History of the West
Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio
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The Perilous Railroad
By Gary Swilik
Looking east on Lorain Avenue at the New York Central Railroad crossing at West 143rd Street.
Before construction of the underpass vhicles crossed the tracks at street level.
The warning gates were tended by a worker stationed in watch tower just visible at center right.
Several major railroads run through West Park and at one time they crossed our roadways at street level. This was practical when the area was mostly farms and open country. However as West Park developed into a busy city, not only horses and buggies but streetcars, automobiles and pedestrians were forced to share the roads. The congestion at railroad crossings grew extremely dangerous.
One of the most dangerous crossings was at West 143rd and Lorain Avenue. Accidents were common. On November 14th, 1918, for example, Mary Kasper, age 54, started through the crossing on foot in front of an approaching passenger train. It rapidly became apparent she had misjudged the speed of the train. Railroad employee Joseph Falzarana, a 31-year-old Italian immigrant, was working nearby and realized the peril.
The young man ran onto the tracks in an attempt to save the endangered woman but both were killed by the train. The West Park City Council issued a resolution honoring Joseph for his heroic action stating "his self-sacrificing deed wakes in us a feeling of admiration for the man and pride in having had him as a neighbor."
Construction of underpass at West 134th Street looking west down Lorain Avenue.
From the Gary Swilik Collection.
The crossing at West 143rd included a watchman's tower manned around the clock, gates and a bell, but clearly that was not enough. As a result, the West Park Kiwanis organization led a campaign to eliminate this dangerous crossing. By the spring of 1938 work was underway on the $800,000 project. An underpass was dug to carry Lorain Avenue beneath a newly constructed railroad bridge, forever changing the landscape of the area.
Opening ceremonies for the new railroad crossing were held at 2 p.m. on December 14th, 1938. Sponsored by the West Park Kiwanis, with music by the John Marshall High School Band, the speakers were Mayor Harold H. Burton, Common Pleas Judge Lee E. Skeel, and representatives of the State Highway Patrol and New York Central Railroad.
Entrance to RTA at the left.
Click here to see it at Google Maps