Against the wishes of most of the railroads serving the city, Cleveland Union Terminal (CUT) was built right in the heart of downtown Cleveland, under the city's Public Square. Its location in the commercial center of town was ideal for travelers. On the air rights over the underground terminal stood office buildings, the 1000-room Hotel Cleveland, the Higbee Company (one of the finest department stores in the Midwest), and the 52-story Terminal Tower, symbol of Cleveland and home to the offices of the Van Sweringen brothers. It was the vision and stubbornness of these railroad and real estate magnates -along with that of their buddy Alfred H. Smith, senior vice president of the New York Central - that drove the construction of a station that made little sense from an operating standpoint. Unlike the old Union Depot site on the lakefront side of town, the CUT site was 80 feet higher than the main lines of the city's six railroads, and building the approaches to it cost over $100 million in late-1920s dollars.
One of the big expenses was a 17-mile stretch of electrified trackage that prevented steam-powered trains from smoking up downtown Cleveland. Trains were turned over to CUT electric "motors" between Collinwood yard east of the city and Linndale station on the west side. The CUT roster consisted of 22 P2 boxcabs built by Alco and GE in 1929-30, the first electrics in America with a 2-C+C-2 wheel arrangement and the grandfathers of the later New Haven EP-3 and Pennsylvania GG1. Delivered in NYC black but lettered for the Cleveland Union Terminal, the P2s took their power from 3000 volt overhead D.C. catenary. They were geared for 70 mph and designed for a larger NYC mainline electrification that never came.
By 1953 diesels had made the CUT electrification superfluous, and the 21 remaining boxcabs were converted to 600-volt third-rail operation and sent east to Grand Central Terminal. There they served another two decades in New York Central and Penn Central commuter service, rubbing shoulders with New Haven EP-3s and EP-5s.