Public Transportation in the Miami Valley
Charles F. Sullivan
The earliest means of transportation in the valley was walking or by skiff or raft upon the river. The first settlers, 36 in number, came here from Cincinnati, leaving there March 21, 1796 in three parties, two, to come by land and one by river and this party arrived first in ten days, landing near the head of St. Clair street, and the others arrived here four days later. This was very slow travel, for now we can go there by railroad in 75 minutes, and I will trace the gradual speeding up to the present time.
One of the early settlers built a grist mill on the Little Miami, and became a very influential citizen of that locality and the town where he settled was named for him, Morrow. When Ohio was admitted to the union, Jeremiah Morrow was elected United States Senator and soon he had a resolution passed in Congress to build a road from Washington to Columbus, Ohio, now called U S route 40, and it was complete to Wheeling by 1817 and Columbus [by] 1825. This was a big improvement, for it was easy to follow the road, but as it was a mud road it was almost impassable during the winter.
Steam boats began making regular trips from Pittsburg to New Orleans in 1811, but there was the falls of the Ohio at Louisville, that allowed only travel on the river during high water. A canal was built around it in 1830 and boats made regular trips after that, but how could people and freight get from Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington?
My great grand parents lived in Salon, Va., and decided they did not want to live in a slave state, and moved by empty salt wagons over the mountains to Cauley Bridge, and when all the party arrived there they bought a flat boat and floated down the Kanawha and Ohio to Cincinnati.
Baltimore was the first city in the U. S. to start a railroad and Evan Thomas took subscriptions to build the B & O R. R. Ground was broken on July 4, 1827, by a big celebration and the road was in operation 25 miles in one and half years, by 1836 to Harpers Ferry and to Wheeling Jan. 1, 1853. Twenty-five years to get through the mountains and without any experience in building a railroad was a good job.
Coming back to Ohio, the State Legislature granted a charter to the Mad River & Lake Erie railroad to build from Sandusky to Springfield on Jan. 1, 1832. Construction started September 1835, and trains began running to Bellevue, 16 miles, Dec. 14, 1841.
The first passenger cars on this line were two story, 16 passengers down and 14 up stairs with no protection from the weather or sparks from the locomotive. The first train from the north came into Springfield Aug. 10, 1846 and as funds ran out at that time, construction was halted.
March 11, 1836, the Little Miami railroad was incorporated with the stock per value of fifty dollars per share and the passenger fare was to be three cents per mile. A peculiar privilege was granted the public, to use this track for their own private cars paying a cent and a half per mile per passenger, but this was rescinded in 1840.
Work was started from Cincinnati in 1837 and Jeremiah Morrow, former U. S. Senator was elected president and was continued in this office for 11 years, until the completion of the construction work.
At that time they did not have modern machinery to do the work so it was slow in completion as all work had to be done by man or horse power, and frequently the money was also slow in coming because they also had hard times during its construction.
When considerable of the road was graded, they laid cross ties 10 feet apart and between them 6’ x 6’ oak stringers and upon these stringers laid the strap iron rails two and a half inches by three-quarters inch thick.
They sent their engineer east and he bought the rails from England, and a locomotive from Patterson, N. J. and it was shipped by boat around to New Orleans and up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and the locomotive cost seven thousand dollars and the freight was seven hundred thirty dollars.
When this track came into use, it was found not to be solid enough but as they knew no other way they made it do the work until in the 1850s the T rail, 60 lbs. to the yard, came into use and they were able to buy them in the good old U.S.A. The early railroads had a wide difference in gauge, from 3 to 6 feet wide but the Little Miami took the English standard of 4 feet eight and one-half inches and that has become the almost universal gauge at this time. Cincinnati would not allow the locomotive to come into the city because they would scare the horses, so horses pulled the cars to the depot, until 1854.
The first train to Milford, 17 miles, December 14, 1841, carried the city officials and a big celebration was had.
The lines was opened for business to Xenia August 1845 and to Springfield on August 10, 1846. Cincinnati subscribed two hundred thousand dollars, Xenia fifty thousand dollars and the balance by private subscription and in 1847, they owned 15 locomotives and in 1848 they installed the telegraph, making railroading much safer. At first the speed was not more than 16 miles but after the T rails were in use, it was raised to 24 & 30 miles and the weight of the engines jumped from thirteen and a half to twenty-five tons.
The Columbus and Xenia was completed in 1850 and the Little Miami was built about 15 miles of it to the east Greene county line. After this was complete, they advertised a train leaving Cincinnati at 5:20 A.M. and arriving at Columbus at 11:30 and Buffalo in time for supper. Also leaving Cincinnati at 2:30 P.M. arriving at Sandusky at 6:00 A.M. the next morning over the Mad River and Lake Erie road.
