The Chronology

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Columbus, Ohio Horsecar Era Chronology


The Columbus Street Railroad Company,  incorporated June 10, 1854 was authorized by Columbus city ordnance to  build a street railway on High Street, Broad Street, Harrisburg Pike  to past Green Lawn Cemetery, Town Street from High Street to East  Public Lane thence to Friend Street, thence on the National Road, and  "Elsewhere in Columbus as deemed expedient".  Nothing came of these  plans


An ordinance was passed authorizing the building of a street railway  on High Street, State Avenue, Town and Fourth Streets. The Columbus  Street Railroad Company actually built a double track street railway  on High Street from Union Depot to Mound Street (The Court House) a  distance of 1.2 miles.  The first horsecar ran on June 10, 1863.  The  fare was limited to seven cents or five tickets for twenty-five cents.[1]  Columbus had a population of 18,000. 


The new line built north across the Union Depot tracks and extended as  far as University Street (Poplar Street).[2]   It extended south on High Street to Stewart's Grove.  The stables and  car house were located nouth of Union Station on High Street between  Goodale Avenue and University Street.  After much community discussion  it was decided that the cars could be run on Sunday.

Two open cars were placed in service.


With the end of the war, traffic dropped off.  That along with a $5,700  assessment for improvements to High Street nearly sunk the little  line.  To keep the company in business the heavy double track was  taken up and along with the two-horsecars sold.  Light rail single  track was laid and one horse horsecars were purchased.  Conductors were  replaced with a fare box allowing the line to survive the hard times.   Within three years of these changes the line was again making a  profit.     


The North Columbus Railroad Company was  incorporated on November 25, 1865.  This company had authority to  construct from the northern terminus of the High Street line to North  Columbus (the area around fifth Avenue).  It is not clear if this  company actually constructed any track.


The Friend Street Railroad Company was  incorporated with authority to build from High Street to the County  Fair Grounds (Franklin Park).  First built to East Public Lane (Parsons  Avenue) eventually it did reach the Fair Grounds.


The East Park Place Street Railroad Company was  incorporated with authority to build on Long Street from High Street  to the County Fair Grounds.  While there were variations in the route  in various authorizations eventually the route would start at Broad  and High streets thence north to Long Street, east to Mulberry Street  (now Parkwood Avenue) south to Broad Street ending at the County Fair  Grounds (now Franklin Park).[3]

In 1876 the East Park Place Street Railroad Company built an  additional route on Cleveland Avenue north from Long Street to Mt.  Vernon Avenue thence east on Mt. Vernon to Twelfth Street.  There was  also a short branch on Washington Avenue from Mt. Vernon Avenue to  Buckingham Street to serve the U.S. Barracks (later named Fort Hayes).


The State and Oak Street Railroad Company was incorporated.  By  July track was laid from High Street to Seventh Street.  The line was  always in poor condition.  It would take until 1882 for the line to be  purchased by the Columbus Consolidated Street Railway Company rebuilt  and re-gauged to provide a viable service from Rose Avenue to High  Street and north on High Street to Union Depot.

The Glenwood & Green Lawn Railroad Company was incorporated  April 23, 1872.  It ran on West Broad Street from High Street to the  western city boundary where the "asylums" were located.  There was  also a line on Glenwood Avenue from West Broad Street to Mound Street  thence East to the Green Lawn Cemetery. This line was three and a-half  foot gauge.  (Most other horsecar lines in Columbus were five feet,  two-inch gauge at this time.  The North Columbus Railroad Company was  four feet, eight and a-half inch gauge.) 


The Columbus Street Railway Company's charter was threatened because  of alleged neglect in not running the cars to the southern terminal and in  the poor condition of the track.[4]   In addition the track north of Union depot was described as "an unmitigated  nuisance" .... "slow, irregular and dirty".  To remedy the situation  on South High Street  the space between the rails was paved to bring some improvement to the situation.

At the same time the CSR Co. was authorized to build a line on Goodale Street from  North High Street to Neil Avenue and thence on Neil avenue  to the north end of the college.


Subway tunnels were constructed under the Union depot tracks crossing  High Street.  The ramps to the tunnels were about 175 feet and the  tunnel about 325 feet in length.  Ten railroad tracks crossed over the  top of the tunnels.  It was report that the tracks were occupied up to  seven hours per day necessitating the need to build the two tunnels.

The tunnels were always unpleasant, dank and smelly from the horse  droppings.    


The North High Street Railroad (predecessor of the North  Columbus Railroad Company?) was authorized to extend its tracks on  High Street from the old corporation line at Fifth Avenue north to the  new corporation line at Arcadia Avenue. It also was allowed to share  the tunnel tracks with the Columbus Street Railway Company.


