Alliance, OH (ALC)
Founded in 1854 through the union of three settlements, Alliance hosts a Carnation Festival every August that includes a parade, fireworks display and crowning of a “Carnation Queen."
820 East Main Street
Alliance, OH 44601
Annual Station Ridership (FY 2023): 2,697
- Facility Ownership: Pennsylvania Lines, LLC (Norfolk Southern)
- Parking Lot Ownership: Pennsylvania Lines, LLC (Norfolk Southern)
- Platform Ownership: Norfolk Southern Railway
- Track Ownership: Norfolk Southern Railway
Passengers at Alliance wait for the early morning arrival of the Capitol Limited at a shelter station building completed by Amtrak in the summer of 2011. A 550-foot long concrete platform with tactile edging was also installed, as were improved signage and light standards. The $1.5 million improvement project, which ensures that the Alliance station is fully ADA compliant, was funded through Amtrak’s Mobility First initiative under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Travelers with an eye for detail might notice that the Alliance structure is a close cousin to one constructed along the Capitol Limited route in Connellsville, Pa.
Developed by d+A design+Architecture, LLC of Yardley, Pennsylvania, the shelter design was inspired by historic late 19th and early 20th century depots found in small towns across the nation. Composed primarily of rich red brick, the structure has an enclosed, one-story waiting room with large windows that not only keep out the wind, but also allow ample sunlight to flood and brighten the space. On the principal facades facing the street and the tracks, the waiting room is marked by stylized projecting bays with deep eaves. The bays’ grey and beige toned, rock-faced, coursed ashlar stonework contrasts with the darkness of the brick and adds texture to the overall elevation. Recessed canopies, supported by squared posts sporting curved brackets, flank the waiting room and visually expand the station’s presence along the tracks. Benches in the waiting room and beneath the canopies provide abundant seating throughout the year’s changing seasons.
Founded in 1854, Alliance was cobbled together from three existing settlements: Williamsport, Freedom, and Liberty—respectively established in 1827, 1838, and 1850 around the Mahoning River. By joining together, the communities could better coordinate local government and the use of their limited resources. Prior to the arrival of pioneers and the formation of Williamsport, the area had been inhabited mainly by the Delaware American Indians, who were themselves newcomers to the Ohio country.
The Delaware were from New Jersey and had inhabited the district around the river that takes their name and which today forms the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border. Pushed out of the east by early colonists, the Delaware moved west where they suffered from attacks by the powerful Iroquois Confederation based in New York state and lower Canada. Reaching the far side of the Appalachian Mountains in the mid-eighteenth century, they settled in eastern Ohio and aligned themselves with the French.
After the British emerged victorious from the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the Delaware became their allies, but by the time of the Revolutionary War, their loyalty was divided between the British and the American colonists. As a result, the Delaware and other tribes in Ohio were later overpowered by American forces at the 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers; the next year, under the Treaty of Greeneville, American Indians were forced to surrender most of their lands in Ohio country.
Williamsport took the name of its founder—Williams Teeters, who established the settlement north of the Mahoning River. A farmer, his descendents would later purchase property on the south side of the river in what is now downtown Alliance. Freedom was created by Matthias Hester, a tailor from the eastern town of Salem. He and John Miller platted the settlement in 1838 and Hester ran his store there until devoting himself to real estate ventures as the town developed. Rumors of a railroad line in the vicinity grew louder and Hester wisely doubled the size of Freedom by platting new streets and selling off lots. Hester’s hunch proved right, as the town received two rail lines by the 1850s. Liberty took advantage of the proposed alignment and much of the town was platted for the area around the rights-of-way; today it forms the core of downtown Alliance.
Like many settlements west of the mountains, the towns along the Mahoning dreamed of a rail connection that would carry their agricultural goods to the major population centers of the East Coast. The possibility of rail links was confirmed in 1836 when the Ohio state legislature chartered the Cleveland and Wellsville Railroad (C&W) to connect Ohio’s principal Lake Erie port with Wellsville on the Ohio River; eventually, the railroad became the Cleveland and Pittsburgh and made a connection with western Pennsylvania’s chief city. Faced with a lack of financing and other difficulties, the C&W was not completed until early 1852. The state also chartered the Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroad (O&P) in 1848 to connect Pittsburgh with Crestline, Ohio where trains could switch to the Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati Railroad. Within five years, trains were running the full length of the Pittsburgh-Crestline route.
