Southern Railway, which built its locomotive and repair shops in that area after the completion of the railroad in the early 1850's. By 1900 everyone called it the New York Central Railroad, and today it is part of CSX Transportation, whose facilities in Collinwood are but a faint shadow of the glory days.
Cleveland we inhabited after World War II was the child of the other railroad that ran through Cleveland. I'm referring of course to the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad, always called the Nickel Plate Railroad, which was constructed in 1881. The Nickel Plate (NKP) and the New York Central (NYC) were built parallel between Buffalo and Cleveland, in some cases just yards apart and in our area more like a mile apart. The NKP was an unimpressive single-track railroad until Cleveland's Van Sweringen brothers bought it from the NYC in 1916.
The old road or street that connected East Cleveland to Collinwood was Collamer Street,
which, after Cleveland's streets were numbered in 1907, became E. 152nd Street. Collamer was the name pre-Civil War settlers had given to the neighborhood along the Euclid road from about Lee Road to about Ivanhoe Road; St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Euclid Avenue (circa 1850) was the heart of old Collamer. Today's Terrace Road was originally named Collamer Terrace.
Continuing on through Collinwood and towards the lake, a few blocks later we passed on the left Memorial School and the beautiful garden next to it. I'll never forget hearing from my dad what the significance of the garden was and what it commemorated. The worst school fire in American history had happened there only fifty years earlier, but to me as a kid 1908 seemed a century past. Today I realize that many people who were living nearby had themselves attended the school, or seen, or were touched by the terrible fire.
when football games between them were played in a jam-packed Shaw Stadium, the loud cheers could be clearly heard at our house some blocks away. In fact, one season in the late 1950's I remember the thundering cheers for Shaw's star kicker Mario Gerhardt "Mar-ee-o, Maree-o" the crowd of thousands cheered again and again. Mario was rather small for a football player and he would run out on the field to kick a field goal with a bare kicking foot. He learned that skill growing up in post war Germany and playing soccer without shoes because most kids couldn’t afford to buy shoes. Mario went on to be a teacher at Chagrin Falls High School. His younger brother, Dieter was our Cleveland Press carrier.
on one. The man proceeded to tell my uncle which houses were going to be auctioned and what to bid, since he figured there would be very few bids. It turned out there were no other bids and consequently my mom and dad became the proud owners of their own first house for $4,000 cash (about $38,000 today, adjusted for inflation).
We lived next door to the Nickel Plate for nine years and I learned a lot from the wonderful
experience. For one thing, each passing freight train brought a geography lesson to me. As a life-long compulsive reader I couldn't help but look up and read the advertising on the cars as they went by: "Burlington...Everywhere West," "B&O...Linking 13 Great States with the Nation," "Northern Pacific...Main Street of the Northwest," "Lehigh Valley," "Fruit Growers Express," "Armour Star," "Hormel," "Delaware & Hudson," etc. When I was very young I'd ask my dad where those places were and he'd explain their location or their nicknames; later on I would look them up or figure out their meanings for myself.
Maybe the most important lesson the Nickel Plate taught me was never to take anything for
granted. For example, I thought nothing could be more real or more alive than an NKP steam locomotive. But then in May of 1958 the steam locomotives just... disappeared, only to be replaced by new but prosaic-looking diesel locomotives painted black with gold stripes. Although the trains still had all the usual cars and a caboose, railroads suddenly became (only) a little less interesting. At the same time, I learned how to take snapshots of things I liked. In all those nine years of living next door to the Nickel Plate, our family took not a single photograph of a steam locomotive. None. After all, we thought, why bother? "They'll always be there." Until one day they weren't.
Before the Civil War, East Cleveland township was the name for everything between the
Cleveland city line at Willson Avenue (today's E. 55th Street) and Euclid Village (the area in Euclid Township where the eponymous road, Euclid Creek and today's Chardon Road intersect. After the Civil War and the continuous annexation of large tracts of township land by the city of Cleveland, rural East Cleveland became ever smaller in size.