The Friend Street and East Park Place Companies were consolidated with  an improvement in service.


On December 22, 1879, the Columbus Street Railway Company, the East  Park Place Railroad Company and the Friend Street Railroad Company are  combined becoming the Columbus Consolidated Railway.  When  the horsecar lines complete electrification in 1892 the Columbus  Street Railway Company name will reappear.

Double track from South of the High Street Tunnel to Mound Street was  also authorized, on condition that the company should keep in repair  all that portion of the street or streets lying between lines drawn  one foot outside of and beyond the extreme outer rails, the company  charges but one fare of five cents in one car over its lines, a  transfer from the North High street and the State and Oak Street  companies to be granted for a single fare of five cents.

1880 or 1885[5]

 The Columbus Consolidated Street Railway Company purchased the  North Columbus Street Railway and Chariot Line.  The North  Columbus Street Railway and Chariot Line ran horsecars from Arcada  Avenue to Union Depot where the customer could change to a chariot or  to a CSR Co. horsecar.  The two lines had been sharing the High  Street subway.  The CSR Co.  immediately eliminated the chariot route  from Union Depot to downtown Columbus and was able to extend their  route north from University Street to Arcadia Avenue.


The Columbus Consolidated Street Railway Company purchased land at the  State Fair Grounds (Franklin Park) to build a stable and car house.   This eventually became the Rose Avenue shops (later renamed the Kelton  Avenue shops)


After October 1885 cars would only stop at the crossings of streets  and alleys.


June 27, 1887 permission given to build the Chittenden Avenue line  from High Street to the State Fair Grounds. This was the first  electric line using an experimental electrical system.


The company obtained permission to extend its track from Stewart  Avenue to the south corporation line.


It was authorized to double track Goodale Street and Neil Avenue.

Authority was given to construct a line on Schiller Street, from High to Bruck Street.

Authority was given to construct double track on High Street from  Chittenden Avenue north to Hudson Street.


Summary of Columbus street railways on eve of electrification taken  from the 1891 Street Railway Journal:

Columbus Consolidated Street RR Co.  - 30 miles of which 3.25 are electric, 5' 2" gauge, 45 & 52 lb girder rail.  124 cars, 4 motor cars, 540 horses, 80 mules, T H System,  President A.D. Rogers, V. President H.T. Chittenden, Sec & Treas. E.K.  Stewart, Supt. J.H. Atcherson, Capital $1,000,000 (hard to read, may  be wrong), office 12 N. High Street.

Glenwood & Greenlawn Street RR Co. - Electric, 4.5 miles, 3' 6" gauge, 46 & 52 lb rail, 8  cars, Edison System.   President A.D. Rodgers, V. President B.S.  Brown, Sec. & Treas. R.R. Rickly, Supt. Jonas Willcox. Office 9 S. High Street.

Note: The figures of mileage are for length of single track,  counting one mile of double track as two of single and counting  switches as additional length.


The Chittenden Avenue stables and car house were destroyed by fire.  Lost in the fire were 25 horsecars.  All the horses were saved.


The Glenwood & Green Lawn Railroad Company is changed to five feet,  two-inch gauge and electrified in 1891.  It became part of the new  Columbus Street Railway Co. in 1892.

The Oak Street line is electrified ending the horsecar era.


[1] It was reported that some conductors learned that they could purchase tickets at  five-cents and when given seven cents by a customer, replace it with  their own five-cent ticket putting the seven cents in their pocket.   With wages set at  $1.25 per day this was welcome added income for the conductor.

[2] Columbus  street name changes over the years:

Albert Street  to Garfield Street,

East Public Lane  to Parsons Ave,

Friend Street  to Main Street,

North Public Lane  to Naghten Street,

Rose Ave  to Kelton Ave,

Schiller Street  to Whittier Street,

Seventh Street  to Grant Ave,

South Public Lane  to Livingston Ave,

State Ave to  ? (Possibly Front Street),

Stewart Grove  to Stewart Street,

University Street  to  Poplar Street,

West Public Lane  to?

[3] The Columbus Street Railway Company objected to sharing High Street  with the East Park Place Railroad Company.  The East Park Place  officials took the typical 19th century solution of laying  their track late at night and before the CSR Co. officials could  arrange for a blocking injunction.  

[4] The streetcar company was responsible for paving the street between  the tracks and to one foot past the outside of the track.

[5] There are several publications that the author was able to access for  information, unfortunately, they don't always agree on precise  dates.    This event was listed as 1880 in one publication and 1885 in  a publication of 1892.