HGR Industrial Surplus customer volunteers with the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

CVSR engine in garage for maintenance

Thanks to HGR Industrial Surplus’ Customer and Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR)’s former Safety Manager and Current Volunteer Tony Caruso, I had the chance to tour the CVSR’s railyard and learn some important historical information about the railroad. What a treat, especially because HGR’s site has ties to the Nickel Plate Road, and so does Tony.

HGR’s building used to be home to the General Motors’ Fisher Auto Body Plant. The Nickel Plate Road Railroad came into the building to pick up auto bodies en route to Detroit for assembly. The entire building, including tenant spaces, was renamed Nickel Plate Junction in 2014 to honor the site’s history. Tony’s father, uncles, cousins and brothers all worked on Nickel Plate Road in Girard, Penn., and in Conneaut, Ohio, and Tony has a caboose in his backyard on actual track that was painted this summer in the colors of Nickel Plate Road.

The railroad opened in the 1880s to transport commercial freight and passengers between Cleveland, Akron, Canton and points beyond, but became a fully passenger railroad in the 1970s. In the 1990s, the park built a repair shop at the railyard so that employees did not need to take the trains to Cleveland for repairs. CVSR has six, 12-cylinder engines that can move at speeds of up to 30 mph. The railroad operates at 29 mph to stay within regulations for passenger trains. The trains hold 1,200 gallons of diesel fuel, 700 gallons of oil and 400 gallons of water, including that for the dining car, restrooms and the water/antifreeze mix for the engines. The train’s electricity is powered with a generator.

The cars were built in the 1940s to 1960s in The United States by The Budd Company out of welded stainless steel. This company also makes space shuttle bodies. Tony shared that the manufacturing standards by which rail cars and rail line are made date back 1,000 years. In the Roman days, carriages created a rut or groove in the road from the wheels. The distance between them was 4 feet, 8 inches. That is the exact distance between the inside of the rails. Even space shuttle booster rockets are designed with those measurements in mind in order to fit on a railcar for transport.

Lisa Sadeghian, CVSR manager of donor experiences, says, “The train is a moving museum that preserves the past while being educational and relaxing. We will soon begin working with two Northeast Ohio museums to create a rolling children’s museum with permanent and temporary exhibits on one of our train cars. In addition, passengers can rent a bike for a nominal fee and get on and off the train. So can hikers.” With a music education background, she goes on to share that Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” was written on a train, and that in parts of the song you can hear sounds of city life, as well as the rhythm of the train’s wheels and tracks.

Yes, indeed, trains run through songs, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and HGR Industrial Surplus!

CVSR caboose CVSR dining car

Nickel Plate Road Historical & Technical Society donation for convention luncheon

HGR donation to Nickel Plate Road Historical & Technical Society for annual convention luncheon
Chuck Klein, NKPHTS convention chairman, with Matt Williams, HGR’s chief marketing officer

On Sept. 28 – 30, The Nickel Plate Road Historical and Technical Society (NKPHTS) is hosting its annual convention in Cleveland, one of the stops on the Nickel Plate Road railroad, which connected New York, Chicago and St. Louis. If you missed it, you can learn more about the society in this 2015 HGR blog. HGR’s current facility was one of the Cleveland stops on the line where GM’s Fisher Auto Body Plant used the railroad to transport automobile bodies to Detroit. You can read about the history of the site on this past blog.

So, why are we talking about an event that doesn’t take place until September? Well, because pulling off a convention takes planning, and Chuck Klein, NKPHTS’ convention chairman, is running the show. On March 7, he visited HGR’s showroom in Euclid to pick up his “check” for $1,000, donated by HGR. Matt Williams, HGR’s chief marketing officer, is a member of NKPHTS. And, HGR cares about preserving the heritage of its site, which was an important part of the war effort and industrialization in Cleveland.

Williams joined the society because his grandfather worked in Nickel Plate’s Canton, Ohio, railyard, and his father, an electrical engineer, was The Orville Railroad Heritage Society’s president. While Klein, a retired optician, is a model railroad enthusiast and a committee member for the National Model Railroad Association, which is how he came by the job of convention chairman.

Klein says, “We almost didn’t do the luncheon because it wasn’t financially feasible, but with the donation from HGR to cover the room rental, we were able to pull it off.” And, pull it off in style they will do. The society is shuttling convention attendees from The Holiday Inn South Cleveland — Independence to The Terminal Tower with a special stop along the way. A visit to the tower’s observation deck also is planned. The topic of the luncheon presentation will be “From Chicago World’s Fair to Cleveland’s Public Square: the Story of the Terminal Tower.”

For lovers of Cleveland history, especially of Public Square, Klein provides a wealth of information. I learned more in an hour with him about the history of the buildings on Public Square and the Van Sweringen brothers who built them than I’ve learned in my (ahem) undisclosed number of years on this planet where I’ve lived in Cleveland since birth. He recommended the book Invisible Giants: The Empires of Cleveland’s Van Sweringen Brothers by Herbert H. Harwood Jr. It’s now on my Goodreads list!

If you are interested in joining the society or attending the convention, you can get more information on the society’s website. We’ll be at the luncheon looking for you!