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Summer, Sand, and Steam...

Chapter 1

Narrow Gauge Along The Bay

-Saturday, May 25th, 1963, dawned bright and sunny as activity commenced at the new CP&LE Engine House. Engineers and Firemen polished brass bells, shoveled coal into tenders, and cleaned driving rods and Albert and Maud L. built up pressure. Smoke drifted lazily from their stacks out across Sandusky Bay. By 9:30 a.m. both locomotives had reached 150 pounds of pressure and were lifting their safety valves. At about 10 o’clock the ancient locomotives chugged out the Engine House spur track and were switched onto the mainline. With flags fluttering in the breeze and whistles blowing, Maud L. and Albert took up their positions facing each other at the Union Depot. Opening Ceremonies were then ready to begin.
Gaily dressed girls distributed small American flags to spectators as the Sandusky High School band played “Working on the Railroad.” Common Pleas Judge James L. McCrystal spoke of the early days of Ohio railroading above the roaring exhausts of the impatient engines. Standing behind Judge McCrystal and observing the entire spectacle was the line’s founder and owner, Mr. George A. Roose.

When all the preliminary speeches were completed, Mr. C.S. Herr, Passenger manager of the Pennsylvania R.R. and Mr. Dorcey D. Hade, Passenger Representative of the Pennsy, drove gilded spikes. Then Nickel Plate Road General Manager Herbert P. Thinness skillfully hammered home a nickel plated spike. Finally an Assistant Vice President of the New York Central System, Mr. James R. Sullivan, began driving the last spike, a golden one from Tiffany’s of New York. After a few swings, he handed the mallet to Mr. Eugene R. Lemmon, Vice President and General Manager of Cedar Point, Inc. Smiling, he completed months of hard work and opened what was to become one of the nation’s most successful passenger carrying railroads.

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(click for larger view)
Railroading was not new to Cedar Point. For many years a tram roadway had operated between the old government docks and the Hotel Breakers. Proud and beautiful ships such as the Eastern States of the Detroit and Cleveland Navigation Co., the Put-in-Bay of the Ashley and Dustin Steamer Line, and the Goodtime of the Cleveland and Buffalo Line carried thousands of passengers from Cleveland, Detroit, and Toledo to Cedar Point. Always waiting for the disembarking excursions were the little trains, ready to carry them the half mile through the woods to the resort area.

By the early 50’s the automobile had all but wiped out the Great Lakes passenger business already the old Goodtime had been dismantled and the C&B had collapsed. When the Eastern States and the Put-in-Bay, with their ships flags flying at half mast, were towed into Lake St. Clare and purposely destroyed by fire, and era in the history of lake shipping and a chapter in the history of Cedar Point had ended. With the passing of the venerable old steamers, Cedar Point’s little tram road no longer had a real purpose and was closed.

A number of miniature railways were operated in the midway area during the 50’s and early 60’s. One employing a model diesel started at a point near the old carousel and carried it’s passengers through the nearby picnic areas

Another small railway circled kiddy-land for many years. When Mr. Roose and Mr. Emile A. Legros assumed the management in 1959, improvements began to uplift for the park. In 1960 they installed a small replica of a 1865 wood burner. From 1960-1962, it’s two trains hauled passengers from a point near the Antique Cars, across a small bridge, to the Western Cruise docks. When construction began on the CP&LE, her route was changed to run to a point near the present Blue Streak roller coaster entrance and return. But this was to prove to be a vain attempt to keep the tiny railroad in operation. 1963 was her last season. Her business had been stolen by her new big sister the CP&LE.

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The CP&LE was the brain child of Mr. Roose. For many years before 1963, the construction of a narrow gauge railroad along Sandusky Bay was a much discussed topic in Cedar Point’s administration building. In 1961 plans were openly discussed when the possibility of operating the old steamer Canadiana from Cleveland to Cedar Point was being Investigated. The plans for the 60 year old liner fell through, but planning for the railroad continued.

