Teaching Cleveland

Lesson 24

Handout 1 - Fact Sheet

Streetcars and Interurbans

Before the development of streetcars, the city of Cleveland was a "walking city." Men walked to their workplace, which was within sight of their home and their wives and children walked to school and shops. When the streetcar was introduced, workers were no longer tied to specific location for their residence. Now they could live out of the shadow of the mills and foundries. They moved out of the inner city along the streetcar lines. At first horse-drawn, the streetcars eventually became electric powered. Electric inter city rail travel developed, linking major cities in Ohio and the larger cities on the East Coast, with fast and convenient rail transportation.

In 1895, Henry A. Everett and Edward W. Moore founded the Everett-Moore Syndicate. They laid 35.5 miles of track linking Akron, Bedford, and Cleveland in what came to be known as the "Alphabet Route." Soon this route expanded and merged with others to form the Northern Ohio Light and Traction Co. which grew to nearly 150 miles of track. By 1910 there were 6 separate systems in Cleveland, which provided direct rail links to New York and New England.

One of the largest systems was the Cleveland, Southwestern, and Columbus Railway. It consisted of two systems which linked Cleveland to Columbus in the south, and Norwalk in the west. The Southern line traveled from Cleveland to Columbus through Berea, Strongsville, Medina, Seville, Wooster, Lodi, Mansfield, and Bucyrus, where it linked with another line to continue on to Columbus. The Western line left Public Square and proceeded to Wellington, through North Olmsted, Elyria, Oberlin and Norwalk. A secondary line took passengers to the water baths at Puritas Springs from a stop along the Lorain St. line.

The interurbans provided clean, convenient service with "no cinders, no dirt, no dust, no smoke." The interurbans operated with greater frequency and at a lower operating cost. They had hourly, semi-hourly schedules, and could stop virtually anywhere along the line. Cheaper rates, costing $3.25 to travel from Cleveland to Toledo on the New York Central steam line, as opposed to $1.75 on the interurban, also encouraged people to use the electric rail. The interurbans could penetrate areas with inadequate or no rail service. A lower overall construction cost was realized because of the use of public rights of way through cities and towns. Interurbans frequently ran right down the middle of the towns' main street. New areas were opened to real estate development. Extensive package and freight handling made people more inclined to use the more convenient interurban and allowed the shipping of produce and agricultural products to the Cleveland markets.

Some merchants in small towns opposed the extension of the interurban into their town on the grounds that its extension would destroy the businesses in the town because people could now shop in other towns. Oberlin merchants actively opposed the extension of a line through their city. Dry goods merchants in Cleveland paid for a customer's interurban ticket, if the customer purchased a suit of clothes.

Most interurban lines took advantage of "street running," in which private rights of way were not used. Public rights of way were used because they were public land,for which the rail lines did not have to pay. Congestion from extensive freight shipments and what seemed like almost constant track repair, caused many to wish that the interurban routes would go away. The development of the rubber industry, which led to the establishment of trucking and bus transportation, changed people's mode of transportation. By 1948, the last of Ohio's interurban lines were abandoned.


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