History of the  West Park
Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio

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A Place of Interest Outside the West Park Neighborhood

The Linndale Roundhouse

   The Linndale Roundhouse and train station complex, on West Park's southeast border, was once a very important part of railroad operations in the Cleveland area. Many West Park baby boomers had fathers, uncles, and older brothers who made their living there.
    It was located south of Bellaire Road, along the west side of Memphis Avenue just south of present Interstate 71.

    The Linndale Roundhouse was named for the Village of Linndale, where the passenger station was located, but was actually in present Brooklyn, Ohio. The roundhouse was demolished many years ago.

    The site was later home to a Gold Circle Discount Store and Rini's Stop-N-Shop Supermarket, both now long closed. The brick building that housed these two stores and the huge parking lot still exist at 11111 Memphis Avenue. They mark the former location of the Linndale Roundhouse.

    Herbert L. Hampson, of West Park, spent four years working for the railroad and shares with us this interesting account of daily life at the Linndale Roundhouse and the era of passenger trains. His photos of the roundhouse complex have never been published before.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          ----Gary Swilik

Go to Memories of Linndale Roundhouse

The Linndale Roundhouse and the Passenger Train Era
By Herb Hampson
(photograph gallery at end of page)

The Linndale Roundhouse, 1953.  Photos provided by Herb Hampson
The Linndale Roundhouse, 1953.  Photograph provided by Herb Hampson.

While digging through my piles of railroad information I found out I was the third generation of my family to be a railroader, but my career was the shortest. Only four years and mostly part time.

My paternal grandfather, George L. Hampson, who I never met, worked on the Illinois Central System for 29 years. I have no information as to what he did.

Herbert A. HampsonMy father, Herbert A. Hampson, (left) worked for the New York Central Lines, later the New York Central System, for 38 years as a supervisor, assistant general foreman and general foreman. He spent most of his career at the Linndale Engine House, in Linndale, Ohio.

There were once engine houses on the east side at Collinwood and the west side at Linndale, both distant from the main station in downtown Cleveland. There was a good reason for this.

Until sometime in the late 1950s steam engines were the primary means of locomotion for freight and passenger trains. The main train station for Cleveland was the Union Terminal in the lower level of the Terminal Tower building on Public Square in Cleveland, Ohio. This area is now called "Tower City."

The entire terminal was located underground and the steam engines would make too much smoke, especially if the engine fireman, whose job it was to keep the fire stoked that powered the steam boiler did not have a clean-burning fire.

To avoid this passenger trains would stop at Linndale on the west side or Collinwood on the east side, where the steam engine would be disconnected from the train and taken to the engine house for maintenance or repair.

A very large electric locomotive was connected to the train and pulled it the rest of the way to downtown Cleveland and into the Union Terminal. The process was reversed when they left the terminal. The electric locomotives received their power from overhead lines. When diesel locomotive were used for passenger trains they no longer needed the electric locomotives. The diesels could put the trains all the way into Union Terminal.

From what I remember and have read about World War II, trains were the primary means of transporting troops within the USA, moving war material, food, and supplies. It was common to see trains pulling passenger cars full of soldiers heading to their port of debarkation. (Learn about railroads in the U.S. during World War Two.)

Herb 1939It was a thrill for a young boy (right) to see flat cars with large army trucks, tanks and armored personnel carriers being transported by trains. As early as 1939 the United States was providing war material for England to fight the Axis powers.

Linndale engine house included a front office where the general foreman, timekeeper, bookkeepers, dispatchers and callers worked. We also had a bunk room on the second floor where engine crews could rest while waiting to deadhead (travel as a free passenger) back to their home location or be assigned as crew to another train leaving Linndale.

Outside of our office were the tracks going past the coal dock leading to the roundhouse, a circular building surrounding a huge turntable which was used for servicing the locomotives.

The engine crew would leave the locomotive and report any repairs to the caller who would write up the work report. Steam engines were always leaking steam or water. It was rare not to write up some repair on the engine.

The hostler, who moved the engine in and out of the round house, would take the locomotive onto the turntable and drive the locomotive into a stall where would could be performed.

The back office is where the employees had their locker room and the supervisor's office. The assistant general foreman would sit around a 10-foot-square table prior to each shift and set the work schedule. They knew what locomotives were needed for what trains. Other employees included boilermakers, machinists and laborers.

There was a complete machine shop and a very large boiler that provided steam and heat for the buildings. The roundhouse itself was not heated. If there was not fire in the locomotive and the repairman were working in the cab in the winter, they would set up a small coal-burning stove, route the flu outside, and burn coal from the tender. I believe those stove were "requisitioned" from cabooses.

Behind the Linndale engine house was the back shop that did repair work to the freight and passenger cars. I had no dealings with them but the general foreman, George King, was a friend of my parents.

The dispatcher and caller were in a separate office. The dispatcher scheduled the train crews. If a crew had a regular run and did not "call off," it took care of itself. If they called off sick the dispatcher would take the next name from the extra board, which was used for filling-in regular runs plus extra trains. Most of the extra trains were freight or mail trains. The extra board was actually a large drum with names and phone numbers of crew members on it. They could turn the drum and see where they were on the rotation. As a crew was called all the tags were moved up one space.

