Brief History of Electric Transit in Dayton
8, 2007 will mark the 119th anniversary of continuous electrically-propelled public transit in Dayton, Ohio.
No other city in the USA can make that claim.
Although some cities did start electric transit before
Dayton, none have operated continuously as has Dayton.
Lima and Cleveland started electric operations earlier,
but abandoned them for one reason or another. Only five
cities in the USA currently have electric trolleys -
Boston, Dayton, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle.
8, 1888, the new White Line Electric Railway Company of Dayton
operated their first electric streetcars from their barn
at Washington and Cincinnati streets. Free rides were given
the first day, and several fights broke out among those vying
to ride that first car.
Line was built as a new railway, and was not an electrification
of an existing horse-car line. It was an instant success,
and the other (horse/mule-car which began in 1870) lines
quickly electrified; the last horses/mules were retired by
The White Line cars from the very beginning used the now-familiar
upward-pushing pole against the trolley wire, where before
the other cities had an ill-fated troller device riding on
top of the trolley wires. (The term trolley came from troller.)
Some interesting situations took place in the summer of 1888,
during construction and initial operations of the new White
Line Electric Railway.
The line was constructed with all new tracks, except downtown
where they shared existing tracks, begrudgingly, with the White
Line Electric Railway using the Oakwood Street Railway mule-car
after operation of the new electric cars commenced, the mules
of the Oakwood line started "tap-dancing" on their
tracks whenever a White Line car was running nearby. Sparks
often shot out of their tails, too! After the Oakwood line
hauled the White Line into court with a stop order, it was
soon resolved by electrically bonding the mule-car tracks
together. This stopped the electric current from leaking
into the surrounding moist earth, and into the mule's iron
shoes, through their belly, and out their tails. No more
In 1896, the
White Line became one of the major components of the new Peoples'
Street Railway Co. The White Line/Peoples was most prosperous in
those days. They built public amusement parks at each end of their
line, Fairview on the North end, and Lakeside at the West end.
they had to haul trailer cars to handle the crowds. The big event
each Sunday afternoon was to watch an elk jump into
the Fairview Lake from a platform. Everybody went
home happy, on the electric White Line streetcars.
The first electric
trolley bus (ETB) operation in Ohio was on April 23, 1933
when the Linden-Salem line converted from rail to rubber-tired trackless
as we know them today.
In 1941 City
Railway Company purchased Dayton Street Railway. The Peoples' Street
Railway Co. merged into City Railway in
1945. The final running of street (rail) cars took place
September 1947, when electric trolley buses (ETBs) replaced
the rail cars on the 3rd Street line.
Railway became City Transit Co. in 1955, and the new
Miami Valley Regional Transit Authority (now the Greater
Dayton Regional Transit Authority, or RTA) took over
public transit operations in November 1972. The RTA renewed
its commitment to electric transit with a Board of Trustees
vote to continue the Electric Trolley Bus service in
1991, and the purchase of a new fleet of ETBs in 1998.