THE TRACTIONS OF DAYTON
By Charles F. Sullivan
After the Peoples line had demonstrated that electric power could be used for street car service, being more economical and reliable, a company was formed to build and operate a line to run from here to Miamisburg. This was ridiculed, and no one expected it to be a success for there were two railroads already in operation between these places and they did not haul enough people to pay to make the stops demanded of them.
A double track was laid in the city but a single track from there on, and the first cars were quite small, single trucks and the capacity of about 20 seated and plenty of standing room.
These cars were soon filled to overflowing and larger cars were demanded and the next cars were double track and carried a seated load of about fifty and as many more standing. It was not long until it was found necessary to run them double header or two close together, during the rush hours, with the line ending at Miamisburg. It was found that many people living in the burg were getting jobs in Dayton and going back and forth every day, which was a surprise for all. After this was in operation a year or so, a Chautauqua was planned to operate in a grove just above the dam north of Franklin, and the Traction was built on to Franklin, Middletown and Hamilton and the Chautauqua built a bridge over the Miami at that place to carry the people across the river. This was a big attraction and the traction was busy hauling the people there for the several weeks it was in operation in the summer. As there were no buildings there, arrangements were made to rent tents from here and the traction was to haul them to the grounds, which was done, and other supplies were needed and the traction had to haul them. At first they built a small car that they hitched to a passenger car, and sent it down several times a day. The next year they had a freight motor car for the work and from this beginning a freight business, requiring many freight cars and a motor car strong enough to haul them, was built up until the city passed an ordinance not allowing a train of more than one motor car and 5 trailers, and these trains were nearly a half block long, and when making turns they would move slowly, for the safety of it, they would block traffic greatly.
A traction was built from Hamilton to Cinti and through tickets were sold from here to Cinti at much less than railroad fare. Later these two lines were consolidated and cars ran through in a little over two hours, and the most of that time was spent in getting from the city out to Winton place, by street car.
This was thought to be good service and was used greatly, for cars ran through every hour during the day. In 1904 & 5, Hoglen and Kline had the contract of building the Third street river bridge, and arranged to get the gravel from the pit, just off of the Dixie highway and north of Jas Cox residence, and the traction agreed to haul it for us for they had a large motor car and plenty of gravel cars that they used in construction work on their own road, and when we wanted gravel they were always there to bring in six cars in one train. By the use of this plan, we always had a plenty of gravel at all times, of fine quality, and at lower cost than we could have obtained it in any other way. When first built the traction followed the Dixie highway to Franklin, but there was a dangerous railroad crossing at Moraine and to avoid that, they built a new track from Southern Hills to W Carrollton and went up over the railroad and could make much better time by its use.
As direct current was used by the cars it could not be successfully carried over about twelve miles, so it was necessary to have three power houses, one at Dwyers (better known as Moraine) one at Franklin and one at Hamilton. Later it was found that power could be carried long distances at high voltage and alternating current upon a smaller wire, with transformers occasionally and this change was made and two power houses were discontinued.
There were two branches off of this line, one from Miamisburg to Germantown, and the other from Franklin to Lebanon, and both of these filled a great need for many years but with the advent of the auto and truck, the need diminished until both were discontinued about fifteen years ago.
After this traction was in good order and showing the great need of them, many others were built and many planned that were never built, and Dayton became a great traction center. Our merchants would go to the surrounding towns and tell the people that they would repay their fare with the purchase of a bill of goods.
This brought many residents of the rural districts to Dayton to trade and that was a great help to the merchants here. At first there were nine tractions in operation here but as I cannot give you the dates of their construction, I will just take them in order around this city.
The Dayton & Western had their ticket office with the C & L E at Third and Kenton and used the City railroad tracks to Abbey street where they used their own rails to Eaton and Richmond. There they connected with another road to Indianapolis and there with all of Indiana and western points. This line had a good steady business for many years, but as the auto came in, the traction lost until just a few years ago, when they discontinued service.
The Dayton & Northern came into this city from Fairview avenue over the Peoples line tracks, and then over Fairview to Salem and on to Greenville and Union city. They also had a good suburban trade, and as autos came in they lost out and a train dispatcher spoke of the D & U railroad “Henry Ford killed the D & U railroad” and not only the railroad but all the tractions running into Dayton.
The Dayton Covington & Piqua also used the Peoples tracks to the Hillcrest avenue and then on by the pike through Englewood, West Milton Pleasant Hill Covington and then across to Piqua. As it went up the Stillwater valley the scenery was beautiful and they located their barns and power houses in W Milton where they owned a beautiful park called Overlook park which was popular for picnics, but it finally had to bow to Henry Ford.
Two roads were built to Xenia and that was too many and soon the Rapid Transit Co gave up their charter to follow the Xenia pike, leaving all business for the D & X which continued until summer of 1940 when they gave up, placing electric busses on the city part of the road. They also built a branch leaving their line at the Smithville road and going through Beavertown, Bellbrook to Spring Valley but it was never a paying proposition and gave up many years ago.
The Dayton Springfield and Urbana used the Third street tracks to Springfield street and then on through Osborn Medway to Springfield via the Valley pike. When the World war came on there was much work at the Fairfield Air Depot and this made lots of traffic to it for construction and after that for regular employees, and for a long time this company was prosperous. They merged with many other lines, the C & L E among them and bought a lot of new cars, that were very swift, and when these were in operation all the old wooden ones were gathered at Moraine and a large bon fire was made of them and a big crowd was present to see the sight. From that time, business began to go down and a couple of wrecks occurred and one division after another gave up service until now all that is left is the city service here at Dayton.
The Dayton & Troy, had their ticket upon S Jefferson and using the Peoples tracks to Valley street then on up the Dixie to near Tipp city where they went across through it and back to the pike close to Troy and then to Piqua. There they made connection with the Western Ohio and made a through line to Toledo and Detroit and they had a good passenger business at first but their freight business grew and grew and many times I have seen a traction power car hauling 5 trailers starting for the north and that became the most profitable part of their business. They built a fine freight depot in 1920 upon Pond street here, and it was the intention to run the cars straight out Webster, but it was never done and later a fire destroyed their barns and cars at Tipp city crippling them badly. About noon one day in 1932 they started out of here with two cars heavily loaded and as they were going across the Miami river, close to Triangle Park, upon their own bridge, it gave away and dropped them into the dry part of the channel. This cut the road in two pieces and as they could not afford a new bridge, they gave up service and busses and trucks were placed upon the route.
The freight house here is now used as a truck depot and serves them as well as it did the traction cars.
At the beginning of the century every thing looked prosperous for the traction lines and Dayton was advertising our selves as a traction center and several more lines were under consideration, yet in 40 years all tractions have given up service. Here is the reason for it, The Olds Motor Co began selling autos in 1899, and the Cadillac in 1901 and Ford and Packard in 1903 and many others in the next few years and while at first they were not too successful yet they have been improved constantly until now the most reliable way of travel is in your own automobile.