Last revised: May 20, 2023
By: Adam Burns
No other state approached Ohio in terms of total interurban mileage which boasted some 2,798 miles. In addition, no other state was within 1,000 miles of its network.
As Dr. George Hilton and John Due note in their book, "The Electric Interurban Railways In America," Ohio's considerable interurban network is likely explained for these reasons:
By 1908, Ohio's interurban network reached its zenith. Unfortunately, most did not contain enough carload freight business to survive beyond the Great Depression. By 1932, half of the state's mileage was gone and had practically disappeared entirely by 1939.
The Akron Street Railroad took over the operations of the Akron Street Railway & Herdic Company in 1888, which itself was incorporated in 1883.
A year later the railroad was renamed the Akron Electric Street Railway and again in 1895 as the Akron Street Railway & Illuminating Company.
In the 20th century the railroad was renamed numerous times; the Northern Ohio Traction Company (1899), Northern Ohio Traction & Light Company (1902), Northern Ohio Power & Light Company (1926) and finally the Akron Transportation Company (1930).
This last company was the final one to operate streetcars in Akron as the service lasted until 1947 when it was discontinued in favor of buses (the company itself survived until 1969).
The Broadway & Newburgh Street Railroad began operations in late 1873 providing transportation services to steel mills located in Newburgh (a suburb of Cleveland).
Beginning as a horse-powered operation the six-mile route switched to electric streetcars in 1890. In 1893 it merged with the East Cleveland and Brooklyn & South Side Street Railway to form Cleveland Electric Railway.
The Scioto Valley Traction Company or SVT was the state's only third-rail operated interurban railroad using a 600-volt DC system.
It began operations in 1904 primarily serving the Columbus area but also built extensions to Lancaster, Circleville and Chillicothe.
Along with passenger services the SVT also provided some freight service, notably to a nearby power plant. After passenger operations were discontinued in 1930 freight service carried on under the Ohio Midland Light & Power Company name.
Electric locomotives provided service until the 1950s when the line was dieselized and soon after operations were discontinued altogether.
The Inter-City Rapid Transit Company served both Canton and Massillon. It began operations in 1930 as it had purchased its route from the Northern Ohio Traction & Light Company.
The NOT&L operated several railroad lines and served Cleveland, Canton, Akron, Massillon, Uhrichsville, Wadsworth, East Greenville, Kent, Ravenna, Alliance and Warren.
In 1926 the operation was renamed the Northern Ohio Power & Light Company and it had discontinued operations altogether by 1932. The Inter-City Rapid Transit Company remained in operation until 1940 when it too was abandoned.
The Stark Electric Railroad served Salem, Alliance and Canton and began operations in 1904. Streetcar operations lasted until 1937 when they were abandoned in favor of buses.
The Chillicothe Electric Railroad, Light & Power Company was one of the first interurban railroads to operate in the city. It began operations in 1894 and lasted until 1904 when it became part of the Scioto Valley Traction. The route itself survived until 1930 when it was abandoned in favor of buses.
The Cincinnati Street Railway was the city's primary interurban railroad. The operation dated back to 1859 as a horse-powered service. It remained in operation as late as 1959 when streetcars were finally scrapped in favor of buses.
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.
The Cincinnati, Milford & Blanchester Traction Company was the 1917 reorganization of the Cincinnati, Milford & Loveland Traction Company, which began operations in 1903 connecting Madisonville to Milford on a 17-mile route. It remained in operation until 1942 when it was abandoned in favor of buses.
The Interurban Railway & Terminal Company was the merger of the Cincinnati & Eastern Electric Railway, Suburban Traction Company and Rapid Railway in 1902.
These interurbans connected Cincinnati with New Richmond, Bethel and Lebanon. The IR&T provided service until 1922 when it was discontinued in favor of buses.
The Cleveland Transit System dates back to the early 20th century and provided service between Windermere and Cleveland Hopkins Airport.
