A feature story published June 25, 1975 in the Cleveland Daily Banner lamented the passing of passenger rail service in Cleveland which ended Aug. 11, 1970, when the Birmingham Special (Nos. 17 and 18) made their final runs.
“The Cleveland passenger depot still stands — inside, waiting benches are empty and ticket windows are permanently closed and outside, an old rubber wheeled baggage wagon sits idle on the well-worn brick platform.
“A visit to the Cleveland depot is a trip to the past. And, with a little imagination, you can cock your ear to the wind and hear faintly, ‘All aboarrrd!’”
Though the call of conductors has long been silent, a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday at 11 a.m. will mark the transition from rail to bus service. Trains will soon be replaced with 40-passenger buses and rubber wheels replaced with steel belted tires. The depot will have an open house until 2 p.m. Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland encouraged all veterans who departed Cleveland from the train station or family members who watched them leave for the military, to attend the ceremony.
The Cleveland Community Concert Band will begin the morning with railroad songs at 10:45. Rowland will act as master of ceremonies and introduce the guest speaker, Tom Thomson, deputy regional administrator for Region IV of the Federal Transit Administration. Parking for the ribbon cutting will be available at the Museum Center at Five Points.
Passenger rail service was available in Cleveland for more than 100 years. Freight service began in 1854 and in 1975, “the freight station that was erected in 1854 makes up a part of the building where the Cleveland Plywood Co. now stands — just south of the passenger depot,” according to the story, “Rail service made Cleveland — raw wool was brought in to be spun into fabrics (as early as the late 1800s) by Hardwick Woolen Mills and others.”
The depot will still function as a transportation hub though its purpose will serve the Cleveland Urban Area Transit System instead of the railroad. CUATS officials are hopeful of occupying the building the week after the Fourth of July. The depot lobby will feature a historical display and small retail souvenirs on display will direct people to the gift store in the Museum Center at Five Points. The work of local train historian Tom Rock will be on display. His prints hang on the walls of corporate and private collections in the U.S. and Canada.
Martha Kidwell’s series of Cleveland Historic Building prints, engineer caps for children, wooden trains by Mike Markum and tree ornaments developed by MainStreet Cleveland are available for purchase.