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Ward-Thomas Museum

Ohio Association of Historical Societies and Museums

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Railroad Grade Crossing Project

Ward — Thomas Museum
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503 Brown Street Niles, Ohio 44446

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View of North Main Street grade crossing with gates and watch tower guarding the railroad crossover at this location as it looked in 1953, prior to the Grade Elimination Project.

Making the Grade.
Photos taken by J.J. Harvey and appeared in a Niles Daily Times special section July 1954.
View of North Main Street grade crossing with gates and watch tower guarding the railroad crossover at this location as it looked in 1953, prior to the Grade Elimination Project.

This project would alter the traffic patterns by connecting Robbins Avenue to Main Street, extend State Street to intersect with Robbins Avenue, and raise the B&O railroad yards to accomodate the second overpass on Robbins Avenue. Secondly, the project would eliminate the grade crossings on North Main Street near the General Electric plant with two new overpasses, one for the Erie Railroad and a second for the B&O railroad.


Taken about 1914, this photograph shows the Erie Railroad overpass at Robbins Avenue as it winds into Church Street.

Taken about 1914, this photograph shows the Erie Railroad overpass at Robbins Avenue as it winds into Church Street. In the background is the way station for the trolley cars that would travel throughout the city. Herb Stein Lincoln-Mercury was located there in the early 1950s. Leonard’s Glass and Dr. Kuhn’s Eyeglass Shop were there more recently.

This continued to be the overpass until 1953 when the Grade Elimination Project began and Robbins Avenue finally intersected with North Main Street and the B&O railroad yards were raised six feet. A second overpass for the B&O Railroad over Robbins was erected. Within this project, Church Street no longer intersected Robbins Avenue and State Street was extended to Robbins Avenue.


View looking south on Main Street, the General Electric Plant was on the left and Clayman Scrap Iron&Steel was on the right.

View looking south on Main Street, the General Electric Plant was on the left and Clayman Scrap Iron&Steel was on the right.

Over fourteen people have died at the various railroad crossings located on Robbins Avenue and North Main Street with 32 more accidents reported according to a October 14, 1949 Daily Times article. This editorial continues encouraging the passage of a bond issue to pay for the Grade Elimination Project. It further states, “Niles has not had a major civic improvement since the completion of the Viaduct in 1933, this is an opportunity to provide additional locations for retail stores, widen North Main Street and provide a new wider bridge on Robbins Avenue across Mosquito Creek.”

Three city engineers toiled to realize grade separation during the past two decades (1930s and 1940s) on work relative to realization of the Niles grade elimination project.

These included Robert D. ‘Mac’ MacLean, city engineer in much of the 1930 decade and into the early 1940’s. It has been said that MacLean was active in behalf of the grade separation during the ‘lull’ which occurred in the depression-plagued 1930’s, prepared a sketch of what the Niles project should be. Some who saw it say that it compares remarkably with the entire extent of the project to be completed tomorrow (July 21, 1954).

MacLean, came to Niles from Oakmont PA. after WW1, and was with Sharon Steel corporation for a number of years. His years as Niles’ city engineer included the busy WPA years of the 1930’s when many city streets were improved to provide aid for the unemployed.

Continued below in right column.


View looking north on Main Street with the railroad crossing watch tower in the background and Joseph' Grill in the foreground. ca 1948.

View looking north on Main Street with the railroad crossing watch tower in the background and Joseph's Grill in the foreground. ca 1948.

Joseph's Grill is seen on the right-hand side past the Chevrolet station wagon parked in front of Stiver Chevrolet dealership.

Same view in 1954 winter as the North Main Street underpass work is progressing. The light gray car is turning up Maple Avenue to go to the temporary railroad tracks crossing near the scrap yard (where McDonald's is now located).

Joseph's Grill is seen on the right-hand side past the Chevrolet station wagon parked in front of Stiver Chevrolet dealership.

Story Continued.

MacLean’s tenure as city engineer was followed by that of the late Jerrie J. Flickinger who served in the engineer’s office from the early 1940’s until his retirement in 1950. It was during that period that much of the important preliminary estimating and planning of the project was completed.

G.P. Fisher, the present city engineer was appointed in 1950 and has served during the important final planning and construction phases of the grade separation project. Considerable work involving city engineering, street changes, and utility line changes during the construction along with pre-construction planning and liaison work with other participating agencies.

Others who worked hard to see the grade separation ‘dream’ become reality include Bert Holloway, who retired in 1953 after almost 50 years as the superintendent of the municipal Water and Light Department. Holloway worked closely with other officials in planning involving the alterations in city utility lines and related work in the project. So has his successor, William Burgess, appointed superintendent in 1953 and J.J. Harvey, long-time assistant superintendent of the Water and Light Department.


Map on left showing the changes in the Robbins Avenue roadway. The current path is shown in red where Robbins Avenue conncts with the lower curve of Church Street passing under the pre-1913 underpass.

The blue line shows how Robbins Avenue would pass under the Erie and B&O tracks and connect with North Main Street.

Aerial view on the right shows the B&O freight yard and terminal, grain & Feed store at the curve on Church Street which connected to Robbins Avenue.

Aerial view on the right shows the B&O freight yard and terminal, grain & Feed store at the curve on Church Street which connected to Robbins Avenue.

PO1.1458


Niles Times Editorial promoting the passage of a bond issue to fund the Grade Project.

Niles Times Editorial promoting the passage of a bond issue to fund the Grade Project.

when the Erie railroad was confronted with the argument that it is trespassing on city property on Robbins Avenue, it brings up the ordinance passed by the village council in 1884 which shows that the railroad had first right-of-way and sold to the village the privilege of passing a roadway under the trestle.

As a side note, when the Erie railroad was confronted with the argument that it is trespassing on city property on Robbins Avenue, it brings up the ordinance passed by the village council in 1884 which shows that the railroad had first right-of-way and sold to the village the privilege of passing a roadway under the trestle.


Scaffolding erected to allow the railroad crane to lift support beams into place.

Scaffolding erected to allow the railroad crane to lift support beams into place.

Cranes working on underpass

The newly erected railroad overpasses on Robbins Avenue. The Erie (closest) and the B&O (in the background).

The newly erected railroad overpasses on Robbins Avenue. The Erie (closest) and the B&O (in the background).


Old Robbins Avenue underpass, 1952.

Old Robbins Avenue underpass, 1952.

New Robbins Avenue underpass, 1954.

New Robbins Avenue underpass, 1954.

Right: New Robbins Avenue bridge over Mosquito Creek with Herb Stein dealership.

Right: New Robbins Avenue bridge over Mosquito Creek with Herb Stein dealership.


Workers completing cement sidewalks.

Workers completing cement sidewalks.

Mayor Edward P. Lenney welcomes the first car through the Main Street underpass.

Mayor Edward P. Lenney welcomes the first car through the Main Street underpass.

Right: Driver's new view of Robbins Avenue.

Driver's new view of Robbins Avenue.

Photos by: J.J. Harvey, who makes a hobby of photography, is among the lucky local residents who have excellent pictures of the project grade separation areas as it appeared before construction and changes swung into full swing in the spring of 1953. These include a photo of the Main Street crossing before it was closed for construction in 1953 (article and photos appeared in Daily Times special insert July 1954).

     
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