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Interurban history surfaces in creek
Interurban history surfaces in creek
By JOAN DEMIRJIAN
While walking along a creek on village property, South Russell police Sgt. Michael Rizzo came across something he said he never expected to see.
As he looked more closely at the object sticking out of the water, he realized it was an axle and two iron wheels. It turned out to be from an interurban rail car. The interurban line ran through the village years ago.
Mr. Rizzo said it was near the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. power lines at the end of Sheerbrook Drive, near the village's border with Bainbridge Township.
He called the village streets department, and ropes were used to pull the axle and wheels out of the creek.
Village workers brought them back to the road garage, where the axle and wheels were sandblasted and painted. They then were mounted on some tracks, according to South Russell Streets Commissioner Darrell Johnson.
The interurban rail line once was the route for the interurban cars that ran along the south border of what was then Russell Township. Remnants of that right of way are still visible in some areas.
South Russell Mayor Matthew Brett said they would like to put a plaque on the wheels and display them in South Russell Village Park, formerly the Muggleton farm, where the interurban line was located.
The train went through Chagrin Falls, and a car barn was located on Miles Road.
Mr. Johnson recalled that, when he worked for the Chagrin Falls Streets Department, they were repairing a water main break in the area of the rail line. Someone was digging out some tree stumps and hit piles of old railroad spikes, he said.
Former South Russell Mayor Donald Barriball, who has written a book on the interurban, "The History of the Cleveland and Chagrin Falls Electric Railway," took a look at the axle and wheels Monday.
He said they were part of what was called a truck, or pair of wheels. Electric motors were a component of the trucks, he said.
They could have been from a car used for inspections of the lines or a dump car for spreading stone aggregate along the rail line, he said. They were found in the area where supplies were piled, he said.
The interurban entered South Russell off Washington Street at what is now Daisy Lane, Mr. Barriball said. "You can see the right of way." It goes east in a straight route south of Village Hall and behind the Lake Louise subdivision, he said. It crossed Snyder Road, went to Munn Road and then north to Bell Road, he said. Stone abutments can still be seen in the right of way on the south side of Bell Road.
There was a station on the southwest corner of Bell Street and Ravenna Road (Route 44) in South Newbury, he said. The line crossed Ravenna Road and went to Route 700 to the back end of Snow Lake and then due south on the east side of Route 700 through Welshfield in Troy Township and then to Hiram and Garrettsville, Mr. Barriball said.
Cars that operated through this area were 55 to 60 feet long, he said. They were 8 1/2 feet to 9 feet wide and were made from solid oak with iron frames.
In Chagrin Falls, the cars went up Maple Street, then north on Walnut Street and to West Washington Street, or Pearl Street, as it was known then, he said. It then went east on Washington Street.
"This line was 44 miles from Public Square in Cleveland to Garrettsville," Mr. Barriball said. Farmers sent their milk to Cleveland for sale, and riders paid about 30 cents to travel between Chagrin Falls and Cleveland. As expenses increased, the fare went to $1, he said. "My mother and both my grandfathers took it to Cleveland."
A theater train ran two nights of the week when people could ride to the theaters in Cleveland, he said.
The line, which started in 1897, lost money, in part because of a lack of enough riders, Mr. Barriball said. The last car ran in March 1925.
He said the axle and wheels pulled from the creek gave him his first opportunity to see some of the remnants of the interurban.
He has a longtime interest in the interurban, which led to the research for his book, he said. "The fact that my parents and grandparents used the interurban and talked about it got me interested," he said. "It meant so much to the people in this area at a time when there were no hard-surface roads. It was a means of take care of business you had to handle and was extremely important."
Mayor Brett said it's impressive the way the men at the road department worked on the axle and wheels. He said displaying the items in the village park where the line ran through the area would be appropriate. It is an important part of the village's history, he said.
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