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Today's modern public transit systems have their origins in the early 1800-era horse-drawn omnibus in jolly old England. These conveyances, basically a closed wagon with primitive seats, collected a fare for a jouncy ride over the unpaved roadways of the day. Which was a great improvement over the previous method -- walking for the common classes. The upper classes had private carriages or rode horseback. The omnibus idea caught on like wildfire and spread throughout the larger cities of the rapidly industrializing countries. This mass transit, such as it was, was largely responsible for the decentralization of inner cities. Very little is known about omnibus operation in early Dayton, but we do know that something like it was operated between the downtown hotels and the railroad station a short distance south of the Central Business District. (The first railroad into Dayton arrived in 1852.)

Click to enlarge In the mid-1830s, someone conceived the idea of mounting the omnibus carriage on railway wheels, and constructing a light rail infrastructure (steel tracks) in the muddy public streets, which at that point were still unpaved. This was a great improvement, as it allowed a horse to pull a larger car and give Click to enlarge a faster, smoother ride. Quickly, horsecar tracks were laid in many cities, and the street railway industry overnight became the dominant business in most cities. The first street railway line in Dayton, the Dayton Street Rail Road Company, was constructed in 1869, and ran entirely on Third Street, from the west side at Western Avenue, to the east side at Findlay Street. It was an immediate success, and made its owners, Huffman and Williams, wealthy men. (Huffman and Williams also had large real estate developments at each end of the line. Thus, urban sprawl had its beginnings.) Seeing their great success, other Dayton capitalists built the Oakwood Street Railway, the Dayton View line, the Wayne Avenue line, and the Fifth Street line. All pulled by hundreds of horses and mules.

As you can imagine, these hundreds of draft animals made the streets horribly unsanitary messes. (A profitable sideline business for the streetcar companies was the sale of manure to local farmers.) Something better, and cleaner, was certainly needed to mitigate this widespread pollution.

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