The Alphabet Railroad

Akron to Cleveland, OH

The Akron, Bedford, and Cleveland Railroad (AB&C or the "Alphabet Railroad") has been almost forgotten despite its historical significance. It was among the first electric commuter railroads in the nation, arriving before even the New York City subway system. At the time of its completion (1895), it was the longest railroad of its type in the world. Daily passenger carriers on the AB&C departed Akron and headed north through or near the towns of Stow, Cuyahoga Falls, Hudson, Brandywine, Macedonia, Northfield, Bedford, Warrensville Heights, and Shaker Heights. The railroad's northern terminus was the Union Terminal (later the Terminal Tower) in downtown Cleveland.

Around 1900, the AB&C merged with a few other Akron-area electric railroads to form the Northeast Ohio Traction and Lighting Company (NOT&LCo), which later got out of the railroad business completely and became Ohio Edison, now a part of First Energy. NOT&L operated the line to dwindling returns well into the automobile era. Passenger service was discontinued in 1932.

Much of the Alphabet Line now lies underneath Ohio Route 8. Hudson Drive, in Stow and Cuyahoga Falls, also lies on the old ROW. Another portion of the right of way, in the Cuyahoga Falls area, is now a bike-walk path. In Cleveland and Shaker Heights, the AB&C line is still in use today as the RTA rapid transit Blue Line. A former station on this line, on Van Aken Blvd. in Shaker Heights, has been converted into a hair salon with a historic marker in front. The Macedonia station also still stands at the corner of OH 8 and OH 82.

Stone abutments where the AB&C crossed over the Lake Erie & Pitt...
Stone abutments where the AB&C crossed over the Lake Erie & Pittsburg Railroad, described here. This view is looking southeast along the LE&P right of way, in a blinding sunset, toward the route 8 freeway. The bridge overhead is old route 8. Photo by Elias C. Jones, June 2003.
According to the stone placard between the windows, this is the ...
According to the stone placard between the windows, this is the old Macedonia depot, constructed by the Northeast Ohio Traction and Lighting Company in 1905. The railroad would have been on the right side of the building, where OH route 8 is today. Apparently NOT&L's post-railroad incarnation, Ohio Edison, still owns the building and is using it as a control room for the adjoining substation (just off the photo to the left). Sadly, this historic building is now completely surrounded by strip malls and fast-food outlets where only farmhouses stood during the station's heyday. Photo by Elias C. Jones, June 2003.

—  User Comments  —

Minor name correction. The company was the Northern Ohio Traction and Light Company. The Akron trainshed on the north edge of the Ohio Edison building was intact for many years and in fact may still be there.

David Wilson
Oak Park, IL

the ABC/NOTL did not pass through Warrensville Heights, and Shaker Heights.....and the RTA line was NEVER part of the ABC/NOTL

jud powell
akron, OH

Bedford Station is still there on Bedford Sq.

Brian Burk
Madison, Ohio, OH

I believe the ABC Line paralleled the Pennsylvania Railroad from Bedford to the Miles Ave and Broadway Ave intersection in Cleveland. There use to be a ramp from the Pennsylvania RR track level up to Broadway Ave which the ABC Line ran on to Public Square. Portions of the ramp and an iron fence along it's edge are still there south of Miles Ave.

John Ivancic
Chesterland, ND

I lived on Second St. in Cuyahoga Falls in the mid 60s. According to a book on the NOT&L, the line used Second as its ROW. As the line entered Akron, it crossed the Cuyahoga on a high bridge, and was later used for NB traffic on Rt.5. The Ohio Edison plant on the Akron side of the river received coal from the PRR, but there was once a physical connection between the NOT&L line and the power plant. Until the late 60s there was an old high switch stand in the wedge between Front St. and Cuyahoga Falls Ave.

Also, Rt. 8 north of Rt. 303 is on the high speed cut-off, bypassing the original curvy route to the west.

Finally, The NOT&L did not ruin just between Cleveland and Akron. It extended south to Canton and Massilon, and east to Kent, Ravenna, and Warren with a branch from Ravenna to Alliance. It was definitely in the Ohio interurban "big leagues" along with the LSE,C&LE and the Southwestern.

dan olah
north bend, WA

That bridge in the pic is akron-clev rd(state rd) not olde 8

Rail fan
Cleveland, OH

That bridge in the picture, there are actually two old bridge abutments. The old ROW and the newer ROW crossed over the LE&P RR in very similar areas there. It Is kinda confusing to look at. I took some pictures about 6 or 7 years ago. Unfortunately they have replaced the bridge on Akron Cleveland road and it appears from the satellite view, destroyed all evidence of the previous bridges.

Darin Helkowski
Northfield Center, OH

Your input is desired. I am looking for the exact location of Stop #31 along the ABC Line, believed to be along Northfield Rd. On the south side of Bedford / north side of Northfield. Researching family papers & photographs, our relatives had a farm at/near Stop 31. Thank you for any information provided.

Bill Werner
Macedonia, OH

there seems to be a bit of confusion here. first off you are both right: the abutment shot is under akron-cleve rd, which used to be state route 8 at that point, before the freeway off to the east was built. if you are referring to the road that used to be the AB&C ROW north of OH 303, that is called 'Olde Eight Rd'. Therefore, the picture caption author is correct in referring to it as 'old state route 8'. whew!

robert calabrese
san diego, CA

The AB&C most certainly did pass thru Warrensville Heights and Shaker Heights on its way to Terminal Square. I believe the author stated that AB&C trackage was LATER used by the Cleveland RTA's Shaker Rapid Transit, not that the RTA was part of the AB&C or vice-versa.

robert calabrese
san diego, CA

Another small correction: I used to ride the rails/trails north of graham rd in the falls before the 8 freeway was built. The ROW/old bike trail is still there just west of the freeway doing nothing. If you look closely, you can see it there on google earth or maps just east of wyoga lake. Apparently it was cheaper or, maybe safer to run a new alignment east of the freeway. You are correct that the ROW is buried under parts of hudson drive in stow and the falls.

san diego, CA