In November of 1961 Mr. Roose purchased the locomotive Maud L. from the president of the American Railroad Equipment Association, Mr. Arthur E. LaSalle. By December the 60 year old puffer had arrived in Sandusky. Mr. LaSalle and Mr. Clyde Barbour, secretary of the association, were employed to direct the restoration of the old sugar cane plantation engine. While the locomotive was being rebuilt during 1961 and 1962, Cedar Point and Mr. Roose mapped their purposed route. By the opening of the 62’ season, Mr. Lemmon was speaking of a proposed 2 mile, $500,000 bay shore railroad.

-Plans were finalized by the summer of 62’ and in September, Mr. William H. Evans, public relations director of Cedar Point, made the long awaited announcement, at a meeting of the Sandusky Jaycees. According to Evans, the initial expenditure was to be a quarter of a million dollars. Employing one locomotive, Maud L., and six coaches, hourly capacity was anticipated to be approximately 1200 on the basis of 15 minutes trips and a per car capacity of 60 passengers. The route of the CP&LE was to be 1.6 miles in length, beginning at a point on the funway near the Western Cruise, passing the Cedars Hotel, then running along the bay to the Coast Guard station where it would turn into the lagoon area, cross three trestles, emerge from the woods again near the west break wall of the marina and return to the depot on the midway. Acme Construction Co. was to handle the laying of the track and Sam Conte’s Lakecraft Welding Co. was to handle the locomotive and build the original 6 coaches. Cedar Point was to have it’s 3 foot gauge railroad at long last.
Construction was actually begun in February when bulldozers began cutting the right of way through the woods. By early March, crews were battling winter weather to keep the project on schedule. The actual laying of the track was handles by section gang crews directed by Mr. Claire Young of the Acme Construction Co., Solon, OH. Large cranes were brought in to set the pilings for the three lagoon trestles. The sound of gandy dancers mallets driving thousands of spikes rang through the quiet, cold woods. The first week of April saw the project 3 weeks behind schedule, but by the end of the month the section gangs had all the 60 pound rail spiked down and the road bed tamped.

Rolling stock started arriving at the Point in mid April. Maud and the six coaches arrived from Port Clinton; Albert, leased from the American Railroad Equipment Association to assist Maud, was unloaded from her lowboy trailer after her long ride from Cherokee, North Carolina at about the same time.

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(click for larger view)

Meanwhile construction was going ahead on the Union Depot on the funway. The station was to be a reproduction of those of the post Civil War era of railroading, complete with red brick platform, antique lights, and an old fashioned ticket office. Everything was to exactly as it had been in the heyday of steam railroading.

Mid May and nearly all was in readiness. The railroad itself was complete. The station was only a few weeks from completion, the east canopy and station house were already ready for passengers. The two locomotives were stored ready for service in the new Engine House.
Finally on May 25th, the railroad opened for its first season. The problems in getting started were numerous. Just before opening ceremonies, Maud derailed her pony truck. After the last spikes were driven, Albert towed his little sister back to the shop. Albert then returned and inaugurated the operation by transporting all of the important railroad officials on an inspection tour of the new road. Albert completed the day by hauling thousands of happy tourists.

But the troubles were just beginning. On Sunday, May 26th, in it’s second day of public operation, a loaded train derailed at the crossover switch near the Engine House. Luckily no one was hurt. In a short while Mr. Eugene Berardi’s CP maintenance crews had the car back on the track, and the little railroad back on schedule.

The CP&LE’s biggest problem came when about mid season burning coals from Albert’s ash pan set the first trestle on fire. Enough of the bridge was destroyed so that it had to be closed until repairs could be made. For a few days trains kept operating by running out as far as the first trestle then backing around to the Main Depot again.

Another problem that plagued the little narrow gauge in it’s first season was the difficulty both Albert and Maud experienced in getting traction on the grade just outside the Main Depot. As engineers gained more experience with the little locomotives, most of the troubles were alleviated

Before the end of the season, a third locomotive was added to the line, No. 22. The oil burning Vulcan arrived in mid August and after completing trial runs, headed up 3 car trains filled with passengers until Labor Day.