In the early days, before everyone had telephones, the caller would ride his bicycle to the crew member's house and give him his run. The train crews had to live near the roundhouse.

When I worked as a caller we were using the telephone, however, as a crew member moved to the top of the extra board they had to stay near a telephone. If they left their house they had to call in with a phone number where they could be reached. It was a serious offense if someone missed his call. We have to give them two-hour notice for reporting to work. Now with the cell phone the job is much easier.

Probably the only time a railroad "caller" was ever mentioned in a poem or ballad is the famous story of Casey Jones. Casey was an engineer on the Illinois Central and the story is based on a train wreck in April, 1900, at Vaughan, Mississippi:  "The caller called Casey at half past four. He kissed his wife at the station door . . . . "

One of my favorite fringes was being able to ride a locomotive from the front office onto the turntable and into the round house. If I had to go to the back office I would try to hitch a ride. I'm sure it didn't save any time but it was a thrill to sit in the fireman's seat.

I would also go to the back office for coffee. They always had a large granite coffee pot filled with very strong coffee. This was before powdered cream so everyone drank it black or maybe with sugar. I don't know what happened to my old tin coffee cup. I do remember burning my lips on the hot tin cup.

The hostler, as mentioned earlier, moved the locomotives from the tracks outside the front office onto the turntable and into the proper stall. He also kept dry sand loaded into the sanders that were used for traction on wet or icy tracks. He then took the engine into the coal dock where coal and water were put into the tender. He had to face the locomotive the correct direction for an east-bound or west-bound train. This was done on the turntable. I never remember seeing an engine facing the wrong way.

Loading water into the tender reminds me of a trivial side note. We all used the term "jerk-water town" as a derogatory term for a small town. It refers to a very long concrete trough between the tracks which were found in small towns where the train would not stop without a special reason, such as picking up a passenger on an unscheduled stop.

The fireman would lower a scoop into the trough and the pressure of the locomotive going 60 plus miles-per-hour would scoop up water and force it into the tank of the tender. As you approached the end of the trough the tapered end of the trough would raise the scoop and lock it into position. This was known as "jerking water."

I remember some of the slogans posted around the roundhouse: "Accident Free in 53, Accidents No More in 54, Stay Alive in 55."

Every year my father was allowed one set of "foreign passes." They were coach passes on any other railroad. You had to pay for an upgrade to either a Pullman Car or a compartment.

When traveling on a Pullman Car you had porters that made up your bed, provided clean towels and, what I thought was special, they would polish your shoes. Everyone called their porter "George." This was because Mr. George Pullman had designed the Pullman Car. This would not be politically correct today. (Read about "The Life of the Pullman Porter" by Stewart H. Holbrook.)

We took great vacations to Yellowstone National Park, Texas, California, Florida and several other states. Without this benefit I would never have seen so much of the United States.

My mother (Hazel Hampson) and I traveled with my father when he had to go to New York City for the railroad. We would drive to the Union Terminal in downtown Cleveland and board the train at 9 p.m. We always had a compartment with a couch that doubled as a bed, a bed that folded down from the ceiling where I slept, and a small wash room with a toilet and sink. Many times we'd travel with another supervisor and we'd open the door between the two compartments.

At 11 p.m. the train would be pulled out by the electric locomotive to the Collinwood engine house where it would be connected to a steam engine to take us to Grand Central Station in New York City.

We'd wake up at about 6 p.m., wash up, and get dressed to go to the dining car. This was always first-class dining with linen table cloths, silverware, and waiters in full dress. They cooked on coal stoves in the train kitchen. We'd arrive in Grand Central Station at 8 a.m. fed, rested, and for a day in the city.

Many years later when I traveled to New York City, I would drive to Cleveland Hopkins Airport where I'd stand in long lines, be stuffed into a coach car and fed something that resembled "C" rations from my army days. You were worn out before you ever started your work day!

A word of caution about staying safe around trains: it takes a long time for a train to stop when it's traveling at a high speed. They cannot stop if you are on the track. This sounds very basic but I know two people who did not believe this. They do now!

One was a friend traveling to work on Grafton Road in Valley City, Ohio, who did not "stop, look, and listen" at tracks with no gates or flashing lights. He ran broadside into a freight car, destroying his car. He was lucky and walked away.

A second friend was returning from work when traffic backed up on West 130th Street in Parma, Ohio. He stopped on the railroad track and found he had no room to go forward or backward as the train approached. The locomotive pushed him several hundred feet down the track. When his auto tires got stuck in the track they simply broke off. He is another very lucky person who now respects trains.

Photograph Gallery
All photographs courtesy Herbert L. Hampson

Hampson 16

Hampson 14

Hampson 8

Hampson 12

Hampson 11

Hampson 15

An off-site image of the roundhouse.  (The Cleveland Memory Project.)

Memories of the Linndale Roundhouse

  I was interested in your recent addition of the article about the Linndale Roundhouse. I was familiar with the old Linndale Train Station, and I remember my father put me on the last passenger train from Linndale Station to the Union Terminal downtown. I wish I remembered the year and still had the ticket stub. Maybe another reader might know the date of the train's last run. I think it was posted in the newspaper and my dad took me to the station, put me on the train, drove downtown and met me to bring me home.

 Henry Kieffer, Lore City, OH.  6 August 2008

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Updated 20 March 2018