Monday, July 5, 2010

Lake Shore Electric Railway Then and Now Part 1

I recently had the chance to enjoy reading another one of those excellent Arcadia Publishing local history books. (I use their Images of Lorain book, published by the Black River Historical Society all the time as a reference for this blog.) This new book focuses on the old electric interurban railway that provided passenger service between cities on Lake Erie, and is entitled Lake Shore Electric Railway. It was written by Thomas J. Patton with Dennis Lamont and well-known Lorain historian Albert Doane.

The book (published about a year ago) does a terrific job of explaining the history behind the rise and fall of this electric streetcar system that had routes that ran from Cleveland to Detroit, via Avon Lake (the Beach Park station), Lorain, Sandusky and Toledo.

The book contains a fantastic collection of photos, many of which depict the railway as it passes through Avon Lake, Lorain and Vermilion. If you're a local history buff, then you have to have this book on your shelf.

My father was old enough to have remembered the interurbans, and from what he told me I wish that there still was such a system in place. It would be pretty nice to be able to board one and take it all the way to Toledo. Apparently the interurbans would get up to speeds of 70 and 80 miles an hour out in the country!

Since the interurbans were pretty much out of business by the late 1930's, you have to look pretty hard in this area for evidence that they even existed. Thus I scanned in several photos from the book so that I could give them the 'then and now' treatment and reveal just where the tracks were located.


Here is the first photo. When I first read the caption, I couldn't even imagine where this photo was taken.

The vintage photo (looking east) shows the interurban tracks as they cross Colorado Avenue.

After driving up and down Colorado Ave. just south of where it meets up with US Route 6 (East Erie Ave.) I finally figured it out. The brick building with the awning on the left is Paul's Auto Body. (Unfortunately Paul's Auto Body was demolished a year or two ago.)

Today, this scene faces the Spitzer Harbor Walk housing development and looks like this.

The building that sits where the tracks used to be was built between 1947 and 1950 (a decade after the railway went out of business). The empty lot to the left of it is where Paul's Auto Body used to be.

The tall building to the right of it (that is visible in both photos) had a variety of uses through the years. In the early 1930's it offered furnished rooms, and in the early 1940's it was a restaurant.

Today people drive by this area heading north to Dairy Mart on the corner of Colorado and East Erie Avenue, never knowing that 70 or 80 years earlier, the Lakeshore Electric Railway would have been clattering right through here!

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