T o increase business, Mr. Roose authorized the beginning of work on a animated Ghost Town. Special Effects, Inc. of Morrison, Colorado, produced animated skeletons and buzzards while CP crew built a dilapidated village complete with a school house, blacksmith shop, tonsorial parlor, jail, Wells Fargo Station, and a saloon.
By Labor Day the railroad could be proud of a successful season, nearly a quarter million passengers carried in it’s first summer. 248,432 to be exact!

During the winter of 63-64’, expansion went ahead in preparation for the 64’ season. Two enclosed coaches were ordered from Lakecraft Welding. Two old standard gauge Nickel Plate Road cabooses were purchased at Toledo, reconditioned at Port Clinton, placed on narrow gauge trucks, and sent on to the Point. Sam Conte was also sent another steam locomotive to begin reconditioning. Now CP&LE NO. 2., She was a 1940 product of the H.K. Porter Co., and had been trucked up from Daisy, Tennessee.
Meanwhile on the peninsula, Special Effects was installing $100,000 worth of animation. The Ghost Town idea was carried through in a elopement scene and an old music hall with its skeleton orchestra

Further down the track Mexican Banditos were set up along the right of way on the approaches to the new spectacular scene, the burning Wells Fargo Station. The blazing scene was designed to burn for 30 seconds. For that length of time the specially treated wood can withstand the gasoline and propane flames; for any longer and the building could have really burned!

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1964 also marked the beginning of the regular live bandit attacks upon the CP&LE trains. On a hill across from the track a little ways down from Wells Fargo, a barn was built for the bandits to hide in until the train passed by. Then they were to run out, fire their shot guns and be in turn shot by the sheriff who rode the train.

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By the end of May, the coaches and cabooses were at the Point and most of the animation was ready; but the fourth engine was not completed. She was not to arrive until mid season and then, after a weeks service, it was withdrawn from the operation when she threw a driving rod. She was then laid up in the shop for long months of repairs and readjustments.

The CP&LE fleet of locomotives was boosted to 5 with the arrival, late in the summer, of Porter Belle from Traverse City. After sitting on an outdoor pedestal from 1933 to 1964, this 85 year old locomotive was in no shape for immediate service; but with her huge balloon stack and antique lines, she provided an interesting sidelight for passengers as
they passed the Engine House.

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No major problems developed during the railroads second summer. As attendance increased, the added capacity afforded by the new equipment was put to good use. Two trains became the normal operating procedure. By Labor Day 532,563 passengers had taken a ride on Ohio’s only regularly scheduled steam railroad. Mr. Roose had proved that people still like to ride behind steam.

During the winter of 64-65’, Albert’s lease to the CP&LE was to expire. When it did, the owners, the American railroad Equipment Association, found that they would no longer have use for the narrow gauge locomotive as their operation in Cherokee, NC. had been closed. Consequently they offered Albert to Mr. Roose for sale along with his successor at Cherokee, an 0-4-0 Porter, Victoria R.I. Mr. Roose was delighted to be able to permanently acquire Albert, acclaimed by many to be the most beautiful 3 foot gauge engine in the country. In January, Victoria crossed the causeway and was unloaded at the spur near the old government docks. The total fleet had grown to such a degree that the Engine House had to be expanded.

Among the promotional stunts employed during the 65’ season was the appearance of the hobo clown Pat Kelly son of the world famous Emmett Kelley. He would attempt to ‘bum’ rides on the train until he was finally thrown off by the conductor.
1965 was the smoothest running season yet. Victoria and Albert were used as the main workhorses with 22 and Maud used as the backup engines.

The CP&LE closed it’s third season with a total of 814,455 riders. After three years the railroad had grown tremendously. The engine fleet had been tripled; the rolling stock had been increased by 2/3; and most importantly attendance had been nearly quadrupled...

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