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By train to Cedar Point

In 1966, not all the fun rides were at Ohio's Lake Erie amusement park

The pride of Sandusky, Ohio, is the huge Cedar Point Amusement Park on a peninsula jutting into Lake Erie north of downtown. The pride of Cedar Point, at least for railfans, is its 2-foot-gauge steam-powered railroad. On June 26, 1966, Cedar Point was a destination for a 103-mile excursion-train ride.

Somehow, a few friends of mine in Detroit, veterans of the Michigan Railroad Club, became aware that a railfan group in Akron, Ohio, was sponsoring an excursion to Sandusky, for the passengers to spend the day at Cedar Point. My MRC friends planned to go, by train, so I tagged along.

How to get from Detroit to Akron the day before? Easy: Baltimore & Ohio to Lima, Ohio, a taxi across town, and Erie Lackawanna eastward. My train log contains many rides on B&O's Cincinnatian, and nothing stands out in memory about this one, other than it was my fifth or sixth ride on it out of Fort Street Union Depot in Detroit, by way of Plymouth, Mich., on the Chesapeake & Ohio. (Until early 1964, after C&O and B&O became partners, B&O passenger trains used the New York Central between Toledo's Central Union Terminal and Detroit's Michigan Central Terminal, 58 miles vs. 83 on C&O!)

The Lima connection, at just under two hours, was convenient. And once we were aboard EL's Lake Cities out of Lima, one incident does stand out in memory. The diner-lounge was running hot (inside, not the wheel bearings), but complaints to the crew between Lima and Marion were being met with indifference. Marion had a big yard and diesel shop, and was an EL passenger-train-crew change point.

The late Emery Seestedt, one of our small group, was becoming incensed, so as soon as we pulled into Marion Union Station, he hit the platform to find someone who would listen. Our station stop became a bit longer than the scheduled 15 minutes as a mechanic did come to trainside and work his magic, and we had an early supper in a now-more-comfortable diner.

Sunday's B&O special out of Akron to Sandusky was a pair of RDC's borrowed for the day from their normal Pittsburgh commuter-service duties. The route was west on the main line to B&O's hub of Willard, then north on a 28.6-mile branch that's now long gone. The photo above depicts our waterfront destination in downtown Sandusky, but so help me I can't recall if we took a boat or bus out to the park; since we are at the dock, I suspect a boat. Our Detroit party rode a roller-coaster, an aerial tram, and some other rides, but most of our time was spent on the Cedar Point & Lake Erie.

On the return to Akron, the cab of the lead RDC was full of "assistant engineers," fans and "normal people" alike. We were rolling merrily along somewhere east of Willard on the main line when . . . wham! . . . a fairly good-sized bird flying up from the right of way didn't make it, and splattered itself across the center front window, cracking the outer pane and quickly reducing the non-fan cab-rider population.

At Akron, I was instructed by a member of our small group to hang back and not get off-it had been arranged that we'd ride on with the crew as they deadheaded the Budds back to Pittsburgh for the next morning's commuter schedules. The sun went down before we reached New Castle, Pa., but we were treated to a nocturnal ride on the twisting "old" B&O route via Eidenau (used for a time in the 1990's by Amtrak's Broadway Limited) into Pittsburgh the "back way" [map, page 16].

Approaching B&O's Glenwood Shop in Pittsburgh near midnight, our crew had a taxi called for us, and deposited us at a grade crossing in the neighborhood just west of the shop. Our destination was the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie station across the Monongahela River from downtown and the port of call for B&O's long-haul trains, which ran through the city on P&LE rights. (The RDC commuter trains terminated at B&O's own stub-end depot across the Monongahela River.)

In recent years when dining at the Station Square restaurant that now occupies the P&LE depot's waiting room, I've made sure to relish those delightful experiences while recalling the discomfort of sleeping that Sunday night on the hard benches, waiting for the next train west, B&O No. 7, the Diplomat, at 7:10 in the morning. (Yes, the Diplomat had been a St. Louis train name, but B&O did a bit of flip-flopping train names and destinations in later years.)

The trip home via Deshler, Ohio, and a scheduled 1-hour, 34-minute connection to the northbound Cincinnatian, was uneventful, but we had plenty to remember from our 1010-mile weekend getting to Cedar Point and back the fun way.

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