CVSR keeps chugging along after 40 years
|Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is celebrating 40 years in the Cuyahoga Valley this year.|
|Photo courtesy of Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad|
The nonprofit railway has come a long way since its first train started service from the Cleveland Zoo to Hale Farm and Village in 1972, according to Kelly Steele-Moore, CVSR director of marketing.
“The whole idea was to take people to Hale Farm and Village,” she said. “The tracks were there and had some freight running on it, but it wasn’t busy.”
She said the idea came from former Hale Farm director Siegfried Buerling, who headed up the property from 1960 to 1998.
“He wanted to bring people here from the Cleveland area,” Steele-Moore said. “They were picked up just under the bridge at the Cleveland Zoo and brought to what is now our Indigo Lake Station.”
The train was operated on tracks that were nearly 100 years old. They were built for the Valley Railway, which opened in 1890 and offered freight and passenger service between Cleveland, Akron, Canton and other points. It was eventually purchased by the B&O Railroad.
CVSR started out as the Cuyahoga Valley Preservation & Scenic Railways Association and did business under the name Cuyahoga Valley Line. By 1975, the organization began operating a tourist train through what had been established a year earlier as the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area. Two years later, the northern terminus changed to the Rockside Road station in Independence, and service also began from Hale Farm south to Akron.
Trains ran until 1986, when service was interrupted for a two-year period as the organization entered into negotiations for use of the track, Steele-Moore said. In 1987, the National Park Service purchased the Independence to Akron track and infrastructure from CSX, which is what had earlier absorbed B&O Railroad.
Train service resumed in 1988, and the railway purchased its first diesel locomotive in case its existing steam engine broke down.
In 1994, the railway changed its name to its current one. That year was also the first to see its Polar Express excursions, with three offered. That trip is now held on 30 nights before Christmas and is the most popular CVSR event, Steele-Moore said.
This year’s Polar Express excursions begin Nov. 17, and tickets are on sale Oct. 1.
Over the years, annual ridership has shown steady increases. In 1991, ridership was at 15,690. Ten years later it was up to 113,702, and Steele-Moore said today it’s at about 200,000.
She added that the organization also has a staff of 13 full-time employees, but it’s the volunteers, which number about 400, which are integral to the operation.
“That’s what keeps us going,” she said, noting volunteers last year put in 60,000 hours of service.
Volunteers do everything from office work to train conducting, and are always needed, Steele-Moore said.
To celebrate this year’s milestone anniversary, CVSR is offering free scenic excursion rides for those born in 1972. Also available are four packs of tickets for Friday trips for $40.
In addition, a celebration is planned at Hale Farm Sept. 8. Attendees can take the train from the Rockside or Akron stations, or park at Hale Farm, and enjoy music and other entertainment and food and beverages at five stations. There also will be a private showing of some of the Hale Farm exhibits and a live auction.
Tickets for the 21-and-older event are $95 and available at www.cvsr.com or by calling 800-468-4070. Additional information on train service and special events can be found at the website or by calling.
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