Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad Cuyahoga River Bridge

The Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad Cuyahoga River Bridge is an out-of-service railroad lift bridge for the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad over the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio.

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The Youngstown & Connotton Valley Railway (Y&CV) was established in August 1877 to build a railway from Bowerstown to Youngstown. 2 In 1878, it acquired the defunct Ohio & Toledo Railroad, which had constructed a line between Carrollton and Oneida. A year later, in 1879, when the Y&CV’s northern end was shifted from Youngstown to Canton, it was renamed as the Connotton Valley Railroad (CV). This railroad expanded in 1882 by purchasing a small line, extending its reach to Straitsville. By 1885, the CV had developed an extensive network, encompassing 160 miles of track. This network included a main line connecting Cleveland to Coshocton, two branch lines, and notable bridges across the Cuyahoga River and Ohio Canal at Independence Road and Clark Avenue, as well as over the Cuyahoga at Dry Dock Avenue. The CV’s passenger depot, initially at Commercial Street, moved to the intersection of Ontario, Canal, and Huron Avenues in 1883.

Financial difficulties led the CV to enter receivership in January 1884, resulting in its reorganization as the Cleveland & Canton Railway in May 1885. 2 The Cleveland & Canton later merged in May 1892 with smaller railroads previously operated by the bankrupt CV, forming the Cleveland, Canton & Southern Railway (CC&S). The new entity included the Waynesboro & Canton, Coshocton & Southern, and the Cleveland, Chagrin Falls & Northern lines. However, the CC&S faced its own financial troubles and entered receivership in September 1893.

In 1899, the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway (W&LE), which had been incorporated in 1871 to link Wheeling, West Virginia, southeastern Ohio’s coalfields, and Lake Erie ports, acquired the CC&S. 2 The merger with the CC&S and other lines brought the W&LE’s total track length to 435 miles by 1900, primarily transporting coal, coke, iron ore, stone, and sand.

In 1949, the W&LE was leased to the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (Nickel Plate) and operated under the name Wheeling and Lake Erie District of the Nickel Plate. 1 2

In 1954, a new vertical lift bridge over the Cuyahoga River at Independence Avenue and Clark Avenue was built. This bridge, replacing the original swing bridge built circa 1882, was designed by Waddell & Harrington of Kansas City, Missouri. It provided a horizontal clearance of 200 feet and a vertical clearance of 28 feet in the closed position and 97 feet in the open position. 3

The Nickel Plate merged with the Norfolk & Western Railway (N&W) in 1964. The N&W then combined with the Southern Railway to form the Norfolk Southern Railway (NS) in 1982. In 1990, many lines were divested by NS, leading to the establishment of the new Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway. 1 This new entity included the original W&LE mainline, the Pittsburgh & West Virginia (PWV), the Akron, Canton & Youngstown (ACY) lines, as well as the Akron & Barberton Belt Railroad and a portion of the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway, acquired in 1994.

By 2001, the W&LE had ceased operations between the West Side Yard and Norfolk Southern’s Cleveland Line near Broadway and East 91st Street, which included the lift bridge over the Cuyahoga River. The W&LE began moving freights by lease on the Norfolk Southern Randall Secondary via a direct connection at Miles Park. 7

In October 2002, the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway (W&LE) initiated a leasing arrangement with the newly formed Connotton Valley Railway (CV). 6 This lease encompassed a 10.4-mile stretch of track, extending from milepost 5.1 at Miles Park in Cleveland to milepost 15.5 at Falls Junction in Glenwillow. The lease agreement also granted CV access to the W&LE’s train yard located at Falls Junction near Glenwillow, along with several additional sidings.

Following the conclusion of the CV’s lease in June 2004, the same segment of the track was then leased to the Cleveland Commercial Railroad. 5 This subsequent lease continued until June 2023, after which the control and operation of the line returned to the W&LE. 4




  1. History of the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Company.” Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Company.
  2. Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad.” Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.
  3. Drawbridge Operation Regulation; Cuyahoga River, Cleveland, OH.” Federal Register, 22 May 2023.
  4. Cleveland & Cuyahoga Railway, LLC-Discontinuance of Service Exemption-in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.” Federal Register, 21 Jun. 2023.
  5. Cleveland Commercial Railroad Company, LLC-Change in Operators Exemption-Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Company.” Federal Register, 6 Aug. 2004.
  6. Connotton Valley Railway, Inc.-Lease and Operation Exemption-Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Company.” Federal Register, 7 Nov. 2002.

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