Meadville Tribune

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November 22, 2013

Book signing event will celebrate history of regional railroad

Photographic essay book documents trolley network

MEADVILLE — The history of the regional railroad system is celebrated on Nov. 29 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. when Tom’s Train Terminal, 940 Park Ave., at Shops @TheBank, hosts a book signing event by local author Ken Springirth.

Springirth is the author of 20 books on railroads and trolley car systems, including his latest book, “Erie to Cleveland by Trolley.” This book is a photographic essay covering the systems from Meadville to Erie, Buffalo and Cleveland. This is the third year Springirth has visited Meadville for a book signing. Remembering the Erie Lackawanna Railroad and Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad are some of his recent books that will also be available at the book signing event.

The author has agreed to be a “Meter Feeder” for anyone who purchases a book from him at Tom’s Train Terminal that day.

About 150 years ago the Atlantic & Great Western Railroad completed construction of its line from Meadville to Kent, Akron and Cleveland in Ohio. The AG&W was formed as two companies. The president of the railroad in Pennsylvania was none other than William Reynolds — as in Baldwin-Reynolds House Museum. The Ohio line was under the direction of Marvin Kent, who opened the railroad to Kent, Ohio, on March 7, 1863.

Jump forward to 1910 and Ohio towns were competing for a proposed teacher’s college, then known as a Normal School. The town fathers gathered along the road from Wadsworth to greet the officials who were to choose the site for the school. They are said to have been a bit embarrassed when the officials arrived by train. In fact, one of the reasons Kent was chosen was rail service to both east and west.

But back to 1863, on April 17 the AG&W ran a special train from Meadville over a new extension to Akron. On Nov. 17, Reynolds presided at a dinner in Meadville to talk about the progress of the railroad and, on the very next day, the railroad opened to Cleveland. By 1868 there were three trains a day from Meadville to Akron with continuing service to Cleveland and Cincinnati. Meadville residents were very proud of their railroad, which later became the Erie Lackawanna Conrail and, today, the Western New York and Pennsylvania.

There is yet another rail anniversary this year. About 110 years ago the Meadville & Cambridge Street Railway began trolley service between Meadville and Cambridge Springs with service beginning on May 5, 1903. Meadville resident Frank Shryock was president of the Meadville trolley system. Although service from Cambridge Springs to Erie was available earlier, beginning in 1909 and lasting until 1928, it was possible to travel from Meadville to Buffalo, N.Y., by trolley car and, until 1922, take the trolley from Meadville to Cleveland. Both were via transfer at Erie.

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