Ohio Electric Railway

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The Ohio Electric Railway Company was an interurban system formed in 1907 with the consolidation of 14 smaller interurban railways. It was one of Ohio's largest interurban systems. It connected Toledo, Lima, Dayton, Columbus, and Cincinnati, providing efficient passenger service to scores of small towns in western Ohio between these major cities. It survived until 1927 when it went bankrupt. Its various components returned to being the interurban companies that they were before 1907.[1][2]


Between 1900 and the early 1920s, most rural roads in the United States were unpaved and were primarily traveled by horse drawn buggies and wagons. In wet weather and in winter, these roads were often impassable. Towns and cities themselves were slowly bricking their dirt streets, and some had electric streetcar lines. Entrepreneurs began to form groups of local investors to extend town trolleys into the countryside and to adjacent towns. The result was the start of an interurban trolley system, particularly in the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and California. These country trolley/interurban lines became reliable transportation for people and also for moving farm and dairy products to town. However, interurban lines were expensive to build and expensive to maintain, many employees were required. Operational costs were often underestimated and operating revenues were often overestimated. A stock offering and a sale of bonds would be followed by another then another to raise more capital, if banks would ccomodate. Rolling stock, right-of-way purchase or lease, track, and the electrical system were a big initial costs. Sometimes power houses had to be constructed, but then power could also be sold to surrounding communities for a source of income. A bridge could be a costly surprise. Passenger coaches, freight motors, snow sweepers, trolley maintenance cars, block signals (if provided), buildings for depots, repair "shops,' a coach yard: all had to be provided. Franchise agreements with the various towns had to be obtained, and not all towns were cooperative. Around 1924, states and counties began to pave their highways, and inexpensive cars became available. The result was that many former riders stopped using the interurban. Many interurban companies were in financial distress even before the 1920. Some tried combining with neighboring lines to improve efficiency and customer base, but many simply abandoned and tore up rails.[3]

The 1920s and 1930s[edit]

The Ohio Electric, which had been an amalgamation under one management of a number of western Ohio interurban lines in 1907 went bankrupt in 1927, and the original component interurbans assumed their former identities or abandoned operation. Parts of some lines eventually evolved in 1926 into the Cincinnati, Hamilton, and Dayton and then in 1930 to the expansive and ambitious Cincinnati and Lake Erie Railroad with new equipment, upgraded track, and plans for a big freight operation. The CH&D and the C&LE were moderately successful and freight deliveries definitely grew, but the decline of national business conditions due to the Depression 1930s led to the abandonment of the C&LE in 1938.[4] Many interurban lines were replaced by buses by 1939. The Cincinnati and Lake Erie changed its name to Cincinnati & Lake Erie Transportation and operated busses. It was absorbed by the Greyhound system in 1947.


  1. ^ Keenan, The Cincinnati and Lake Erie Railroad, Chapter One: discussion of Ohio Electric with photographs of Ohio Electric interurban cars.
  2. ^ Middleton, Wm, The Interurban Era, p43, discussion and photographs.
  3. ^ Hilton, George, The Interurban Electric Railways in America, discussion of interurban technology and financing.
  4. ^ Keenan, p 255.


  • Keenan, Jack: The Cincinnati and Lake Erie Railroad, 226p. Golden West Books, San Marino, CA. Well written discussion of the Ohio Electric and the CH&D, C&LE surviving portions of Ohio Electric. Many photographs.
  • Harwood, Lake Shore Electric Railway, 285p, Golden West Books, San Marino, CA. Many photographs.
  • Hilton, George: Electric Interurban Railways in America. Stanford University Press, Palo Alto, CA. A very scholarly discussion of interurban history, financing, and technology, no photographs.
  • Middleton, Wm: The Interurban Era, 431p. Kalmbach Publishing, Milwaukee, WI. Excellent resource with many photographs.
  • Middleton, Wm: Time of the Trolley, Kalmbach Publishing, Milwaukee, WI.
  • Rowsome, Frank: Trolley Car Treasury, discussion of interurban history, some photographs.

See also[edit]