In 1975 it became part of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority when it merged with the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit and operations were subsidized and taken over by the city. Much of the railroad system continues to operate today serving the Cleveland area.
The Cleveland & Berea Railway dates back to the late 19th century and was a predecessor company of the Cleveland Southwestern & Columbus Railway.
The Eastern Ohio Traction Company, which would later be reorganized as the Cleveland & Eastern Traction Company, operated a 33-mile railroad between Cleveland and Chardon. It remained in operation until 1926 when services were abandoned in favor of buses.
The Cleveland & Elyria Electric Railroad was the first of several different named railroads to operate interurban service in the Elyria area.
It was chartered in 1884 but by 1886 had been renamed the Cleveland, Berea & Elyria Railway. A year later it was again renamed, the Cleveland, Berea, Elyria & Oberlin Railway.
The railroad would then go through four additional name changes:
Streetcar service on the route was discontinued in 1931.
The Cleveland, Painesville & Ashtabula Railroad was a subsidiary interurban of the Cleveland, Painesville & Eastern Railroad. It operated a route connecting Painesville and Ashtabula, which began service in 1904 and was discontinued in 1926.
The Cleveland, Southwestern & Columbus Railway began operation in 1895 originally connecting Cleveland and Berea, and known as the Cleveland & Berea Street Railway.
By 1907 the railroad was able to complete its line to Columbus covering 225 miles and was renamed accordingly, the Cleveland, Southwestern & Columbus Railway. It remained in service until 1931 when the interurban was replaced by buses.
The Columbus Consolidated Street Railway began operations in 1891 and was the first of many companies to operate the property.
In 1892 it was renamed the Columbus Street Railway and by 1899 had changed again to the Columbus Railway. In 1914 the system was renamed the Columbus Railway Power & Light Company and finally in 1937 it became known as the Columbus & Southern Ohio Electric Company.
The C&SOE remained in service until 1948 when it was abandoned in favor of buses.
The Columbus, Delaware & Marion Railway began operations in March of 1903 after acquiring a number of small interurban railroads including the Columbus, Clintonville & Worthington Railway.
By the time the CD&M began it had routes serving downtown Columbus, Worthington, Delaware, Prospect and Marion. Later it also reached Bucyrus through subsidiary Cleveland Southwestern & Columbus Railway.
The CD&M relied heavily on the CSW&C for freight service and when it bankrupt in 1930 the parent soon followed. By 1933 the CD&M had abandoned all operations, replacing streetcars with buses.
The Columbus, New Albany & Johnstown Traction Company connected Columbus to Gahanna. In 1923 it was sold to the Columbus Railway Power & Light Company and by 1928 operations had been completely abandoned in favor of buses.
This interurban began operations in June, 1898 serving Dayton and Easton as well as Richmond, Indiana.
At its peak the company operated 41 miles of track (including a short 3-mile branch). In 1907 it came under the control of the Ohio Electric but was independent again in 1921.
It again came under ownership by another line in 1931, the C&LE, which operated the company until 1936. With the effects of the Great Depression the company was finally abandoned by 1937.
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 Columbus, Urbana & Western Railway began operations in 1903 connecting Columbus with Fishinger Bridge on a 9-mile railroad system. It remained in service until 1925 when operations were abandoned.
The Columbus Interurban Terminal was a freight and passenger station complex built by the Ohio Electric Railway to serve the city's exploding interurban railroad operations and give passengers a central hub from which to arrive and depart in the city.
It was built in 1912 and remained in service until the early 1930s when it was converted to a supermarket and eventually torn down in the 1960s.
The Ohio & Southern Traction Company was a privately owned interurban by a Dr. Samuel Hartman. It connected Columbus with a Hartman Stock Farm on a five-mile railroad that began operations in 1903. It remained in service until the late 1920s when operations were abandoned.
