately 736.  Elyria is the county seat of Lorain County.

          Elyria was founded in 1817 by Herman Ely, a New Englander who purchased land around the falls of the Black River, built a gristmill and sawmill, and named the new town after himself.

         Elyria today is a residential suburban community for Cleveland, and is also a former home of the Easter Seal Society, and the present home of Indian Ridge Museum, which has on display prehistoric Indian pottery as well as Civil War artifacts.  It is also the home of the Elyria Cascade Park, which contains waterfalls, caves, and a zoo which formerly had on display 2 captive black bears. The park is located in a ravine carved bye the Ice Age glaciers, the same ones which laid down the lake bed deposits we have been crossing across northern Ohio.  Cascade Park has a large playground and a large hill used for seating at the 4th of July fireworks shows, and is a popular spot for sledding during winter months.  The park is located along the Black River.

         Elyria was the home of early 20th Century writer Sherwood Anderson, who died in 1941, but not before he had been an inspiration to the next generation of writers, including John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner.

319    Pass through North Ridgeville, so named after the 4 glacial beach ridges  which traverse through here from the southwest to  the northeast. These ridges mark progressive locations of the ancient shorelines of glacial Lake Maumee, a predecessor to Lake Erie, which existed at different times during the Late Pleistocene Epoch.  These beach ridges may be difficult to ascertain from the train.

         The first permanent settlement of North Ridgeville took place on May 10., 1810, when 24 men from Waterbury, Connecticut, together with 3 other relatives, entered the area.  In 1829, due to frequent mail mixups with another Ridgeville in the state, the Postmaster General requested that the name of the post office and community here be changed to North Ridgeville.

320-321   Cross 2 more Pleistocene-aged beach ridges from glacial Lake Maumee, Chestnut Ridge and Buttermilk Ridge.

321.5 On the left (eastbound) is one of the few remaining drive-in movie theaters in the nation, the Auto-Rama,.  Cross beneath Ohio Turnpike again.

322   Enter CUYAHOGA County, the most populous county in the State of Ohio.  It is named after an Iroquoian word meaning “:crooked,” and refers to the Cuyahoga River.  The county was first settled in 1796 by General Moses Cleaveland, who named the county’s major city after himself.  The first “a” in Cleaveland’s name was eventually dropped, since a local newspaper reportedly believed that including the “a” would make the name too long for news headlines.  The county was organized on June 7, 1807. and originally also encompassed what is now Huron, Lake, and Lorain Counties.

325-326   Pass through Olmsted Falls and cross Plum Creek and West Branch Rocky River.  Olmsted Falls is a suburban community of Cleveland, and was incorporated in 1851.  It was named after early settlers Aaron Olmsted and his son Charles, and was located at the falls of the West Branch Rocky River.

         Note the falls in the river on the right (eastbound) as we cross.  The Devonian-aged Berea Sandstone and Bedford Shale are exposed along the riverbed here.

327-329   Pass through Berea and cross Rocky River.  Devonian-aged Berea Sandstone and Bedford Shale are exposed along the riverbed as we cross the river.  The Berea Sandstone was the major source of grindstone in the 19th Century.

         Berea was named after the biblical city in the Book of Acts, now known as Veria.  The city was established in 1836 by Henry O. Sheldon, a circuit-riding preacher.  The townspeople decided by a coin toss to determine whether the city should be called Berea or Tabor, and Berea won.  The first European settlers came from Connecticut, as Berea was located within the Connecticut Western Reserve (see MP 287.5 above).  In 1826, educator John Baldwin moved to the region, where he joined forces with James Gilbrith, a disciple of Josiah Holbrook who wanted to found a lyceum village.  This village was founded in 1837.  Baldwin ran the Lyceum Village School for 5 years, until June 1842, when it went bankrupt.  The school had been known as the Baldwin Institute, which in 1860 was renamed Baldwin University.  In 1866, educator James Wallace purchased the site of the Lyceum Village from the German Children’s Home, to become the German Wallace College Campus.  In 1913, Baldwin University and German Wallace College merged to become Baldwin-Wallace College.

          Baldwin discovered some outcroppings of the Berea Sandstone in the area, and felt it would be excellent material for the manufacture of grindstones, and Berea soon became known as the “grindstone capital of the World.”

          Berea is the home of the annual Bach Festival in May, which is orchestrated by the Riemenschneider Bach Institute, a part of Baldwin-Wallace College.

330-331  On the left (eastbound) is Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, which was founded in 1925 as the first municipally-owned airport in the Nation.  It was named after former Cleveland City Manager William R. Hopkins.

         We are also passing through the city of Brook Park, incorporated in 1913.  It was named by W.J. Sifleet, who named it because of its quaint little brooks which meandered through a parklike site on their way to Rocky River.  Brook Park is a suburban community to Cleveland.

331.5 Pass beneath the interchange of Interstate Highways 480 and 71.

333    Pass beneath Interstate 71.

335   Pass beneath intestate 90.

338    Edgewater State Park and the Cleveland Yacht Club are visible on the left (eastbound), on the shore of Lake Erie..  The downtown area of Cleveland, including the 52-story Terminal Tower, which w as once Cleveland Union Station, is visible ahead of the train.

338.5 The Cuyahoga River is visible on the right here (eastbound), adjacent to the railroad. It formerly flowed into Lake Erie on the left here; however, a new canal outlet was completed by the Corps of Engineers, to allow smoother passage of Great Lakes ore freighters, and to allow a site for the ore docks and other industrial facilities here visible on the left, near the natural mouth.

339.5 Cross the new manmade outlet of the Cuyahoga River.  the Cleveland Terminal Tower (now called Tower City Center) is prominently visible to the right (eastbound).  The Cuyahoga River begins in Geauga County, approximately 80 miles south of here.  The river is probably best known as “the river which caught fire” in the late 1960‘s because of explosive contaminants in the water, which spurted the environmental movement of today.

340.5 Pass the Municipal Stadium on the left (eastbound) as we pull into the 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.

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