MEDINA — A part of Medina’s railroading history was brought into the 21st century this week when Ohio Department of Transportation crews discovered railroad ties from the city’s old interurban railroad.
“When they first bricked over Court Street, that’s when those ties were basically entombed in the street,” Northern Ohio Railway Museum trustee John Kostelnik said Thursday. “They have been here for over 100 years.”
Kostelnik said the railroad ties were dug up Monday during the U.S. Route 42/North Court Street widening project.
Local historian Robert Hyde said the electric rail line was built in 1879 as the Cleveland Southwestern Interurban and connected Cleveland and Columbus with countless stops in cities along the way.
In addition to passing through Medina, the interurban trolley also made stops in Brunswick, Seville and Chippewa Lake.
Hyde said the interurban had an important role in providing residents with an efficient way to travel before being replaced by the automobile.
“The roads were so muddy, nobody could get anywhere, and it was horse and buggy,” Hyde said. “In an hour and a half, you could go to downtown Cleveland on the interurban.”
Hyde said Medina County was the largest dairy cream distributor in Ohio during the 1890s, and the interurban was used to transport cream and other dairy products to Cleveland.
As the 20th century progressed, the need for the interurban began to decrease and the line was shuttered in 1931, Hyde said.
“Everybody had their own car,” Hyde said. “They didn’t have to pay to go to Cleveland and they could go there faster in their car.”
While the steel track was removed, the wooden ties were left to rot under the roadway for more than a century before being unearthed this week.
“The problem is those ties, they are already 100 years old, and when that bucket front-end loader got to them, it turned them into splinters and dust,” Kostelnik said. “There are some towns where the rail is actually underneath the asphalt. That is not the case in Medina.”
Waite & Son Funeral Home President Andrew Waite said he noticed the railroad ties while driving to his North Court Street office.
“Wait a minute,” Waite remembered thinking. “They are pulling railroad ties out from the middle of Court Street. Those have to be interurban ties.”
Waite said ties were being unearthed directly in front of the funeral home at 765 N. Court St. and he decided to take some pictures before they were removed. Waite then posted the photos on social media.
“The thing just blew up,” he said. “I was surprised, one, that they were still there, and in pretty good shape until they got disturbed; two, they were only down a foot.”
Waite said he was able to secure some of the railroad ties and bricks from the construction site with the idea of getting them to a museum or historical society.
“I have half a dozen ties and couple dozen bricks I was able to save.”