In 1848, the Cleveland and Mahoning Valley Railroad was chartered to build a line from Cleveland to Youngstown, then over to Sharon and Sharpsville, PA. The segment between Leavittsburg and Cleveland became known as the Cleveland Branch of the Erie Railroad (later Erie Lackawanna), and was one of the principal rail routes into Cleveland. A portion of the line was also used by Atlantic and Great Western Railroad for its passenger service.
The line began at Erie's New York-Chicago mainline at Leavittsburg, near Warren (most of the mainline through Ohio is now also abandoned). The line traveled in a westerly direction, passing through the towns of Garretsville, Mantua, Aurora, Solon, Bedford Heights, and Warrensville Heights. The western terminus of the line was a yard on the east side of Cleveland. During its heyday, the railroad was double-track all the way from Leavittsburg to Cleveland. The segment from Mantua to Solon was reduced to single track in the 1960s, and the remainder of the road was "narrowed" in the 1970s.
The line at Geauga Lake was the route of Cleveland-Pittsburgh passenger service (joint with the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad). The last EL passenger service west of Port Jervis was Nos. 28 & 29, the Youngstown-Cleveland commuter train that ended in early 1977 under Conrail. Freight traffic was mostly coal and ore, but with a fair amount of merchandise to and from Cleveland. Oil and oil products also were a factor; in the early days A&GW with C&MV had one of the earliest through routes from the Pennsylvania oil fields to the refineries in Cleveland (Rockefeller later controlled most of the refineries).
The railroad remained in use up until the formation of Conrail, which made the line redundant to other rails to the south. The segment from Leavittsburg to just west of Mantua was abandoned in the late 1970s or early 1980s. The rest of the railroad survived and went to Norfolk Southern after the Conrail breakup. From Cleveland to Solon, the line is still used (occasionally) by NS. Track is still in place between Solon and Mantua, but the rails are in poor condition and some crossings have been paved over, suggesting that NS has no plans to resume service on this portion. Most of the right-of-way between Mantua and Garretsville has been made into an unpaved bike-walk trail, and the Mantua station remains as a small business.
Thanks to Elias C. Jones and Adam Dietrich for contributing information about this route.