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Home of Norwalk railroad club has historical value

Cary Ashby • Nov 3, 2017 at 12:00 PM

Back in the good ol’ days, to keep track of a baseball game by each inning you used a pencil and paper. Out of that came the box score.

Imagine finding the box score of a classic game played in years past. Larry Noftz discovered a handwritten record of the 1948 World Series on the wall of what now houses the Lake Erie & Southern Model Railroad Club. Cleveland fans will remember that’s when the Indians beat the Boston Braves in six games.

Noftz was taking a break from painting the walls when he found the box scores of four games. 

A nearby notation indicates Larry Doby hit a home run in the third inning of Game 4, Oct. 9, 1948. Cleveland won that game 2-1.

“He was the second player to break baseball’s color barrier,” Noftz said.

Inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 1998, Doby was a center fielder, primarily for the Indians. According to baseballhall.org, he is credited as “the second African-American to play Major League Baseball in the modern era after Jackie Robinson” and also “the second African-American manager of a major league club after Frank Robinson.”

Noftz said his hypothesis is that a person who was working in the building was listening to the 1948 World Series on the radio and “decided to write down each of the boxes.” He made sure the handwriting was kept intact as the home of the club was being painted.

“If this has been on the wall since 1948, we’re not going to paint over it,” Noftz said.

Also preserved above the box scores are “Ron McCreery & Sue Crossen,” who were dating at the time and now are married.

“They came down to see it and got a kick out of it. She said he must have written it when (she) was away at college in the late 1950s,” said Noftz, who knows McCreery.

The Lake Erie & Southern Model Railroad Club is housed in a downstairs room that used to be a women’s clothing store. The door is accessible off the alley beside the Norwalk post office. Above an inside door is a label that says “tailoring department.”

Near that door is another bit of preserved history — a very personal one. Someone wrote “haircut” and dated it Feb. 5, 1943. Below that are March 10, 1943 and a day from April 1943. 

“And some reference to 62 on Jan. 22, 1943,” Noftz said.

Even the support I-beams are historical in the home of the railroad club.

“1881 is the date on the beams,” Noftz said.

The club was formed two years ago with eight founding members. Now the group has 18 members, who come from as nearby as Norwalk and from Cleveland to Port Clinton.

Two model train layouts depict an area with silos and a downtown shopping district. On the walls of the room are railroad memorabilia, prints, framed photographs, maps and paperwork detailing what trains were hauling and where they were headed. The photos and maps depict part of Norwalk’s history. One frame contains many photos and detailed instructions on using a hand brake.

“We try to have an atmosphere of a mini-museum,” Noftz said.

Steve LaConte, a club member, knows a wealth of area railroad history. His interest in trains has a family connection; his grandfather worked for the original Wheeling and Lake Erie company starting in the 1930s.

“He worked here in Norwalk for a number of years,” LaConte said. “He retired after Nickel Plate merged in 1964.”

Noftz’s interest in trains began when he looked through a copy of Model Railroader in the mid-1980s. He said he was surprised by the quality of the model trains and layouts. 

Later Noftz met the late Paul Irvin, who ran Paul’s Hobbies on Main Street.

“I caught the bug then,” Noftz said.

For more information on Lake Erie & Southern Model Railroad Club, go to lesrr.com.

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