Collinwood Railroad Yard Strike

On the afternoon of April 10, 1920, 500 workers at Cleveland's largest and busiest rail yard at the time - the Collinwood Railroad Yards and Diesel Terminal - left their work stations and staged a walk-out. The strike was a result of unresolved grievances against both the yardmen's local workplace and the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen union. Collinwood laborers joined with their fellow Cleveland rail workers to form the Cleveland Yardmen's Association, mirrored on the "outlaw" Chicago Yardsmen Association. The new union vowed to stay away until their demands for wage increases were met. The fervor of the strike spread, prompting other temporary organizations to form in New York, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Kansas City.

The building of the Collinwood Rail Yards began in 1873 when the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway chose Collinwood to be the location of new stockyards and railway shops. Collinwood began to grow both in population and in economic success due to its connection with numerous industrial cities and new job opportunities. It is not surprising, therefore, that the strike severely affected other industries, as well as the citizens of Cleveland and other striking regions. Dormant freight cars resulted in severe the food and fuel shortages in cities. Blast furnaces, steel mills, and other plants had to lay off men, and some factories were even reduced to permanently closing because coal and raw materials were no longer being transported.

The strike was short-lived for the Collinwood workers, many of them returning to work only a few days after their walkout. By the 21 April, only 35% of New York Central line employees were working. Collinwood's yard, on the other hand, had almost all of its men back, had even hired a few more men to make up for the still absent workers, and was running normally. Collinwood was the exception though. Most railroad workers from both Cleveland and other cities were determined to return to work only if Washington would recognize their new union and if their wage demands were met. The situation was severe enough that government aid was needed to supplement the food and fuel shortages. President Woodrow Wilson eventually became involved. The president appointed a Railroad Labor Board which negotiated with official unions and consented to wage increases that July. The strikes slowly dwindled as men returned to their jobs or were replaced, but the initial huge hit continued to cause problems in the areas where the strikes occurred.

Images

Collinwood Chosen for Stockyards

Collinwood Chosen for Stockyards

In January of 1873, "reliable sources" had hinted that a northern Ohio city would soon play host to new stockyards for the Lake Shore line. Real estate sharks in Cleveland began contracting farmland between Collamer (E. 105th) and Erie Streets in order to offer the Lake Shore board options for a location for the new railway shops. A year later, the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad opened the new rail center in Collinwood, and the area began to grow both in population and in economic success. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections. View File Details Page

New Diesel Shop

New Diesel Shop

The Collinwood Railroad Yards and Diesel Terminal was a major repair facility of the New York Central Railroad. When first opened, locomotives were both repaired and housed in a brick roundhouse. In 1953, a new general diesel shop (shown here) was completed for repair work. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections. View File Details Page

Railroad Yards Expanded

Railroad Yards Expanded

The Collinwood Railroad Yards were located along what is now E. 152nd St., south of Lakeshore Freeway. The Collinwood Railroad Yards were rebuilt and expanded in 1903 and 1929. After the latter expansion, 2000 cars could run over its 120 miles of track daily. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections. View File Details Page

Conrail Takes Over Collinwood's Yards

Conrail Takes Over Collinwood's Yards

In 1976, Conrail took over PENN Central Transportation Co., for which the Collinwood Railroad Yards was a major switching point and repair facility. Conrail closed Collinwood's diesel repair shops in 1981. Five years later, however, Conrail built a new warehouse for repairing Conrail Western Divisions locomotives. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections. View File Details Page

Looking For Work

Looking For Work

Less than a decade after Collinwood Railroad Yard strikers walked off the job, the Great Depression began with the stock market crash of 1929. By 1932, men were lining up outside of the Collinwood Railroad Yards in hopes of being one of the 1,050 that were called back to work. Ironically, behind the men one can see a campaign sign for Daniel Edgar Morgan. Morgan was the second and last of Cleveland's city managers, and worked to mitigate unemployment in the city during the Great Depression. Morgan lost the 1932 election to Harry L. Davis. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections. View File Details Page

Collinwood Grows

Collinwood Grows

The Collinwood Railroad Yards offered more than job opportunities for railroad workers. The freight station opened up greater opportunities for growth by connecting the village of Collinwood to both Cleveland and the rest of the US. Jobs created by the stockyards and new businesses attracted new residents to the area, significantly raising the number of Collinwood residents. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections. View File Details Page

Employment Found in Collinwood

Employment Found in Collinwood

Within the first year of the Collinwood Railroad Yards and Diesel Terminal's operation, 500 people found jobs at the yards repairing locomotives, switching cars for freight transfers, and other related jobs. By 1933, this number had grown to 2,000, after the Collinwood Railroad Yards were rebuilt and expanded in 1903 and 1929. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections. View File Details Page

The Machine Shop

The Machine Shop

Other than the repair house, the Collinwood Railroad Yards also had a machine shop that housed an engine room, blacksmith shop (shown here), and an office. Above the machine shop were apartments for the rail yard's employees. When the Collinwood Railroad Yards began operation in 1874, no less than 500 engineers, firemen, brakemen, conductors, and other employees relocated close to the yard in order to handle the daily arrival of 72 freight trains. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Heidi Fearing, “Collinwood Railroad Yard Strike,” Cleveland Historical, accessed June 28, 2017, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/391.

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