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The Interurban Railroad History

“The Interurban Era”
Ohio Electric Railway: The Ohio Electric Railway began operations in 1907 and would control numerous smaller companies until its 1921 bankruptcy at which point its subsidiaries once again became independent operations. These interurban railroads included the Cincinnati & Hamilton Electric Street Railway; Cincinnati & Miami Valley Traction Company; Miamisburg & Germantown Traction Company; Dayton, Springfield & Urbana Railway; Urbana, Bellefontaine & Northern Railway; Lima & Toledo Traction Company; Dayton & Western Traction Company; Dayton & Northern Traction Company; Dayton & Muncie Traction Company; Fort Wayne, Van Wert & Lima Traction Company; Columbus & Lake Michigan Railway; Columbus, Buckeye Lake & Newark Traction Company; Columbus, Newark & Zanesville Electric Railway; and the Columbus, Grove City & Southwestern Railway. Cincinnati & Lake Erie Railroad: The Cincinnati & Lake Erie Railroad, most famous for operating its blazing fast "Red Devil" streetcars, was one of the largest interurban railroads to ever operate in the country. Its roots date back to the Cincinnati & Dayton Traction Company of 1925 which was a 44-mile interurban railroad operating in southwest Ohio. In January, 1930 this line was merged with the Indiana Columbus & Eastern and Lima-Toledo Railroad to form the Cincinnati & Lake Erie Railroad. The C&LE was able to turn around the misfortunes of its latter two acquisitions (the IC&E and LT) and with a sizable base of freight traffic on a railroad that stretched over 200 miles in three different states (Ohio, Indiana and Michigan) the system was one of the most profitable interurbans to ever operate. Regardless the Great Depression was no easier on the C&LE than other interurban railroads, not to mention the encroachment of highways and automobiles. By the late 1930s the C&LE was in serious financial trouble and by May of 1939 abandoned its remaining line between Hamilton and Dayton. To embark on dramatically improving passenger service and schedules, Conway supervised the development and acquisition of a unique fleet of twenty lightweight, high speed, power efficient, aluminum bodied bright red passenger cars (known eventually as "Red Devils" then built by the Cincinnati Car Company. These interurban cars embodied the latest in Art-deco styling and were equipped with numerous amenities including leather bucket seats with headrests. Half were built as lounges to provide parlor car first class comfort. In order to promote the cars, the C&LE staged a race between Red Devil #126 and an airplane. The car achieved a speed of 97 miles per hour and "won" the highly publicized race. Unfortunately, and typical of most interurbans, considerable open country operation was on side-of-road track and considerable urban operation was on track embedded in town streets with turns at street corners, so the Red Devils had to contend with automobile traffic and would rarely achieve these speeds in normal operation. But in open country, particularly existing on the Springfield -Toledo division, they operated up to ninety miles per hour if behind schedule. The Red Devils were 43'9" long, 11'4" high and weighed a low 22 metric tons versus a typical 1920s large steel interurban 55' long and 14' high and 40 to 50 tons. The largest interurban ever constructed was built by St. Louis Car at 67' and 70 tons. Cincinnati Car Company designed new low profile trucks for the Devils to allow them to sit lower. The new truck also turned out to be good riding at speed on the interurban's relatively rough track with light 80 and 90 lb rail. Cincinnati designated them as their ABC74-D truck. Waterville , Ohio - The news in 1907 that the Lima-Toledo Traction Company was planning an interurban electric train line through the village brought great excitement. Rail cars would reach Toledo from Waterville in the miraculous time of 20 minutes. The longest reinforced concrete bridge would be built at the historic site of Roche de Boeuf. In spite of assurances that the historic rock would not be desecrated in any way, it soon became apparent that a portion of the rock would be blasted away for a bridge support. The outraged citzens felt betrayed. As time went on tempers cooled and the beauty of the Roman aquaduct design became a favorite of artists and picnickers alike. For 30 years the red interurban cars raced across the bridge, one actually winning a race against an airplane in 1930, rocketing along at nearly 100 miles an hour. In 1937 the railway went out of business. Today, the grand old bridge stands as an icon of Waterville history and a testament to engineering innovation.

The Interurban Bridge at Waterville (click photo to view larger)
Cincinnati Car Company or Cincinnati Car Corporation was a subsidiary of Ohio Traction Company. It designed and constructed interurban cars, streetcars (trams) and (in smaller scale) buses. It was founded in 1902 in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1928, it bought the Versare Car Company. The company was among the first to make lightweight cars. Its chief engineer Thomas Elliot designed the curved-side car, a lightweight model that used curved steel plates (not conventional flat steel plates) in body construction. Instead of the floor, the side plates and side sills bore the bulk of the weight load. Longitudinal floor supports were no longer needed, which made the cars lighter than conventional cars. The first cars of this type were sold in 1922. For instance, the Red Devil weighted only 22 tons. Curved-side cars were also called "Balanced Lightweight Cars". In 1929, the company designed new lightweight partially aluminum low profile high-speed coaches for the electrified Cincinnati and Lake Erie Railroad interurban that operated between Cincinnati, Dayton, and Toledo. Twenty were purchased, painted bright red, and called Red Devils by the C&LE. These interurban cars, whose open country speed could reach 90 mph (140 km/h) Template: Convert/track/abbr/on, were a forerunner of today's high-speed trains. Both the carbodies and new design small wheel low ridingtrucks were well adapted for high-speed running on light rail rough track. In 1939, the C&LE abandoned operation, and the Red Devils were sold to the CRANDIC interurban in Iowa and to the Lehigh Valley Transit in Pennsylvania. They continued to operate successfully and well into the 1950s.

Photos of the "Famous" Red Devil and other Interurban Information
Click on photos to view larger

Cincinnati "Red Devil"

Cedar Rapids, Iowa "Red" Devil
(their colors)

Cedar Rapids, Iowa "Red" Devil

"Open Style" Interurban Tour Car

Interurban U. S. Mail Car

Interurban Tressel - King Mills, Ohio

Interior of "Plush" "Red Devil"
Interurban Car

Another view of the Interior
of "Plush" "Red Devil" Interurban Car

Liberty Bell Line in Maine Car #1030

Cincinnati Street railway - ending dates

Red Devil and Airplane race

Interurban tracks
exact location unknown
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