|Grandma, Trains and Me
by Jim Kinkoph
When I was growing up in the mid 1940's, my grandmother
lived on 71st street on the east side of Cleveland, just off
of Woodland Avenue. Just over the fence along her property
was the city yard. This was the Cleveland city storage and
maintenance yard for snow plows, street sweepers, trash
hauling trucks, etc.
On the other side of the city yard was “The Gully”.
The gully was a very interesting place for a ten year old
kid who liked trains. The gully contained the electrified
main line of the Cleveland Union Terminal Railroad between
Collinwood and the Terminal Tower, the Nickel Plate east
main out of Cleveland, and the east end of the NKP Broadway
The Nickel Plate serviced the yard switchers here.
Coaling was done with a clamshell bucket crane out of hopper
cars. The railroad later built a large concrete tower that
was only used for a few years because of the arrival of
diesel switchers. On the other side of the gully on Grand
Avenue, grandma owned a house. The NKP made her an offer,
grandma accepted, and sold the house and lot to the
railroad. That’s when grandma moved across to 71st street.
The house on Grand was razed and a wooden water tower
constructed on the lot to supply water to the NKP engines.
When we would visit grandma, which was usually every
Sunday, my brother, cousin, and I would walk down Dell
Avenue to East 75th street where there was a concrete road
bridge over the gully tracks. From the center of the bridge
down to track level was a steel stairway, but most of the
time the gate was locked. When it wasn’t locked, we would
go down the stairway to the first landing and sit there. If
we were lucky, a Nickel Plate “Berk” would come pounding
through and bathe us in its wonderful, sulphurous smelling,
exhaust smoke. Another thrill was to see the CUT electric
locomotives pulling a New York Central passenger train
either to or from the Terminal Tower. They were so quiet
they would pop out from under the 75th street bridge before
you knew they were there.
About this time, the Nickel Plate built a brick diesel
house just to the west of the 75th street bridge to service
switchers and the ALCO passenger PA units. One Sunday the
gate was unlocked and we got up enough courage to go all the
way down the stairway and into the diesel house. One PA unit
was inside and we inspected it closely. No one was around
and we weren’t chased out.
Well, grandma is gone, steam is gone, the CUT electrics are
gone, time passes, changes come whether we like it or not.
Thanks for letting me share some of my memories with you.