At Alliance, the two railroads crossed, and to this day, any map of the area prominently displays the graceful “X” that the rails create upon the landscape. The arrival of the two lines and their intersection near the towns of Williamsport, Freedom, and Liberty is said to be the primary reason for the founding of Alliance—“allied” into one unified community, the residents could take advantage of their access to the railroad. Other historians believe that the town’s name was chosen to reflect the “alliance” of the two railroads at the great crossing. Whatever the case, an early nineteenth century historian seemed accurate in his assertion that Alliance “was born…an offspring of the locomotive, a legitimate child of steam.” The first locomotive of the C&W rolled into Alliance on July 4, 1851 to much fanfare.
Eventually the Cleveland and Pittsburgh and the O&P came under the control of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) as it sought a path west to Chicago. Alliance became a division headquarters for the PRR and included shops, a roundhouse, and other railroad related structures. A division point was also the place where crews changed and trains were made up and therefore Alliance was home to numerous railroaders and their families.
In 1853 the first depot in town was constructed on the north side of the rail crossing near E. Main Street and Webb Avenue; Main Street was laid out to lead directly to the station, as city leaders recognized the potential impact that the railroad would have on their community. Old photographs show it to be a rather Victorian affair with an octagonal two-story central section with a low tent roof. This portion of the station was flanked by one-story wings that featured large dormer gables trimmed in fancy bargeboard. The building appeared to be wood frame and covered in clapboard while the windows were crowned by Tudor inspired window hoods that were in keeping with the eclectic nature of the overall design.
Also on the north side adjoining the depot was a hotel and dining hall run by Colonel Daniel Sourbeck. On his way to Washington, DC to take up the presidency in 1861, Abraham Lincoln made a stop at Sourbeck’s, which had become famous for its fine meals. A guard of the Canton Zouaves in red pants, blue jackets, and tasseled fezzes added an air of excitement as an eager crowd gathered to hear Lincoln speak. Rather than a stirring, patriotic discourse, he gave the people a short but humorous address: “I appear before you merely to greet you and say farewell. I have no time for long speeches…If I should make a speech at every town, I would not get to Washington until some time after the inauguration. But as I am somewhat interested in the inauguration, I would like to get there…” The local newspapers recall that his simple words were greeted with laughter. Later, a small monument was built to commemorate Lincoln’s visit, and it still stands near the rail crossing close to the Amtrak stop. It is built of stone from his Kentucky farm and displays a bronze plaque cast in Alliance.
The wood depot and hostelry burned to the ground in 1863. In response, the railroad built a sturdier two-story red brick structure known as Sourbeck House that contained a depot, an expanded 20 room hotel on the second floor, sitting rooms and parlors for female guests and visitors, and a dining hall. Union Army Generals Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan dined at the restaurant in 1867. The building reflected the triangular lot on which it sat between the two rail lines. The corner was canted while wings lined both tracks; an adjoining building housed the office of the Railway Express Agency. In time, a large wrap-around porch was added to the structure to protect passengers from inclement weather as they boarded and detrained from the cars. One postcard view even shows a small lawn and garden at the apex of the lot, adding a bit of nature to the otherwise industrial landscape of the rail crossing and the nearby American Steel Foundry. At a later date, a traffic tower was added to the tip of the lot to monitor trains at the crossing.
Although an important crossing for the PRR, in due course the New York Central system also ran a line through the area. In 1952, the second station was torn down and replaced by a couple of smaller, one-story brick structures which still stand; they are currently used by Norfolk Southern which owns this portion of track.