The Dayton & Xenia Transit Company of 1901 was the renamed operation of the Dayton & Xenia Traction Company of 1899. The D&XT connected Dayton, Xenia, Belmont and Spring Valley and remained in operation until 1937 when streetcars were replaced by buses.
The Dayton & Troy Electric Railway began operations in 1893 originally connecting Troy and Piqua. In 1901 it extended its reach by opening a new line between Troy and Dayton. The interurban remained in service until 1932 when it was discontinued.
The Dayton, Covington & Piqua Traction Company began operations in 1903 serving its original main line connecting Dayton and Piqua. It was a rather unsuccessful venture remaining in operation only until 1926 when operations were abandoned.
The Fostoria & Fremont Railway began operations in 1911 connecting Fostoria and Fremont on its only line. It was sold to the Western Ohio Railway & Power Company in 1930 and by 1932 had abandoned all operations.
The Lake Shore Electric Railway began operations in August of 1901 through the merger of the Lorain & Cleveland Railway; Sandusky & Interurban Railway; Toledo, Fremont & Norwalk Railway; and Sandusky, Milan & Norwalk Railway.
It would later also add the Lorain Street Railway and Avon Beach & Southern Railway to its system. At its peak the LSE hugged the Lake Erie shoreline connecting Cleveland with Detroit via Norwalk, Fremont and Toledo. A strike in 1938 forced the carrier to suspend all operations.
This interurban began service in August, 1894 as the Toledo & Maumee Valley Railway connecting its namesake towns on a 22-mile system.
It merged with the Toledo, Waterville & Southern Railway in 1902 to form the Maumee Valley Railways & Light Company which added lines to Defiance and Napoleon.
It also operated a branch to Waterville. It was later purchased by the Toledo Railways & Light Company but by the early 1920s was in financial trouble. Operations ended by 1924.
The LEBG&N began operations in in late November, 1902 serving Bowling Green and Pemberville, where there would later be an interchange with The TF&F.
Unfortunately, it served communities too small to remain profitable very long. At its peak the system was about 23 miles in length when it also reached Woodville in 1906 and later Tontogany in 1910.
It had plans to continue further but was never profitable enough to do so. In 1911 it entered bankruptcy and suspended operations by 1916 when it was sold to the TF&F.
The Fort Wayne, Van Wert & Lima Traction would become another Ohio Electric affiliate. It was rather large when it opened in November, 1905 connecting Fort Wayne (Indiana) and Lima on a 62-mile system.
Unfortunately, it mostly paralleled the Pennsylvania and by 1907 had become part of the OE. From 1921 to 1926 it was independent after the OE collapsed but entered bankruptcy itself that decade and emerged as the Fort Wayne-Lima Railroad and was again under outside control by the Indiana Service Corporation.
It again fell into bankruptcy in 1931 and was abandoned a year later.
The Lancaster Electric Railway began operations in 1895 serving the City of Lancaster. Three years later in 1898 it changed its name to the Lancaster Traction Company and again in 1906 as the Lancaster Traction & Power Company. It remained in service until 1937 when streetcar service was replaced by buses.
The S&X began service in 1902 serving its namesake cities and was originally known as the Springfield & Xenia Traction Company. However, after just two years of operation it fell into bankruptcy and was reorganized into its final name.
It was marginally provided serving the local Antioch College but fell into bankruptcy again in 1928 and was finally scrapped in the summer of 1934.
The S&W was another small interurban serving small towns. It began in late December, 1904 as the Charleston, Washington Court House & Chillicothe Traction Company operating a 15 mile system from Springfield to South Charleston.
It never made it to Chillicothe and struggled from the start falling into bankruptcy by 1904. The line went through a few name changes before being abandoned altogether by 1922.
The ST&P never reached Piqua but did open a 30-mile route serving Troy and Springfield in 1904. Most of the system was abandoned by 1923 but about 3 miles was saved for freight services as the Springfield Suburban Railroad and remained in operation until 1959.
