Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Interurban Routes We Wander


On a recent urban exploration trip to Northeast, Ohio we came across some abandoned rail cars with a peculiar history. Where did they come from? Where were they used? Crumbling on a rail line near I-71in Seville, Ohio these cars offer a glimpse into the history of we used to get around.


Cody Jay Mode and myself had met in Cincinnati before picking up Paule B in Dayton. We then set off on a trip to the Northeastern corner of Ohio. Our goal that day was to find and photograph the ruins of the former Chippewa Lake Amusement Park. We found it, but were contemplating how to go about finding a way in. After some debate and frustration, we decided to take a break and look for something else. Paule B had come across some abandoned rail cars on the internet that were nearby. We traced some rural roads on the GPS and came across a line of four or so rail car remains.


Nearby, the Northern Ohio Railway Museum stands. We assumed the cars belonged to them, but the museum was closed (they reopen to the public in May). Paule B parked his car off to the side of the road and we trekked through undisturbed snow.


Nearby, the low sounds of cars on I-71 could be heard, every now and then a car would pass by us on the nearby surface roads glancing in our direction. The rail cars sat quietly off to the side, slowly fading away further into history.


From first glance, they seemed like Interurban vehicles. Interurbans had once provided electric rail transit between nearby cities. At one time, nearly all of Ohio's small, medium and large sized cities were connected via interurban railroad networks.


These days, the landscape of transportation has changed - the muffled rumbling of the nearby highway was a sign of those changing times. The echoes of passing automobiles on the nearby overpass could be heard reverberating through the crumbling cars as we climbed our way through - making photographs and avoiding the dripping snow.


This day and age, the only rail lines connecting Ohio's major cities are of the freight variety. Passenger rail service connects Cleveland and Cincinnati to out of state metropolitan areas, but an Amtrak passenger line connecting Ohio's major cities was arrogantly scrapped by Governor Kasich a few years back.


In Ohio today, rail transit exists as infrequent Amtrak service and in the form of Cleveland's subway. Currently under construction, Cincinnati's Modern Streetcar will connect destinations in the Queen City's urban core, but all in all - rail transit in Ohio is a shell of its former self in a state that has come to depend solely on congested highways.

- Ohio City Station of the Cleveland Red Line. From the 2009 update: The Catacombs of Cleveland.
The tracks that these forsaken machines sit on runs to the nearby museum where we could see numerous restored vehicles from the United States' "trolley era." With the museum closed though, there was no one around to ask about the abandoned vehicles.

I scanned the museum's website, but could only find information on the cars they had restored and not the abandoned ones we had explored. I posted a topic on asking if anyone had information. Luckily, a member of the museum's board of directors responded.

"The cars are CH&D 101 and NOT&L 1510. The 4-wheeled frame is from a McGuire-Cummings snow sweeper. The snow sweeper frame now belongs to another museum. The sister cars, NOT&L 1519 and CH&D 105 are under roof in one of our barns. We will be open again to the public from May to October on Saturdays from 10:00AM to 4:00PM."

The "4-wheeled frame" he was referring to can be seen in this photograph below:


It once supported a vehicle that looked like this:

- Photograph from:

But what about the other vehicles? They clearly had the look of passenger vehicle interurban cars.


Most of the windows that once granted riders a view of the cities they traveled were now boarded up. Climbing into the vehicles, nothing seemed to remain of the seats - they were mostly filled with debris and rust.


According to the Urban Ohio post, one of the vehicles on these tracks is car no. 101 from the former Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton railway. The CH&D had run from 1846 - 1917 providing interurban service between the three namesake cities.

- 1894 advertisement for the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad. The building in the background is the Mosler Safe Company factory. Mosler was founded in Cincinnati and eventually moved north to nearby Hamilton. The company went out of business in 2001. Image via Wikipedia.

What CH&D No. 101 would've looked like in its prime:

- CH&D No. 100, a similar car to the abandoned ones in this article. Image via Northern Ohio Railway Museum.

The other car was No. 1510 of the Northern Ohio Traction & Light service which ran from Cleveland to Uhrichsville, Ohio. The NOT&L service seems to have ceased sometime in the early 1930's.


Apparently the museum has similar cars to the ones seen here - under shelter and fully restored. The nearby tracks run straight to the museum car barn, whose master plan is to one day be able to offer rides on their resorted pieces of history.


Even that day as we climbed through the rusted hulks of history, we had traveled interurban routes connecting Ohio's cities - although under a different transportation mode that over time was implemented in favor of riding the rails.


The previous ways of which we navigated wandering routes has been left to the museums and abandoned off the beaten path.


To learn more about the museum's valiant efforts to restore history, visit their website here.


  1. You should really look into Ohio Railway Museum. Its all the fun of abandoned trains. With a working trolley!

  2. Columbus has a railway museum in Worthington. check it out. It doesn't do well due to lack of funding.

  3. I know I've said this before, but your blog really is a nice piece of work. I appreciate all the work you put into just doing it, the photographs, but the research is really the icing on the cake. Great job, guys!

  4. A great article as usual! I've always been fascinated with trains, and hope to see more rail transit around Cincinnati and the rest of the great state of Ohio.

    I also noticed that in the old advertisement, the man sitting on the left is drinking a beer from Great Crescent Brewing Co. which operated in Aurora, Indiana from 1873 to 1899. Much like our own Christian Moerlein, that name now lives on again with the new Great Crescent Brewery in Aurora.

  5. The Cincinnati Hamilton and Dayton Railroad you discuss and show in the advertisement is not the same entity as the Cincinnati Hamilton and Dayton Railway that owned the interurban car. The 1846 to 1917 CH&D Railroad was a steam railroad that operated track now used by CSX between Cincinnati and Dayton. The abandoned car was operated by the CH&D Railway, an unrelated interurban that operated between 1926 and 1930. It was formed from part of the bankrupt Ohio Electric Railway in 1926 and merged into the Cincinnati and Lake Erie Railway in 1930. The C&LE closed in 1939 and most of the track was removed.,_Hamilton_and_Dayton_Railway_%281846%E2%80%931917%29,_Hamilton_and_Dayton_Railway_%281926%E2%80%931930%29

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