Another Belt Line Railroad for Akron
Formation of the Barberton, Akron and Eastern
The Akron area had no shortage of railroad dreams and schemes at the start of the 20th century. Among the schemers was Charles. D. Crouch, an experienced railroad man with ties to railways across the country. More importantly, Crouch was connected to Charles W. French, the man responsible for the Chicago Short Line, the Richland & Mahoning Railroad, the Akron Belt line and a string of other railroads and investments. Crouch began his railway adventures as grading contractor was a railroad contractor
Crouch served as president of the Chicago Short Line, the Richland & Mahoning and the Akron Belt Line Railroads before taking on the B.A.&E.
“I regard the industrial situation in Akron as being almost in its infancy, because nearly all property within the city limits available for manufacturing plants has been taken up, a new present railroad facilities would not relieve the situation in case new industries desire to locate near the city. This line will get manufactures opportunity to get away from the congested districts where they can find plenty of room, and at the same time be provided with good railroad facilities. As it is now there are blockades in freight traffic almost daily. We have received numerous inquiries from outside people relative to the probabilities of our belt line’s being quickly constructed, as upon it depends entirely the location of their industries here. The businesses that will be immediately reached by the tracks will be a small consideration, as compared with the businesses that will develop within the next two or three years from a belt line properly located.” – Charles D. Crouch 1901
Because of its proximity to generous water supplies and comparatively inexpensive land, prospective factory owners were excited by the opportunities that could open along the line if Crouch were successful.
The proposal was backed by a list of wealthy investors, some being together involved in other railroad ventures: E. C. Hurd, B. W. Robinson, H. B. Martin, G. R. Hill, Elmer Turner, M. N. Pope, E. H. Gibbs, H. H. Gibbs, and L. C. Miles. Notably, missing from the list was C.W. French.
At the onset, this railroad was expected to be even bigger than the communities for which it was named. The big picture included plans to extend the line from Barberton, through Akron and East Akron, on to Mahoning county and right to the Pennsylvania state line.
Incorporation, Construction, Stumbling Block
In August of 1901, incorporating with $25,000 of capital stock, Crouch’s Barberton, Akron and Eastern was beginning to take shape. Crouch and his agents worked to secure the lands needed for construction of the new railroad’s right-of-way.
While everything seemed to be moving along smoothly, with portions of the line already being graded in preparation for tracks, there did remain one small problem. A single land owner along the proposed line was holding out for more money. He wanted $40,000 to grant the new railroad permission to cross his land. Crouch was simply not prepared to provide this sum. Consequently, progress on the Barberton, Akron & Eastern was temporarily halted.
At the start of 1902, after a small reorganization and consolidation with the Akron Terminal railroad (A paper entity headed by F. A. Seiberling), the company took on a slightly altered name, now called the Barberton, Akron and Eastern Belt Line Railway. This consolidation would positioned the railroad for its merger with the newly formed Akron & Barberton Belt.
Battle in the courts
Then in April of 1902 accusations began to fly and suits were filed agains Crouch and the B.A.&E., by C. W. French and the Railroads he controlled.
French claimed that Crouch had taken plans, profiles and estimates belonging to the Richland and Mahoning as well as the Akron Belt line railroads. It was French’s position that Crouch had converted the plans for the use of the B.A.& E. French went on to accuse Crouch of planning to build the Barberton, Akron and Eastern Railway over the exact same route proposed by French’s Akron Belt line.
In May O. C. Barber’s team had secured the B.A.&E. and consolidated it with the Akron & Barberton Belt. A few days later, Barber sold the entire system to the four trunk lines serving Barberton and Akron.
By 1904, Charles D. Crouch went on to participate in the construction o the Rapid City, Black Hills and Western Railroad, a railroad that he eventually took control of and to this day is more commonly known by its nick name, the Crouch Line.
The Barberton, Akron and Eastern Railway Company. (#1)
Incorporated in Ohio, August 24, 1901, with C. D. Crouch as President. This Railway Company did not complete any railroad. It was consolidated with The Akron Terminal Railway Company to form The Barberton, Akron and Eastern Railway Company (#2) on October 10, 1901.
The Barberton Akron and Eastern Railway Company (#2)
Incorporated on October 10, 1901 by the consolidation of The Barberton, Akron and Eastern Railway Company (# 1), and The Akron Terminal Railway Company, with C.D. Crouch as President. This Company did not actually complete or operate any railroad. On January 24, 1902 it was succeeded by The Barberton, Akron and Eastern Belt Railway Company which was organized and controlled by the same parties.
The Barberton, Akron and Eastern Belt Line Railway Company
Incorporated in Ohio, January 24, 1902 with C.D. Crouch as President, to take the place of The Barberton, Akron and Eastern Railway Company (No. 2) by the same interests. This Company did not complete or operate a railroad. On May 6, 1902 The Barberton, Akron and Eastern Belt Line Railway was consolidated with The Barberton Belt Line Railroad Company and the Cleveland, Barberton and Western Railroad Company to form The Akron & Barberton Belt Railroad Company.