The Lorain Street Railway began operations in 1894 serving the City of Lorain. It was renamed the Lorain Street Railroad in 1906 and continued on under this banner until streetcar service was abandoned in 1937 in favor of buses.
The Kanawha Traction & Electric Company served Parkersburg, West Virginia and Marietta, Ohio via a rail/highway bridge at Williamstown, West Virginia.
It began operations as the Parkersburg, Marietta & Interurban Traction Company being renamed as the Kanawha Traction & Electric in 1915.
In 1923 this operation became part of the expansive Monongahela-West Penn Public Service Company, which had operations in western West Virginia around Parkersburg and north-central West Virginia around Fairmont.
In 1943 the company sold off the Parkersburg-Marietta division with it being renamed the City Lines of West Virginia.
The operation lasted only a few years after the war and was subsequently abandoned. Today, the rails remain in the historic brick streets in downtown Marietta and portions of the right-of-way remain intact between Parkersburg-Marietta.
The Ohio River Electric Railway & Power Company served Racine, Pomeroy and Gravel Hill beginning operations in 1900. It operated streetcar service on about a 15-mile railroad system until 1929 when operations were abandoned.
The IC&ET was chartered in 1906 to take over several regional systems that were having monetary difficulty due to the 1903 financial panic.
Towns it would served included New Paris, Union City, Dayton, Columbus, Orient, Lima, and Defiance and had numerous connections with other lines including the large Western Ohio.
In 1907 it became part of the OE system but was again independent by 1921. Unfortunately, throughout the 1920s the company remained in bankruptcy and was slowly abandoned or sold off various lines. In 1929 it became part of the C&LE and was completely abandoned by 1939.
This small interurban served Zanesville and Crooksville on a 14 mile line that opened in 1906. It was never profitable and changed names early as the Southeastern Ohio Railway Company but was abandoned by 1924.
Another small line that was not very profitable. The company began life as the Citizens Electric Light & Power Company serving the streets of Mansfield until 1901 when it constructed a 12-mile extension to Shelby and reorganized into as the MRL&P.
It was sued in 1915 and forced to end operations. As such, it was reorganized as the Mansfield Public Utility & Service Company and was last part of the Ohio Public Service Company before being abandoned in March, 1934.
The CMS&N was a very small operation operating 18 miles between a connection at Delaware with the CD&M with the resort area of Magnetic Springs.
It originally started in 1904 as the Delaware & Magnetic Springs Railway but was merged with the Richwood & Magnetic Springs Railway in 1906 to form the CMS&N. These types of small operations never survived long and abandonment occurred early on the first day of 1919.
The W&JB began operations around 1895 as a subsidiary of the standard railroad, Columbus, Hocking valley & Toledo, serving its namesake towns. It was quite unsuccessful and abandoned very early, in 1915.
The G&NT was another small interurban that was not very successful from the started. It took over street operations in 1905 of the former Gallipolis & Point Pleasant Railway along the Ohio River near West Virginia.
In 1907 it too was taken over by the Kanauga & Gallipolis Traction Company which connected Gallipolis and Point Pleasant, West Virginia in 1908 using its own bridge across the river.
This company failed as well and became the Gallipolis & Northern Traction Company. None of these companies could ever turn a profit and the entire operation was finally scrapped in 1923.
This interurban was about 29 miles in length and served Ironton and Portsmouth.
It took the company nearly 25 years to complete the route after first opening in 1893 (around 1917). It too could not earn much profit and was abandoned by 1929 after having been renamed as the Portsmouth Public Service Company in 1923.
The Sandusky, Norwalk & Mansfield Railway began operations in 1904 initially serving Norwalk and Plymouth. By 1907 it had extended a branch between Plymouth and Shelby. In 1921 operations were sold and subsequently discontinued.
This small interurban operated just seven miles between Cambridge and Byesville, opening in 1903. In 1910 it was purchased by the Midland Power & Traction Company, which two years later was changed to the New Midland Power & Traction company.