With access to the national rail network in place, Alliance developed a wide range of industries that included machinery, metal stampings, pottery, and bricks. Luckily, Alliance and its neighbors sit on the Massillon coal seam; while much of the coal was sent to Cleveland and western Pennsylvania, it also fired local factories. The best known enterprise was Morgan Engineering which was founded in 1871 by an immigrant from Wales. Located southeast of the PRR station and the rail crossing, it became a major producer of industrial cranes, but also turned out punching, shearing, and riveting machines, and other pieces of heavy equipment. In 1878, it produced the first overhead travelling crane built in the United States, and the company fabricated cranes for the great Midwestern steel mills such as the Homestead Steel Works in Pittsburgh. Today, Morgan remains in Alliance and continues its worldwide reputation.
As Morgan Engineering grew, so too did the fortunes of the family. Colonel William Henry Morgan, son of the founder, built an imposing castle in Alliance which now houses the offices of the school board. The mansion, built entirely of rock-face blue Vermont marble with white marble trim, features an imposing square tower and a rambling composition of intersecting volumes that give the structure a picturesque appearance. The great house was named Glamorgan after the Welsh town from which the family originated. Typical of the time, the rooms were decorated in an assortment of styles; today they are open to the public for tours.
Another Alliance home—the Haines House—played a role in the Underground Railroad. Constructed in the second quarter of the nineteenth century, it was the residence of a Quaker farming family of energetic Abolitionists. Alliance was an active anti-slavery center and the intersection of three Underground Railroad routes. Fugitive slaves were hidden in the Haines’ attic over the kitchen before being shepherded further north to Lake Erie where cooperative ship captains ferried the slaves to freedom in Canada. Once located on a 126 acre farm, the Haines House now sits in the middle of the west side of Alliance which grew up around it. The structure has undergone a series of renovations and is owned by the Alliance Area Preservation Society which uses it to tell the story of the town and its African-American and Underground Railroad history.
Beside Lincoln, Alliance has strong ties to another president: William McKinley. In 1876, McKinley ran for a Congressional seat against his friend Dr. Levi Lamborn of Alliance. Lamborn was an early cultivator of the then-rare carnation, and at each political debate, he would give McKinley one for his lapel. McKinley won that race and then made it to the governorship and the presidency, crediting the carnation as his lucky charm. Legend has it that right after McKinley gave his carnation to an admirer at the Buffalo Exposition, he was then killed by an assassin. Three years after McKinley’s death in 1901, the scarlet carnation was made the official state flower; even today, a bouquet of scarlet carnations is put into the hands of the McKinley statue in front of the Ohio State Capitol to commemorate the president’s birthday.
McKinley was an alumnus of Alliance’s Mount Union College, established in 1846 in Mount Union, which later merged with Alliance and now forms the southern portion of the city. Considered one of the best small liberal arts institutions in the Midwest, the school was early noted for admitting both men and women at a time when women’s choices in higher education were limited. The school is known for its music and theater programs and it operates the historic Art Deco Mt. Union Theatre which opened near campus in 1939.
Due to the city’s close association with the state flower, since 1960 Alliance has held an annual Carnation Festival in early August. “Ribfest” starts the celebration which also includes a parade that ends at Glamorgan Castle and the crowning of the “Carnation Queen.” The festivities continue with an ice-cream social, teen dance, hot-air balloon rides, talent show, used-book sale, food stands, and live entertainment. After a week bursting with events, the city-wide party ends with the Grand Parade and a glorious evening explosion of fireworks over Silver Park.
Platform only (no shelter)
- ATM not available
- No elevator
- No payphones
- No Quik-Trak kiosks
- No Restrooms
- Unaccompanied child travel not allowed
- No vending machines
- No WiFi
- Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to departure
- Amtrak Express shipping not available
- No checked baggage service
- No checked baggage storage
- Bike boxes not available
- No baggage carts
- Ski bags not available
- No bag storage
- Shipping boxes not available
- No baggage assistance
- Same-day parking is available; fees may apply
- Overnight parking is available; fees may apply
- No payphones
- Accessible platform
- No accessible restrooms
- No accessible ticket office
- Accessible waiting room
- No accessible water fountain
- Same-day, accessible parking is available; fees may apply
- Overnight, accessible parking is available; fees may apply
- No high platform
- No wheelchair
- Wheelchair lift available