The Film

It should come as no surprise to anyone – Cleveland, Ohio has had a checkered past with its fair share of challenging times. While this film is zeroing in specifically on one 2 mile road – Train Avenue, it would be negligent to not broaden the scope and explore portions of Cleveland’s past as a whole – its rise and fall, and how those factors also played a role in Train Avenue, for better or worse.

It’s not all bad news, though – then or now. Anybody who has ventured down Train Avenue automatically envisions the potential it has as a scenic connection route of the five westside neighborhoods it runs through, and the aura of peace and nature it exudes. This is a film with a purpose.

The Past

photo by Jeff Theman/River Fire Films, LLC

It would be impossible to discuss Train Avenue without also examining its past. It wasn’t always called Train Avenue. It wasn’t even always a road. The birth of Train Avenue was founded on the idea by city officials to solve a growing problem in the mid-late 1800s where nearby industry – slaughterhouses, breweries and other manufacturing operations, heavily polluted the stream by dumping their waste into Walworth Run, which connected right into the Cuyahoga River. Prior to 1900, it was a stream of water called Walworth Run, which ran right into the Cuyahoga River.

The Present

photo by Jeff Theman/River Fire Films, LLC

Once Walworth Run was buried and turned into a part of the sewer system, and the two mile stretch of road called Train Avenue was paved around the turn of the century, it has become the place for illegal dumping and other nefarious acts against human beings, animals and the environment, due to being tucked away out of plain eyesight without much surveillance or passing traffic that would normally prevent those things from occurring as regular as they do. For those same reasons, it’s also a place where Cleveland’s homeless stay under the many bridges that cover portions of Train Avenue’s route.

The Future

photo by Jeff Theman/River Fire Films, LLC

Although Train Avenue has been mostly untouched since its birth, over the years there has been attempts to change the culture regularly occuring there. From the Train Avenue Greenway Plan concept which would have turned the road into a recreational path for bikers, runners and walkers, connecting to the overall trail system; to the Red Line Greenway Plan – an all-purpose rails-to-trails vision linking westside neighborhoods together (completed in May 2021), which butts up against Train Avenue. Bottom line – It’s worthy of investment.

The Filmmaker

photo by Greg Murray Photography

My name is Jeff Theman and I’m an Independent filmmaker based in Cleveland, Ohio. I started my video production company, River Fire Films, in September 2007 – about five months after I began research for my first documentary, “Guilty Til Proven Innocent” (GTPI), which initially started as an anti-dogfighting film in response to the Michael Vick case, but evolved a year later examining Ohio’s 25 year statewide restriction on the ownership of ‘pit bull’ dogs originally passed in 1987 (repealed in 2012), and its effect on local municipalities.