By Nancy Huth
During my 30 years living in Europe, I came to love trains. There’s something nostalgic and romantic about train travel. When my husband and I go back to Germany every two years for a two-month stay, we never rent a car. We get around on public transportation – buses, trams, trains. Every station lists the times to board. We also purchase a Eurail Pass for our longer train trips crossing into other countries. (A Eurail Pass for train travel in Europe can only be purchased in the USA.) And here in the USA we have traveled across the country twice on Amtrak – once to Seattle and once to San Francisco. There is an Amtrak station in Cleveland. One year we left our car there and took the train to New York City to experience Christmas at Rockefeller Center.
When I first moved to Middlefield, I loved hearing the plaintive whistle of a train in the distance, only to discover it was Kraftmaid’s signal that a shift had ended. I was disappointed there wasn’t even a bus in town. Can you imagine my surprise, then, to learn there had been a train going through town at one time? The beautiful mural in downtown Middlefield painted in 2001 by graduated Cardinal eighth-grade art students under Christie King, along with the Depot (summer ice cream station now) attest to an early era of train travel. The B&O Railroad connected Warren and Painesville with a stop in the center of a town aptly known as Middlefield. The Interurban railway connected small towns in Geauga County with Cleveland.
For those of you wanting to learn more about rail traffic from the steam engine to the electric railway there is a new book called “The Maple Leaf Route” written by Geauga resident, Dr. Dan Rager, a professor of music at Cleveland State University. The book covers the rail history of our county and how life was transformed through it. It chronicles the route that ran through our county from 1899 to 1925. The Interurban started at Public Square in Cleveland and ran to Gates Mills, Scotland, Munson, Chardon, Burton, Middlefield. If you walk or ride the newly spruced up bike path, you will be on the former Interurban tracks. The lovely white building at the entrance to the Geauga Fairgrounds in Burton was a former train ticket booth.
“The Maple Leaf Route” is available for $30 from Maple Leaf Publishing Company, P.O. Box 144, Chardon, OH 44024. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Included in the book are rare photos, maps, and original documents from the railroad’s operation, along with fun and intriguing stories to capture your imagination.
Speaking of stories, I remember my first train ride at age 11. My mother took me with her to visit a cousin in Chicago. After our meal in the dining car, the waiter set silver finger bowls in front of us. I promptly picked mine up and drank it.
Nancy Huth grew up in Cleveland and raduated from Notre Dame College and Cleveland State University. After teaching English for a few years, she married and moved to Germany where she taught English as a second language for 30 years. In 2005, she and her German husband Dieter moved to Middlefield. Nancy has written for the Post since 2007.
“Life is a train that stops at no stations, you either jump aboard or stand on the platform and watch as it passes” ~Yasmina Khadra