The ERIE-LACKAWANNA RAILROAD was one of the three major Cleveland components of the CONRAIL network which included the NEW YORK CENTRAL RAILROAD and the PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD. The Erie-Lackawanna began as the New York & Erie Railroad Co., which was chartered in 1832-33 and commenced operations in 1841. The old NY&E disappeared under foreclosure in 1862, and the Erie Railway Co. took its place. The initial Cleveland link of what would become the Erie-Lackawanna was the Cleveland & Mahoning Valley Railroad, chartered in 1848. Financial problems postponed its construction until 1853, but by 1857 the C&MV reached from Cleveland to Youngstown via Warren, opening the Mahoning Valley coal fields to Cleveland and other lake ports. The C&MV was leased by the Atlantic & Great Western Railroad in 1863, allowing it access to Cleveland. The connection provided a new route to the east and increased oil shipments to the city from the northern Pennsylvania fields. In 1865 the road built a passenger station in Cleveland on Scranton Rd., and in 1881 it opened a passenger station in the FLATS at what became the east end of the DETROIT SUPERIOR BRIDGE. About 1874 the valuable but unprofitable A&GW entered receivership and was reorganized as the New York, Pennsylvania & Ohio Railroad, which moved its headquarters from Erie to Cleveland. In 1883 the Erie Railway leased the NYP&O and 13 years later acquired its capital stock.

In 1927 the VAN SWERINGEN brothers began buying into the Erie road through the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, which they controlled. By 1929 they owned 55% of the Erie stock, installed their own president, and consolidated their corporate headquarters in Cleveland. During the Depression, the Van Sweringens saw their financial empire collapse and were forced to turn to the U.S. District Court for protection. The resulting reorganization broke up their railroad empire into its component roads.

In 1948 the Erie Railroad dedicated a new Lee-Hts. suburban passenger station near Lee and Miles, and in 1949 the Erie, using tracks rented from the NYC, moved into the Terminal Tower, closing its old passenger station in the flats.

Another financial decline made the Erie a subsidiary of Dereco, a company that also owned all the stock of the Delaware & Hudson through its parent company, the Norfolk & Western Railway system. Dereco formally adopted the Erie by merging it with the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad in 1960, creating the Erie-Lackawanna and establishing Cleveland as its principal place of business. In June of 1972, the Erie-Lackawanna went bankrupt. By court order the bankrupt E-L properties were included both as a part of ConRail and as part of the N&W's northeastern merger plans. The part of E-L's operation absorbed by ConRail included the Youngstown-to-Cleveland commuter train, which operated with a federal subsidy. In 1976, however, the passenger run failed to show a profit, and when both the State of Ohio and ConRail declined to subsidize it further, the E-L discontinued the last commuter service to Cleveland. Although ConRail took over its operations in 1976, as late as 1988 the Erie-Lackawanna existed as a financial entity to pay off creditors and shareholders and to resolve lawsuits.

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