The News-Herald: Train enthusiasts build, dedicate first public, covered bridge in Lake County
When the Lake Shore Live Steamers club discovered that there were no publicly accessible covered bridges in Lake County, they began to build one.
Although the bridge is a model size — still large enough to fit the rideable model trains through — that didn’t mean it was an easy task.
The club consists of 175 members who either love and build trains themselves, or love people who love trains, member Pam Znidar explained.
“When I first started this I thought it was just, put up two walls, put a roof on it and away you go,” club member and instigator Kitty Shriver said.
“I didn’t realize what a complicated procedure it was.”
The project took just over three months of hauling pieces back and forth between members’ homes and the club’s location at the Glen, Meadow and Orchard Railroad at Penitentiary Glen Reservation in Kirtland, Shriver said.
It was completed in October 2009, just before one of the founding members of the club and train enthusiast passed away at the age of 100.
The bridge was dedicated to Clyde Bleil this month to honor his diligence to the club, and his success in bringing them to the park location, Club President Karl Losely said.
“He was very instrumental, Clyde’s (home) was the place (where the club would meet) that actually had a track,” Losely said. “He approached the park board about the club locating (at Penitentiary Glen Reservation) and he made the contacts and made it happen.”
The covered bridge adds a unique aspect to the nearly 3-mile model train track at the park, Treasurer Roberta Uhrich said.
“It’s a representation of another piece of history that you seldom see any more,” Losely said.
After considering putting the bridge at several locations throughout the track, the members finally found a spot that worked, even though it didn’t really need a bridge.
Losely said he dug underneath the track to create the need for it because the group felt that the addition of the covered bridge was important to the track and keeping history alive, as well as to be publicly accessible.
The Lake Shore Live Steamers have been located at Penitentiary Glen Reservation for 26 years, Nature Center Manager Dan Burnett said.
“They’re really a great connection,” Burnett said, noting that he appreciates the historical relationship that railroads share with national parks.
“Much like when the national parks were being established, the railroads were the only way to get people to the national parks 100 years ago,” he said. “Not many people had their own cars back then, it was a long way.”
The club works on the tracks every Wednesday to make sure they are operating safely for the selected Sundays that they provide free rides to the public.
The club also participates in other special events hosted at the park facility.