W&LE Falls Junction Depot

The October issue of Marker Lights informed our members of the recent sale of the Falls Junction Depot to the Village of Glenwillow. The sale has generated some interest in the history of the station and because of that we have decided to reprint an article written and copyrighted in 1994 by longtime member Mike Kole. The article appears with the permission of the author.

A Piece of Railroad History

This fine example of a small country railway depot is located in Glenwillow, Ohio on the line of the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway company. It was built in 1883 by the Connotton Valley Railway to service the Villages of Solon and Chagrin Falls in Ohio.

The depot was built at the junction of a branch line to Chagrin Falls which was originally constructed by a Carrollton, Ohio Civil War hero, General E. R. Eckley.

Eckley wanted to extend his Ohio & Toledo Railroad from Minerva, Ohio northward through Kent and Chagrin Falls to Painesville. He incorporated the Painesville, Canton & Bridgeport Narrow Gauge Railroad on January 12, 1875. Construction started from Chagrin Falls southward heading towards Canton, Ohio via what is now Glenwillow to connect with the Ohio & Toledo Railroad. Five miles of the PC&B between Chagrin Falls and Solon were completed when Eckley's O&T became insolvent bringing construction on the PC&B to a halt.

However, upon hearing of the O&T insolvency, the contractors who had built the PC&B decided to operate it between Solon and Chagrin Falls. When the PC&B went into receivership in August of 1880 and was put up for Sherrif's Sale the next month, the contractors purchased it on September 28, 1880 and renamed it the Chagrin Falls & Southern.

In the mean time, the Ohio & Toledo changed ownership coming under the control of Eckley's rival, Dr. Norman A. Smith. Smith liquidated the O&T and incorporated it as the Youngstown & Connotton Valley Railroad. And, as the name suggests, this railroad was now going to Youngstown instead of Painesville. Then Smith did an about face and decided once again that it should go to Painesville after all. He began building the line into Canton, reaching it on May 7, 1880. By now the railway was simply known as the Connotton Valley Railroad, as it had nothing to do with Youngstown.

To continue construction northward, Smith enlisted the aid of the Hiram A. Blood Syndicate of Massachusetts. Blood took a mortgage on the railroad and put one of his men in charge. He formed the Connotton Northern Railway to construct the line north from Canton and in October, Blood merged the CN and the Y&CV and they became the Connotton Valley Railway. At the end of 1880, Blood decided the railway wood go to Cleveland instead of Painesville.

The railway was built into Kent, Ohio by May of 1881, through what is now Glenwillow in early June, and into Bedford on July 4, 1881. The Coal Docks of the Cuyahoga River was reached in November of 1881, and downtown Cleveland in February of 1882.

With the coming of the Connotton Valley, the Chagrin Falls & Southern built from Solon to a junction with the CV. At the same time the CV built the present depot naming it Falls Junction as it was originally located at the actual junction of the Connotton Valley main line and the Chagrin Falls & Southern branch. It was located on the west side of the Connotton Valley tracks. At this point in time, the Village of Glenwillow did not exist.

It was not until 1882, when the Austin Powder Company relocated from the Ohio Canal location near Harvard Road in Brooklyn Township, Ohio to the southwest section of Solon Township that the Village of Glenwillow was founded. At that time, the Village was actually a company town of Austin Powder Company. It's residents were employees of the powder company who primarily supplied explosives to the mining industry.

The Connotton Valley Railway was built as a "coal road" hauling coal from the many mines in southeastern Ohio to the ever hungry industry of Cleveland. Now, via the railway, Austin Powder could ship it's explosives easily to the users of the blasting powders and explosives it produced. In turn, Austin Powder needed a steady flow of raw materials for the explosives as well as everyday household items and food for the Village.

With the arrival of Austin Powder, with offices, main plant and company town located on Pettibone Road, the Falls Junction Depot was relocated one quarter of a  mile to its' present site on the south side of Pettibone Road. After the Depot was moved on railroad flatcars to the new site, the present freight storage section was added to the south side of the structure to serve Austin Powder and the new Village of Glenwillow. This Depot became the gateway to the outside world as its' passenger trains allowed easy access to the larger cities of Cleveland, Kent and Canton. It also continued to serve as the transfer point for passengers and freight coming from and going to Solon and Chagrin Falls.
Uncovered under the layers of paint on the waiting room wall of the Depot is the original Connotton Valley Train Schedule board showing trains north and south bound as well as trains to and from Chagrin Falls. In the freight house portion there are markings on the wall carrying dates back to March 3, 1910. The interior is essentially exactly as it looked in 1883 when it was built. The only modern utilities are six light bulbs and associated wiring.

As one enters the passenger waiting room through the original door that is opened with a thumb press latch of a century ago, it is like traveling back 135 years in time. Your pulse quickens as you mentally walk up to the Depot Agent's ticket window knowing that shortly you will be riding that magic carpet of steel rails. Your mind's eye sees you experiencing the excitement of purchasing your ticket for an adventure to some far away location that can only be reached from this Depot. You "hear" the hustle and bustle by the Depot Agent and the chatter of his telegraph pre-announcing the arrival of your train. And, finally, that breathtaking moment when the gleaming engine with shiny headlight arrives. Harnessed behind that magnificent steel is the train on which you will, at last, begin your journey!

But, alas, it is only in your mind as the Depot is no longer in use for railroad purposes. However, you are grateful that it is still intact, enabling you to visit and experience a part of the heritage of the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Company and the Village of Glenwillow.

The Village of Glenwillow has plans to move the Falls Junction Depot from its' current location across the tracks to the location shown in the proposed plan for Pettibone Road Park. The plan will ensure that the Depot remains a focal point of the community for generations to come.

The framed print shown above is one of 100 that were produced to raise money to fund Midwest's restoration of the Falls Junction Depot. The prints, numbered and signed by the artist, Bob Tubbesing, and also signed by Carl Wagner, the last agent assigned to the Depot, were given for donations of $100 or more. There are still a number of these original prints in storage that MRPS will give away to anyone that donates $100 or more to the current Building Fund for restoration of the Historic B&O Roundhouse stalls 6 through 10 while supplies last.