The first interurban railroad in Canton was fueled by oats, not oil.
“When 19th-century Canton residents talked about the horsepower of the Canton Street Railway, which began service on December 18, 1884, they did not mean the motors propelling the cars,” writes Craig Sanders in his book “Canton Area Railroads,” which was released earlier this year by Arcadia Publishing.
“Canton’s streetcar system began with horse-drawn cars traveling four routes radiating from Public Square. A fifth route began on June 13, 1885.”
The city streetcar system was electrified in 1890, Sanders notes in his book, which is part of Arcadia’s “Images of Rail” series. The Stark Electric Railroad company was formed in 1902, and the Northern Ohio Traction and Light Co. began Canton -Akron service that same year. Pictures in Sander’s book document the cars and crews that provided interurban service to passengers throughout Stark and surrounding counties.
But, as important as local interurban railroad routes were to the transportation of area residents during their daily lives, the history of interurbans takes up only the first chapter of this pictorial history of the area’s railroads. Appropriately, the rest of the text is devoted to images that reflect the more lengthy transition railroads in and around Stark County have made through the decades, from the Pennsylvania Rail Road to Amtrak.
“Written in cooperation with the Akron Railroad Club, this book chronicles the history and development of the railroads that served Stark, Wayne, Holmes, Carroll, and Tuscarawas counties,” said the publisher. “It shows how rail operations changed as the steel industry declined and railroad consolidations led to traffic shifts and route abandonment. Among the railroads that served this region were the Pennsylvania, Baltimore and Ohio, New York Central, and Wheeling and Lake Erie.”
Sanders, a resident of University Heights, is president of Akron Railroad club and the author of four other railroad history books. He chose to preserve pictorial evidence of the service once provided in Canton and nearby communities by railroads because of clearly declining influence of rail transportation in the area.
“The idea for this book came to me during a 2007 Labor Day weekend visit to Alliance to photograph trains of the Norfolk Southern Corporation, which now owns the tracks through town once used by the Pennsylvania Railroad,” Sanders explains in the book’s “Acknowledgments.”
“Alliance is one of the few places in Stark County that still sees a high volume of rail traffic,” he continues. “Although no town of any size in Stark County has lost rail service, far few trains today rumble through Canton or Massillon.”
The author notes that his own avid interest in railroads began on a trip he took on a New York Central train to St. Louis with his mother and sister to visit his grandparents at Christmas. But his recollections are not the only influence on the selection of photographs to be included in the book, notes the publisher. Members of the Akron Railroad Club contributed many of the more than 200 images appearing in the volume.
Images include the train stations, rail yards, and switching areas throughout the counties covered in the book, Shown also are specific rolling stock that came through a multitude of Canton area communities. Photos of modern railroad equipment is mixed with pictures of old and now nostalgic railroad locomotives and cars.
“The Canton region has a rich railroad history and still features a variety of railroad operations,” explains the author, who teaches journalism and public relations at Cleveland State University. “This book examines how railroads developed in the Canton region and how they got to where they are today.”