Dayton OH Interurban History
Graphical changes 1889-1941

Dayton Ohio was a hotbed of interurban railroads, from the late 19th Century thru the first four decades of the 20th Century. From approximately 1890 thru 1941, along with the approximately 14 city streetcar lines, no less than nine separate interurban operations ran on Dayton streets.

New technology, in this case, the electric railroad, filled a transportation niche heretofore unfilled. Before the interurban, to get from one place to another, one had several choices: a) walk, b) ride a horse or horse and buggy, c) take a canal boat (if there was a canal close by you and your destination), or d) take a steam train. The roads of the time were atrocious. Steam trains didn't offer the frequency of service that people were looking for, and they only took you from station to station. There was a need for fast, frequent and convenient service. Enter the 600 Volt DC powered electric interurban.

Depending on the line, they sometimes ran at the side of the road, or across open fields. Usually point-to-point service: each of the separate lines which ran in Dayton was originally a standalone line to connect cities in one direction to/from Dayton. Service was good (mostly every hour, in some cases more frequent), and the interurbans would drop off and pick up passengers along the route -- not just at stations, so it was convenient for riders. As time passed, many of these point-to-point lines were amalgamated into transportation networks where one could travel hundreds of miles on a single ride. From streets in Dayton, one could get a one-seat (not having to change trains) ride to Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Toledo and Detroit, or to Columbus.

Over time, many companies folded, and others, thinking they could make a buck where their predecessors couldn't, stepped in, and took over lines. In some respects, the interurbans of the early 20th Century were similar to the dot-com boom in the late 20th Century. New technology, in this case, the electric railroad, filled a transportation niche heretofore unfilled, in much the same ways the dot-coms filled an unfilled communications niche. Over time, though, the interurban was done in by better roads, and better vehicles, both passenger and commercial, on them. By the end of 1941, they were gone from Dayton's streets and the SW Ohio countryside.

The story of the interurban in SW Ohio is complicated quite a bit by how the owners of the lines changed in the span of just a few years. To understand how the various lines came into being, and then went away, it helps to graphically see the story on a year-by-year basis.

Click here to start your graphical journey in the year 1889.

Dayton Transit History