Last revised: May 5, 2023
By: Adam Burns
Prior to ridership declines and financial woes the Pennsylvania Railroad boasted an impressive fleet serving cities both large and small from New York to Chicago.
For instance, the PRR operated several trains, both named and unnamed, to medium-sized cities such as Toledo, Louisville, and Columbus. This also included Akron, Ohio via the Akronite, which once ran as an independent train all of the way to New York.
As patronage slipped after World War II, forcing the Pennsy to reduce its operations, the train was cut back to a regional service during the early 1950s and combined with the Clevelander. Before the decade had ended it was canceled entirely.
When this country produced a vast amount of products the state of Ohio was home to many industrialized cities such as Dayton, Youngstown, Cleveland, Toledo, Canton, Youngstown, and others.
There was also Akron, which contained manufacturers building everything from farm equipment to stoneware. The city also became a major supplier of tires with notable companies General Tire, Goodrich, Firestone, and Goodyear all situating their headquarters there.
The Pennsylvania was one of many major railroads to serve Akron and would name one of its principal trains after the city known as the Akronite. It was one of 28 trains in what the PRR termed its "Blue Ribbon" fleet, the best the railroad had to offer, which included such names as the Broadway Limited, General, and Trail Blazer.
According to Mike Schafer and Brian Solomon's book, "The Pennsylvania Railroad," the Akronite was one of eight trains running daily in each direction between Cleveland and New York with the Clevelander considered the premier service.
Despite being unable to compete strongly in every important Midwestern market (Chicago - Detroit, for instance was virtually locked up by rival New York Central) the PRR boasted three, primary main lines across Ohio and used these to its greatest advantage.
These included the Lake Division (linking Akron and Cleveland) which gave way to the Fort Wayne Division (heading westward towards Chicago), and finally the Buckeye Division linking Columbus, Cincinnati, and eventually Indianapolis.
When they were separate trains the Akronite ran via Youngstown, Ohio while the Clevelander served Alliance before turning north to Cleveland. According to Harry Stegmaier, Jr.'s book, "Pennsylvania Railroad: Passenger Trains, Consists & Cars - 1952 Volume I," was listed as trains #9 (westbound) and #10 (eastbound) on an overnight schedule in each direction.
Naturally, this meant it ran with sleepers that included such accommodation as duplexes, double-bedrooms, and drawing rooms. Unfortunately, the train was an early victim to cutbacks the PRR implemented during the early 1950s to curb mounting losses with passenger operations.
While the railroad spent millions to upgrade its fleet it also recognized what it termed, "the passenger problem," according to Mike Schafer and Joe Welsh's book, "Streamliners: History Of A Railroad Icon."
In 1952 the Akronite was combined with the Clevelander east of Pittsburgh, essentially transforming it into a regional train only. It also lost its original numbers becoming more or less a section of the Clevelander (#338-38 eastbound and #39-339 westbound) while retaining its name.
At this time the remainder of the train's consist featured a diner-lounge (offering breakfast during westbound runs with an early morning departure from Pittsburgh and dinner during the eastbound's evening exit from Akron after 7 PM), reclining seat coaches, and a handful of head-end mail/express cars.
As Mr. Stegmaier notes in his book until the early 1950s the Akronite still saw relatively respectable ridership as businessmen used the train for their travels to the city.
Time/Arrive (Train #39-339/Akronite)
|7:20 PM (Dp)||0.0||7:50 AM (Ar)|
|7:30 PM||7:36 AM|
|7:57 PM||22.2||7:12 AM|
|7:57 PM||22.2||7:12 AM|
|8:25 PM||34.1||6:54 AM|
|8:57 PM||60.2||6:23 AM|
|9:17 PM||69.7||6:05 AM|
|9:48 PM||87.3||5:28 AM|
|11:04 PM (Ar)||134.9||4:25 AM (Dp)|
|11:04 PM (Dp)||134.9||4:00 AM (Ar)|
|1:50 AM||248.8||1:26 AM|
|4:12 AM (Ar)||379.6||10:55 PM (Dp)|
|4:25 AM (Dp)||379.6||10:38 PM (Ar)|
|5:03 AM||414.9||10:02 PM|
|5:49 AM||462.8||9:19 PM|
|6:15 AM||488.3||8:50 PM|
|6:49 AM||516.1||8:14 PM|
|7:39 AM||564.2||7:30 PM|
|7:55 AM (Ar)||574.2||7:15 PM|
Prior to the train's rapid decline a few years later the Akronite had carried a mix of lightweight (some of which dated back to the pre-World War II era) and or rebuilt heavyweight equipment, at least giving it the appearance of a true streamliner.
A 1956 PRR timetable notes the Akronite, which then ran independently only between Hudson and Akron, Ohio (about 22 miles), provided few amenities with little more than a reclining seat coach, a through New York sleeper, and whatever mail/express was still remaining.
Finally, on April 26, 1958 the Pennsy quietly ended what remained of the Akronite, a move that would repeat itself often for the next 13 years until the formation of Amtrak.