Dayton 15 miles from Xenia and 21 from Springfield, had only the canal, and it took 24 hours to reach Cincinnati by it. Mrs. Conover in her story of Dayton says “In November of 1846, this humiliating situation was under discussion in a meeting in city hall. One said it was very well for Xenia and Springfield to have a railroad they needed it, we did not. We had a canal and when one could reach Cincinnati in 24 hours, what possible need to get around any faster?” Another speaker reminded the meeting that “locomotives were frightful things—noisy monsters pouring black smoke over the landscape and going at such speed as would make them run over anything that got in their way, from a pig to a stockholder. Boilers had been known to explode and kill people.” After this meeting the money was subscribed and the road built to Springfield and service began Jan 29, 1851. When this road came into the city, they followed the N. Y. C. right of way down into their yard between First and Monument Ave. and built their depot between Foundry and the canal where the present freight house is now located and their roadhouse at the southeast corner of Monument and Webster where a coal yard is now located.
This railroad and the canal brought the business center of the city toward the basin and the Swaney hotel was built upon east First opposite Foundry where the Delco big building is now located.
The railroad made it possible to start two industries, the Dayton Gas Co. and the Barney & Smith Car Co., the latter company employing as many as 4,000 men during the World war. Both of them needed the railroad to bring them the material to use in the work and also to deliver the manufactured products.
The population of Dayton in 1850 was 11,000 and with the new industries and a good water power supplied by the canal, Dayton became a good industrial city and other railroads were needed in other directions.
Shoemaker built the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton from 1849 to 1852 and when this was complete, he went on with the construction of the Dayton & Michigan and finished at Toledo in 1859. These were separate companies but worked together, running the cars through, but changing engines here at Dayton.
The Dayton, Xenia and Belpre road was built as far as Xenia with the assistance of the Little Miami in 1853 but it never went any further. The same year Valentine Winters built the Dayton & Western to the state line but as the Ohio corporation could not build in Indiana, the Richmond and Miami was incorporated to finish to Richmond, 5 miles. These two were soon merged with the D. & X. and were a part of the Little Miami, and with the other connections good service was given to the east.
The Greenville and Miami was built the same year and Dayton became quite a railroad center and we could ship goods in almost every direction. By 1860 the population had doubled in ten years and because of the good water power of the canal and the railroads, Dayton had quite a reputation as a big industrial center.
Then came the Civil war and our factories were short handed because of the boys going into the army. General Morgan of the Confederacy made a raid through southern Ohio and ambushed the accommodation of the Little Miami R. R. near Morrow, wrecking the locomotive, killing the fireman, and burning four cars in 1862. During the war the government needed some rails to repair some wrecked roads in the south, and asked the Greenville & Miami to use the tracks of the Little Miami from Dodson into this city and take up their own tracks for use elsewhere. This was done and ever since the two roads use the same tracks and bridges that far.
The Atlantic & Great Western was incorporated in 1851 to run from Warren, Ohio to Dayton, but it was not complete until 1864 and it was a broad gauge and the only one entering Dayton, 6 feet gauge.
From here to Cincinnati they laid a third rail on the C. H. & D. road and their trains went straight through making connections with the steamboats on the river and also with the Ohio and Mississippi Rv. to St. Louis which was also a broad gauge at that time.
This continued until 1867, when the A. & G. W. went into the hands of a receiver and a hoist was placed in the east yards at Dayton and cars going south were hoisted upon and the tracks changed and went on by the C. H. & D.
About 1860, the Little Miami made traffic agreements with other roads and sold tickets to Pittsburg and intermediate points through without change of cars.
The Mad River & Lake Erie merged with others in the upper part of the state, under the name of the Cleveland, Sandusky & Cincinnati Railroad.
Up to 1863 all locomotives were wood burners, when the Little Miami tried out a coal burner which looked very strange with its small stack, when the old wood burners had such large stacks. By this time they were able to get coal from Pennsylvania and it was found to be much cheaper and better than wood. Feb. 23, 1870, the P. C. & St. L. Railroad leased the Dayton & Xenia, the Dayton & Western, with the Richmond & Miami, and the Columbus and Xenia, making quite a system and together they owned 47 locomotives, 35 passenger, 20 baggage and 714 freight cars. Other mergers in 1890 changed the name to the P. C. C. & St. L. Railroad and cars were run through without change, and tickets and baggage checked to destination.
The first depot in Dayton was north of First street and east of the canal for the Mad River and Lake Erie, and the first C. H. & D. depot was located in a brick store room at the corner of Sixth and Jefferson. Soon after the Pennsylvania lines coming through this city, found it necessary to cut off a back corner of this building to allow trains to pass it. This depot was soon found too small and a Union Depot was built west of Ludlow on Sixth, but the old depot stood until the trucks were elevated and then torn down and the old location is in the middle of Sixth east of Jefferson.
The next depot was considered a wonderful affair when first built, probably in the 60s, for it was an old building when I first remember it. Built of brick, and with a large arch in the east and west walls allowing three tracks through it and all roofed over, with the waiting and other rooms upon the south side, and it was considered fine when new. But railroads were new and as they were the only means of travel business grew rapidly and [the] depot was soon too small. Added to this the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Indianapolis system was formed and built through Dayton and for a depot they built a frame affair upon the north side of the depot and this was in use in 1876 but soon after they used the Union Depot making it very crowded. Sometimes when excursions were running, it seemed almost impossible for trains to get through the depot, without an accident. The public made a great howl about this condition and demanded a new depot, and after many years a new depot was built which is still standing, but was remodeled when the tracks were elevated.