It was able to complete a short branch to Pleasant City, about five miles, but was never able to gain an interchange with the nearby Pennsylvania Railroad. It was again acquired in 1915 by the Ohio Service Company, in whose possession it remained until abandonment in early 1927.
The CA&MV was the last interurban built in Ohio, opening in early January, 1913 purchasing a 13 mile section of the B&O's original main line between Ravenna and Alliance. It was never able to reach Cleveland and was likewise never profitable. Abandonment came very soon in just 1920.
Despite its grand name, this company operated only in Ohio on a 25 mile system that connected Conneaut, Ashtabula, and Jefferson that first opened in 1901.
It had an interchange with the Cleveland, Painesville & Erie although it was never able to generate much in the way of revenue. It was bankrupt by 1919, reorganized as the Pennsylvania & Ohio Traction Company and finally abandoned altogether by 1924.
The East Liverpool & Wellsville Street Railway began operations in 1892 serving the City of East Liverpool.
In 1897 the railroad system was renamed the East Liverpool Railway and again in 1905 as the East Liverpool Traction & Light Company.
This interurban operated for about ten years before changing hands again as the Steubenville, East Liverpool & Beaver Valley Traction Company, which it remained until 1939 when operations were discontinued in favor of buses.
The Tiffin, Fostoria & Eastern Electric Railway was the 1898 reorganization of the Tiffin & Fostoria Electric Railway. It operated a main line between Tiffin and Fostoria before being sold to the Toledo, Fostoria & Findlay Railway in 1925, which operated the line for another five years before abandoning all services in 1930.
The Toledo & Indiana Railroad in 1911 on a system originally called the Toledo & Indiana Railway (and after 1910 as the Toledo & Indiana Traction Company).
The line opened in 1905 connecting Toledo to Bryan, never reaching Indiana. It was abandoned in 1939 and after 1926 was under the direction of the Cities Service Company.
The Monroe Traction Company of 1901 was actually a Michigan interurban but would connect to Toledo in later years.
In 1902 the system was renamed the Toledo & Monroe Railway and a year later was known as the Detroit, Monroe & Toledo Short Line Railway. It changed hands again as the Detroit United Railway in 1906 and remained under this direction until services were suspended in 1928.
The Toledo & Western Railway was primarily a freight railroad but did provide interurban service. It began operations in 1901 connecting Toledo with Adrian, Michigan. Passenger services survive until 1933 and freight followed soon after in 1935.
The Toledo, Port Clinton & Lakeside Railway began operations in 1906 connecting Toledo with Marblehead. It provide passenger service until 1939 when streetcars were promptly replaced by buses.
The Toledo, Bowling Green & Southern Traction Company began operations in 1902 connecting Toledo with Findlay. It operated until 1930 when operations were discontinued.
The Toledo, Fostoria & Findlay Railway began operations in 1901 originally connecting Toledo with Findlay.
Later, the TF&F extended operations between Toledo and Fostoria via Pemberville. The TF&F was discontinued in 1930 but its main line between Fostoria and Findlay remained in service until 1932 under the Western Ohio Railway & Power Company.
The Mahoning Valley Railway began operations around the turn of the 20th century on a railroad system originally built by the Mineral Ridge & Niles Electric Street Railway of 1894 serving the Youngstown area.
It was renamed the Mahoning & Shenango Railway & Light Company in 1906 and again in 1920 as the West End Traction Company. Passenger operations survived until 1927 when they were abandoned in favor of buses.
The H-SCT was chartered in 1909 and eventually connected Nelsonville and Athens on a system that covered 15 miles.
It failed after the area's coal mines played out in the early 1920s, which resulted in decreased ridership. After being renamed as the Nelsonville-Athens Electric Railway Company it was finally abandoned by 1932.
