Teaching Cleveland
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High School Edition: 9-12

Lesson 22

"No Cinders, No Dirt, No Dust, No Smoke"


To familiarize students with the streetcar and interurban systems which provided cheap and efficient transportation for Cleveland residents at the turn of the century.



walking city, interurban, streetcar, "Alphabet" Route, right of way, street running


  1. Why were streetcars and interurbans an important means of transportation for the ordinary Clevelander at the turn of the century.


  1. Distribute copies of the fact sheet to each student. Have the students read the fact sheet and complete the questions for discussion below:
    Why was Cleveland a "walking city" before the development of streetcar and interurban lines?
    Why were the interurbans and streetcars popular with the citizens of Cleveland?
    What factors allowed the interurbans to compete with the more powerful steam rail lines?
    What were some of the results of the extension of interurban lines?
    How did interurban lines affect the shopping habits of people?
    What was "Street running" and how did it affect the operating costs of the interurban companies?
    What factors caused people to want to see the end of the interurbans?
    What finally resulted in the interurbans being pushed out of business?
    What role did the automobile play in the end of electric rail system?
    What might cause the rebirth of electric rail mass transportation in Cleveland?
  2. Distribute copies of the interurban schedule and the accompanying worksheet to the students in the class. Have the students complete the activity as directed.
  3. Have the students design a poster advertising the interurban route which would have served their neighborhood.
  4. The Regional Transit Authority still uses electricity to power its rail lines and a new line is being constructed to the site of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using an electric rail line in 1996. Ask students to speculate how they foresee the transportation of Cleveland changing over the next 50 years. Have the students design a "new" transportation system for the Cleveland of the future.

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