Corners (E. 105th Street) called Lakeview or Lake View, west of Collamer, and helped to finance the building of the Lakeview & Collamer, an early railroad which started at Becker Street and Superior Avenue in Glenville and entered today's East Cleveland at Lakeview Street. It then proceeded northeast for not quite seven miles to Euclid Village. Rockefeller's plan to use the little railroad to bring paying customers to Forest Hill, which he hoped to convert into a vacation resort or hotel, came to nothing. So when he was approached in 1879 to sell the Lakeview & Collamer to another railroad company (the NKP) seeking an inexpensive right-of-way, he sold. Beginning in 1881 the NKP operated trains on a single track from Chicago to Buffalo through today's East Cleveland, where, over the years, the Nickel Plate was to prove to be a good corporate citizen in a number of ways.
local businesses, which in turn, employed many East Clevelanders. Then in 1916, in order to increase competition, the NYC was ordered by the Interstate Commerce Commission to divest itself of the Nickel Plate, which it had owned and operated since 1882. The NYC sold the NKP to two brothers, Oris P. and Mantis J. Van Sweringen, local real estate developers in the Heights area and subsequent builders of the Terminal Tower. Their long-range plans for Cleveland included building several rapid transit lines, one of which became the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit.
neighborhoods bisected by slow-moving freight trains each blasting their horns four times for every crossing. Each year the local news media feature a story or two about cars or pedestrians in Lakewood being struck by trains, with the predictably tragic results.
through East Cleveland alongside the NKP tracks was abandoned, although the necessary
bridges, pylons, and graded right of way were already in place. After World War II the idea was revived and the CTS Rapid Transit was eventually built on the unused right of way from downtown to Windermere. East of Windermere the NKP owned a wide strip of land on the south side of their right of way as far as London Road.
Generally our crowd played on the Euclid, or south side, of the embankment.
garages until it reached Wymore Road. A tall poplar tree stood on the top of a grass and weed covered hill. There before and below us, until about 1958 when the A&P and a bowling alley were built, was a large piece of empty property that we kids played on and considered our own. This property was, in fact, all that remained of "Wymore," a small estate at the turn of the century owned by Sophia Taylor, an important early landowner. Wymore faced Euclid Avenue and extended back to the NKP embankment. Although there was a small house at the rear of the property, the main house was long gone. But! The carriage house at Wymore was still standing, totally abandoned, without doors, and as frightening to me in its appearance as any Hollywood set. I had heard from boys who dared to look inside that there were carriages! This really isn't so surprising; only fifty years earlier Wymore included, along with the house, a livery stable, no doubt the swains of East Cleveland at the turn of the century could rent a horse and carriage to take a girl out for a drive. It's also very likely that if the barn had carriages it must have had a sleigh or two. In those days sleighs were a common winter sight in Cleveland; west of Willson (E.55th) Avenue to Erie (E.9th) Street, Euclid Avenue sleigh racing was a well known and well
attended daily sport. So Wymore was to me a bit of the East Cleveland of the 1890's, like the large Queen Anne style houses that anchored the corners of Euclid Avenue at other Avenues such as Northfield and Strathmore.
handsome passenger station constructed of brick and stone that was opened in 1930 as part of the enormous Terminal Tower project. As a boy, I was drawn to that station like a moth to a light. Unfortunately, I was forbidden by my mom to ride my bike to the station ("too far"), probably because it involved crossing busy Superior Avenue on the eastern edge of the station parking lot. Nevertheless, I went there a number of evenings after dinner, in order to watch Nickel Plate train #8, The New Yorker, arrive from the west at 7:20. While it was stopped, I got as close as I could to this beautiful train with its coaches, dining car and sleepers painted silver and blue, led by two Alco "Bluebird" diesel locomotives, throbbing away at the head end like impatient horses. After boarding the usual half dozen or so passengers, the train sped away to the east, leaving me to watch the large red light on the door of the last car fade away out of sight. I vowed to myself that one day I would ride that and other trains.
mid-1960's after only thirty-six or seven years of service, in order to provide space for a Ford dealership, the business that helped to kill passenger train travel in America.
Sic transit gloria mundi.