By Nancy Huth
In 1869 something momentous happened, shortening the time it took to get across the USA from six months to 10 days. The Transcontinental Railway, which joined the east coast to the west coast somewhere in Utah, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. It’s honoring the many Chinese, Irish, Civil War veterans, Mormons, African-Americans and Native American workers who labored from the west and from the east.
Newcomers to Middlefield find it amazing that a railroad once went through this town. The Ice Cream Depot at the center of town and the mural on the northeast corner remind us of those nostalgic years. Back in the early 1900s residents could ravel rom Middlefield to Cleveland’s Public Square.
To discover more about the Cleveland and Eastern Railway system (C&E), you can purchase Dr. Dan Rager’s new book, Volume II of “The Maple Leaf Route” called “The Critical Edition.” The book includes detailed maps and blueprints, as well as a large photo collection. It also contains C&E employee names and pictures and newly unearthed information.
Dr. Rager said, “After giving presentations of my first book, people and information came out of the woodwork with detailed facts not known when I wrote the first book. Blueprints were found last summer in a box in a dumpster on their way to a land fill.”
Readers will enjoy the ‘Tales on the Trails’ chapter which presents true stories from the past by some of Geauga County’s Amish Community whose grandparents worked and rode on the rails. Chardon became the rail capital east of Cleveland and was known as a ‘Jerkwater’ town. This is railroad lingo for the chain on the water tower that firemen pulled to fill the locomotive tender. The book includes other railroads that were connected with the C&E: the Baltimore and Ohio and the Nickel Plate Railroads.
This unique book takes the reader from Cleveland’s Public Square to Gates Mills, Scotland, Munson, Chardon Burton, Middlefield and points east. The first edition of Rager’s book, “The Maple Leaf Route” was the story of the interurban which ran between 1899 and 1925.
Dan Rager’s interest in trains was sparked as a young boy when he watched them run through his home town in Geauga County. He has ridden the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway as well as trains in Holland, Russia and Argentina. He’s also been on trains at the Grand Canyon and in the South Dakota Black Hills. He loves the nostalgia and adventure while riding the rails.
“I can relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery and think about the workers who laid the ties and rails and sacrificed so much so we could enjoy our way of transportation,” he said.
Rager’s main profession is music. He is known as an international award-winning composer and conductor in the field of wind and orchestral music whose published work exceeds 250 compositions, recordings and books which are used in over 185 countries. His compositions have been performed and recorded by the Cleveland Orchestra. In 2000 he was the first American conductor from Ohio invited to work in Russia with professional wind-orchestras, military and conservatory groups.
Outside of his music discipline he is considered a Geauga County historian who works with the Midwest Railway Preservation Society, as well as with other historical societies. His knowledge of the interurban and steam railroads led to his books on the Maple Leaf Route in Geauga County.
Rager now lives in Munson. His books are available at The Maple Leaf Publishing Company, www.lulu.com/shop/dan-rager/the-maple-leaf-route-vol-2-the-critical-edition/paperback/product-24041592.html.
Nancy Huth grew up in Cleveland and graduated 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 Middlefield Post since 2007.