History can be found in many places. Books, museums, photo albums, libraries or antique shops to name a few, but sometimes, we find history right beneath our feet. Such was the case this past month in Genoa when road crews, resurfacing a portion of Washington Street, unearthed dozens of old wooden railroad ties from a now-defunct electric interurban train that used to run between Toledo and the Lakeside-Marblehead area.
Sealed beneath the pavement of Genoa's street for decades were the ghosts of the trolley in the form of wooden ties that supported the trains and rails of the line for decades. And the big machines didn't have to dig too far down to find them. They were lurking near the surface. Kevin Gladden, Genoa Village Administrator, says they were about ten to 12 inches below street level, and they were discovered along with “some old spikes that were scattered around”. Gladden says the ties were probably covered over about 50 years ago by pavement, and remarkably they are in pretty good shape.
|Top: the old Toledo, Port Clinton Lakeside Railway building. (Photo
courtesy of the Genoa Public Library) Bottom: road crews unearthed
dozens of old wooden railroad ties from the train that ran between
Toledo and Lakeside-Marblehead area. (Photo by Lou Hebert)
They will have to be disposed of, however, because they still contain a creosote preservative which is environmentally unhealthy. Some of the recovered spikes, though, will be saved. The steel rails had been removed many years ago.
Not far from where this recent discovery took place still stands the former trolley passenger station on Washington Street, just across from the Genoa Fire Hall. The old stone block building that once served passengers on the Toledo, Port Clinton Lakeside Railway for more than a century is now a little more than an aging derelict of neglect, painted over and being used as a storage area by Clay Township. It is one of the few stations left on the historic interurban route, but there are no active plans at the present time to restore it to its original condition of a century ago when scores of trains stopped at the Genoa station everyday carrying hundreds of passengers.
The TPC& L was essentially an East-West route, which began in Toledo and then followed a corridor eastward on Starr Avenue, turning south through Curtice and Clay Center, and then into Genoa with several continuing stops in Elmore, Oak Harbor, Port Clinton, Lakeside-Marblehead and Bay Point.
The operation lasted for almost 40 years, starting in 1902, and finally ran its last passenger car in July of 1939. The Ohio Public Service Company did continue operating it as a freight rail carrier, however, until the 1950's, hauling coal and lime between the Clay Center quarry and Toledo.
During its peak years, the TPC&L was one of two interurban trains serving Genoa and other points east of Toledo. The other was the famous Lakeshore Electric which ran daily service between Toledo and Cleveland with stops at numerous communities in between. It too, like the TPC&L eventually lost out to the popularity and use of the automobile. By World War II, the trolleys of Northwest Ohio, and most of the country, were history and the steel rails were promptly ripped out and right-of-ways sold off so they might never return.
Today, little remains of these old electric railroads that were once a common feature of everyday life a hundred years ago. There are some lingering traces, however, if you know where to look. The best place to catch a glimpse of this local history story, is to follow the old track corridors where to this day you'll find the abandoned bridge supports over creeks and streams, the open cuts and pathways through area woods, and the large and towering wooden electric poles that border the trail of the tracks, and here and there, you can still find a few old decaying depots. And once in while, you may feel the ghosts of the trolley's rumble and find the history still buried beneath your feet.
Lou Hebert has other stories on local history on his website www.toledogazette.wordpress.com