The A. & G. W. took a day in 1878, Sunday, off and moved their tracks together making the road a standard gauge, and borrowed some locomotives from the C. H. & D. and other roads to operate their trains while their own were being made to fit the standard gauge, and this road was called the N. Y. L. E. & W., the N. Y. P. & O. and now is known as the Erie.
When the Big 4 road was being considered they planned to follow the canal down to Calvary cemetery and then over the hill and they made quite a fill upon James Cox’s farm south of the city and about 300 feet east of the Dixie, but they changed their plan to the present route.
The C. H. & D. soon merged with the D. & M. and ran their trains through to Toledo and later on to Detroit and in 1916 they merged with the B. & O. and since then they have had lots of business and plenty of equipment to take care of this business.
The Big 4 has kept merging continually and now is a part of the N. Y. C. system and accepts business for any place in the country.
The D. & U. is only 40 miles long and at first did an enormous passenger business but when the traction came in and paralleled them and the farmers began buying autos and using them, business went down and now they run only a local freight to Union City and back, but that is all, and it is operated by the B. & O. system.
An old train dispatcher told me once that “Henry Ford killed the D. & U. R. R.” and this is exactly what he did by selling the autos to the farmers and they used them to go everywhere, killing the railroad.
At first all trains stopped at east Third street crossing for passengers as well as at the Union depot, and the Little Miami made a third stop at west Third for Miami City, then a separate city with their own post office, but that was all discontinued at the beginning of this century. Trains were put on a faster schedule and more traffic accidents occurred and the demand was made for elevated tracks. This was agreed upon and the tracks were elevated through the main part of the city, which was good as far they went but along came the depression and neither railroad nor city were able to raise the money needed for the work and we still have many grade crossings that are the cause of many accidents. When will it be possible to go ahead with this much needed work?
When I was still in the grade schools, it was reported that there was an excellent grade of coal in Jackson county, 100 miles from here, and if a railroad was built to it, it would be cheaper and better for heating purposes than wood which was used by nearly all.
There was rivalry between Springfield and Dayton and both started to build a railroad to those mines about 1879, Springfield built a standard gauge road while Dayton built a narrow gauge, just three feet wide. Our road was called the Dayton and Southeastern going through Xenia, Washington Court House, where they crossed the O. S. from Springfield, then on to Chillicothe and Wellston, and I think our road was through first but as it was narrow gauge with small engines and cars, we did not haul half as much per train as the O. S. When this road was complete father took me on a trip to Wellston, where we were met by Theodore Fluhart, then working for the Wellston Coal Co., and in the afternoon we went down in the mine and saw the coal being dug and loaded into the mine cars. The next morning we boarded a caboose and started toward Coalton, picking up loaded coal cars, at several mines along the way. At Coalton we met either John or Frank Patterson, who were operating a mine at Coalton, and I was much interested in seeing the coal loaded into cars there. All three of these men were Daytonians and went down there to develop mines and were quite successful, for Fluhart later owned three mines and operated them until they were completely worked out, while the Pattersons after working up the business sold out and went into the Cash Register business, and this had made Dayton known all over the world as the home of the N. C. R. Another road was built from here through Stillwater Junction, Englewood, Covington, Celina, Delphos to Toledo as a narrow gauge, and from Delphos was quite a way but when money ran out, it was sold to the Clover leaf and the line from Delphos to Dayton was bought by Ringling Bros. but after operating it for several years, at a loss it was discontinued and the rails taken up and the D. P. & L. Co, use the right of way for their high tension lines running to the north.
Another line was built to Cincinnati through Beavertown and Lebanon, and it was good to carry the coal from the D. & S. S. but it never paid and was divided one part being called the Dayton Lebanon and Cincinnati and the other Cincinnati, Lebanon and Northern, and operated separately for many years and both were made standard gauge, but finally both pieces were taken in as a part of the Pennsylvania system and now comes into the city past the N. C. R. Co.
The C. H. & D. bought the Wellston division many years ago and widened the gauge and it was a profitable line for many years but when the Number 2 seam was worked out, in 1922, business was very poor, but since then they have been receiving much business from both the N. & W. and the C. & O. at Chillicothe, especially coal mined in W. Virginia and Virginia for all points on the B. O. road. The B. O. also have all the tracks of the narrow gauge in this city and also the old Home Avenue road and on account of its location through the city it has become a very valuable distributing system for many factories, and other users of the road have located upon these tracks. The D. & S. E. was not a good investment from a financial standpoint, but when you consider the upbuilding of the city because of the cheap, reliable supply of coal for steam and domestic needs, it was a great success, for Dayton would never have grown to its present size, without a coal supply for steam purposes for the factories located here at this time.