The Youngstown & River Railroad began operations in 1909 connecting East Liverpool with Salem. The Y&OR provided both freight and passenger service with connections to both the Youngstown & Southern Railway and Pittsburgh, Lisbon & Western Railroad. It remained in service until 1931 when operations were abandoned.
The Youngstown & Southern Railroad began operations in 1904 originally connecting Youngstown and Columbiana on a railroad that stretched 16 miles.
A few years later in 1907 it extended its reach via a three-mile branch to Leetonia where it connected with the Youngstown & Ohio River.
In 1916 the passenger and freight line was reorganized as the Youngstown & Suburban Railway only to be returned to its original name in 1944. Passenger service ended in 1948 and the remaining freight operations were converted to diesel locomotives as electric service was scrapped.
The CL&AE dated back to 1900 connecting Anderson's Ferry (near Cincinnati) with Aurora, Indiana along a main line that stretched about 25 miles. In 1913 a flood forced the company into bankruptcy and was finally abandoned by 1930.
The CG&P began early in the industry, in 1886, starting as a 3-foot narrow-gauge line connecting Cincinnati and nearby Georgetown, 41 miles away.
It was standard gauged and converted to electric power in 1902 extending to Lake Allyn, Coney Island, and Russellville. Ownership of the Felicity & Bethel Railroad gave the company an additional nine miles of system.
It tried to develop an extensive freight business, even using steam locomotives for the service, but had difficulty doing so. It fell into bankruptcy in 1928 and became the Cincinnati Georgetown Railroad Company. In 1936 the road finally succumbed to abandonment.
The L&FT began operations in May of 1904 serving an 11 mile system serving its namesake towns where it also had an interchange with the Ohio Electric and Interurban Railway & Terminal Company although the latter company's broad gauge prevented much use of such.
Serving a very small area resulted in a quick abandonment as it ceased operations by just late 1918.
The C&CT began operations on April 22, 1906 connecting Cincinnati, Hillsboro, and Norwood on a 53-mile line.
It was never able to reach its original charter of Columbus and was only marginally profitable (due to the fact that the B&O had a line close by that served nearly the same towns). It fell into bankruptcy early, in 1913 and was abandoned quite early in 1919.
The Zanesville Street Railway was the first of many interurban railroads to serve the city. It began operations in 1891 but by 1896 was known as the Zanesville Railway & Electric Company.
It was renamed four more times (Zanesville Electric Railway, 1899; Zanesville Railway Light & Power Company, 1902; Columbus Newark & Zanesville Electric Railway, 1904; Southern Ohio Public Service Company, 1925) before streetcar operations were abandoned in 1929 in favor of buses.
As mentioned above, the Western Ohio owned a number of small systems. It was chartered in 1900 to connect Lima, Wapakoneta, and Minster and completed the 36-mile route two years later.
Through the next several years it grew into a 115 mile operation serving Piqua to the south and Findlay to the north along with its subsidiary systems. The company hoped to also build into Indiana but funds never allowed this and financing could no be secured.
By the early 1920s monetary difficulties slowly eroded the company and fell into bankruptcy emerging as the Western Ohio Railway & Power Company in 1928. Four years later the system was abandoned in entirely in January, 1932.
Cleveland West Side Street Railway
Community Traction (Served the Toledo area.)
Conneaut & Erie Traction Company
Consolidated Company, The (Served the area of Cambridge.)
Cuyahoga Falls Rapid Transit Company
Dayton, Springfield & Xenia Southern Railroad
Mahoning & Shenango Valley Traction Company
Mansfield Electric Railway (Served the City of Mansfield.)
Mt. Vernon Railway & Light Company
Ohio Central Traction Company
Ohio River & Columbus Railway
Richland Public Service Company
Springfield Suburban Railroad
Steubenville Traction & Light Company
Steubenville, Wierton & Wellsburg Traction Company
Toledo & Eastern Railroad
Toledo & Maumee Valley Railway
Toledo Railway & Light Company
Youngstown & Sharon Street Railway