This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on November 30, 1996
BANKER WORKED HARD TO KEEP D&W ON TRACK
by Roz Young
In 1899, Valentine Winters bought the Dayton and Western interurban line. Winters was president of the Winters National Bank, which stood for years on the northeast corner of Second and Main, where the Kettering Tower now stands
At the time, the D&W line ran from Dayton to Eaton; by 1903 the tracks were finished to Richmond. By the time the tracks to Richmond were completed, tracks from Indianapolis to Richmond were also almost finished, and Winters dreamed of operating a through service to the Hoosier city with special equipment.
He ordered two cars from the Barney and Smith Car Co. similar to the original D&W cars, except that these two were fitted out as parlor cars with a small galley to serve drinks and sandwiches. The trip would take 4 1/2 hours one way.
The special service started in 1904, but it ran for only one year. The cars were too small and slow to make the service profitable.
In 1907, Winters tried again with longer and faster cars provided by the Terre Haute, Indianapolis and Eastern railway, which owned the tracks from Richmond to Indianapolis. He then leased the D&W Ohio Electric, which operated the system until 1920, when the company went bankrupt. Winters took back the company and temporarily halted service because of the poor condition of the equipment. He ordered two more cars built in Cincinnati and once again began the Dayton-Indianapolis run.
The 1913 Dayton flood proved disastrous to the Barney and Smith Car Co. The company went into receivership, with Winters as receiver. It struggled out of receivership after three years, but in 1918 the company again went into receivership and, after trying to survive for three more years, foreclosure proceedings caused the stockholders to try to sell the company. One of the last jobs Barney and Smith completed was rebuilding the two Cincinnati cars and the old D&W parlor cars for Winters.
D&W announced new cars for the Dayton-Indianapolis run early in 1922 with three daily trips of 3 hours, 55 minutes. Trips left the station at East Third and Kenton streets daily at 8 a.m., 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Faster freight service was also added. Later Winters had three additional D&W cars rebuilt in the shop of the Oakwood Street Railway on Brown Street.
At first business was brisk; it continued profitable until 1929. Winters even added a traveling chair-car trip daily from Dayton and return, but it soon ended because, at 50 cents extra, the porter was often the only passenger aboard.
By 1930, the Depression cut the number of passengers and freight.
Frank Currigan was appointed receiver for the D&W in 1932. He kept the line operating primarily because it was the only trolley connection for freight between Dayton and Indianapolis after the Lima and Ft. Wayne interurban closed the same year. He used small cars from the Cleveland-Oberlin route of the Cleveland Southwestern line for passenger service to Richmond. The cars looked like city railway trolleys.
No improvements to the track had been made for years, and they became rougher and rougher.
Finally in 1936, what was left of the Indiana Railway system, operating in receivership, leased the tracks from Richmond, improved it and started running better, faster and larger Indiana cars into Dayton. Business picked up a bit and probably would have held on a little longer, but a judge in Indiana advised the receiver of the IRS to shut down the Dayton line in 1937.
By 1939 all the traction lines in the state had gone out of business.
This story of the D&W history came from an unpublished letter by the late Reed Prugh, a Dayton surgeon for many years and an interurban buff.
A personal note: The D&W ran past my grandmother's farm on the Eaton Pike, and whenever we visited there, the children ran into the front yard to watch the cars go by. If we had a penny to spare, sometimes we put it on the tracks and marveled afterwards at the flattened coin. Two crossed straight pins when run over by the traction looked like a miniature pair of scissors. Of course, the flattened penny couldn't be spent for anything, and the scissors wouldn't cut, but we had a wonderful time waiting for the giant car to come dashing down the rail and over our treasures.