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CONRAIL

CONRAIL (the Consolidated Rail Corp.), a privately owned company primarily in the freight business, was established by Congress in 1975 to reorganize and consolidate 5 of 7 bankrupt northeastern railroads. It began operation April 1976 with 17,000 miles of track stretching from Boston to Chicago and St. Louis, armed with $2.1 billion of federal funding. Designed as a 10-year federal government experiment, ConRail was technically a private, for-profit corporation operating under a Board of Directors dominated by government appointees until it had repaid most of its debts, after which time ownership was to be returned to private interests. The PENN CENTRAL and the ERIE LACKAWANNA were the two railroads taken over by ConRail that had Cleveland operations, with the Penn Central having the most substantial presence in the area. The 2 roads combined gave ConRail's Cleveland Division connections with Chicago and Buffalo, Cincinnati via Columbus, and Pittsburgh via Youngstown. When both ConRail and the State of Ohio declined to subsidize the Erie Lackawanna's unprofitable Youngstown-to-Cleveland commuter run in 1976, the service was discontinued; however, Conrail did maintain the COLLINWOOD YARDS as part of its operation. In the mid-1980s it remained the major railroad system serving Greater Cleveland. In 1988 ConRail merged its Cleveland and Pittsburgh divisions and relocated headquarters to Pittsburgh; however, the yards were not affected. By 1995 Conrail employed 1,145 workers in its numerous yards in the Cleveland area. In 1999, the CSX CORP and the NORFOLK SOUTHERN took over Conrail's operations, leaving just two rail systems serving Greater Cleveland.