The Last Streetcar

Home ← Streetcars ← Last Streetcar

The Last Streetcar

         On September 5, 1948, the last Columbus streetcar line was converted to trolley coach. After 85 years - 27 years with horse drawn streetcars and 58 years with electric streetcars - there would be no rails in Columbus city streets. This article from 1948 sums up the 15 year "modernization" program started in 1933 that eliminated the streetcar. In their place would be the trolley coach and motor bus.

The End of an Era

Streetcar Passed From City Scene As Last Trolleys Run
Columbus Dispatch - September 5, 1948

         When the two "last cars" on the Main-Neil line left Neil and 11th Avs and Main St and Drexel Av simultaneously at 12:20 Sunday Morning and each made its way to the Kelton Av car house for the last time, the incident had a double significance.

         First, it marked the end of streetcars in Columbus; second, it completed the modernization of the city's transportation system, save for a few "clean-up" operations, at a cost of more than $8,000,000. Also it was the last run on the old Main-Neil line. Sunday morning at 5:30 the Main St division became a part of the Main-Indianola trolley coach line and at 5:45 a.m. the Neil Av division a part of the Neil-Parsons trolley coach line.

         Begun 15 years ago, but interrupted by the war conditions through a period of seven years, the conversion of the Columbus transportation system from streetcar to motor bus or trolley coach has now been accomplished on all lines and there yet remains only the task of removing rails and repaving on a few streets, which is designed for completion before the end of next year.

         The first step in the plan of the company to replace streetcars, limited to operation on fixed rails, with modern mobile equipment, was taken in 1933 when the Cleveland Av streetcar line was changed to trolley coach operation from Mecca Rd to High and State Sts.

         The program continued normally through 1940, during which seven-year period trolley coaches were installed on the Sullivant Av, Oak-Indianola and Broad-Mt. Vernon lines; buses were substituted on the Worthington, Leonard-West Mound, Arlington-Grandview, 11th-Chittenden and Bexley feeder lines; and three new buses lines were established - Hague Av, Frebis Av and Eastgate feeder.

         Then in 1941 came a government order prohibiting the substitution of other equipment for streetcars and the company was required to suspend its plans for further improvement. Fortunately, however, during a four-year period from 1934 to 1937, the company had purchased 74 used streetcars to tide it over while new equipment was being installed and these cars served well during the later war-time emergency when it was as difficult to obtain streetcars as it was to buy buses or trolley coaches.

         In 1942, the company was able to purchase two used 35-passenger buses and in 1943 it was fortunate to acquire 10 more used, 32-passenger buses. The only new equipment released to the company by the War Production Board during the war was one lot of 10, 36-passenger motor bused obtained in 1945. Not until 1947 was it able to secure delivery of equipment and materials in sufficient amount to resume its modernization plan on a normal scale.

         During 1947 the North-and-South-High, the High-Whittier and the Long-Livingston streetcar lines were converted to trolley coach operation; the West 5th Av, East Board express and the East Main feeder bus lines were inaugurated and cross-town lines were established on Hudson St and Ohio Av.

         Today, - Sunday, Sept. 5, 1948, - brings the final steps in the program with abandonment of streetcars on Neil Av and Main St and the establishment of trolley coach service on these lines.

         The new lines which have been established since the modernization program was inaugurated total 20.75 miles in length as follows: Hague Av, 2.66 miles; Eastgate, 1.25; North and South Bexley, 2.75; E. Broad St express, 4.75; Hudson St, 4.00; Ohio Av, 3.34; E. Main St, 2.00 miles.

         The company has also made line extensions totaling more than eight miles, as follows: Cleveland Av, Agler Rd to Mecca Rd; Sullivant Av, Hague Av to Binns Blvd; Fifth Av-Arlington, Wyandot Rd to Cambridge Blvd; Indianola Av, Oakland Park Av to Torrence Rd; Leonard Av, Ohio Av to fifth Av and Krumm Rd; Mt Vernon Av, Taylor Av to a point east of Woodland Av; W. Broad St, Hague Av to Southampton Av; Long St, Parkwood Av to near Nelson Rd; Livingston Av, Kelton Av to east of Bulen Av; N. High St, Blenheim Rd to Jeffrey Pl; Whittier St, Lockbourne Rd to Seymour Av; E. Broad St express, Broad St to James Rd.

         Abandonment of streetcars has brought about a radical change in the company's facilities for housing its transportation equipment. Out of six streetcar houses, three were abandoned sometime ago: North High, South High and Merritt St; and a fourth Kelton Av, will soon be out of service. Two Others Glenwood Av and Cleveland Av, have been converted to trolley coach stations.

         A new trolley coach station, costing $310,000, has already been completed a W. Broad and McDowell St, and a new bus garage costing $132,600 and housing all busses operated by the company, has been erected on 9th St in the rear of the Cleveland Av coach station.

Costs for the 15-year modernization program 1934-1948

$3,432,990.76 241 trolley coaches
$1,074,393.04 130 motor buses
$578,261.24 74 used streetcars
$49,971.45 Special equipment for buses and coaches
$678,476.68 Land and buildings inc. new bus garage and coach station
$1,271,681.30 Construction of over head lines for coach operation
$1,085,414.68 Removal of tracks and repaving streets through 1948
$177,000.00 Cost to complete removal and repaving work in 1949
$8,348,189.15 Total costs for 15-year modernization projects

A detailed record of the 15-year progress of the Company's program of modernization

Dec. 3, 1933 Cleveland Av. Line changed from streetcar to trolley coach operation terminating at High and State Sts. Route extended northward on Cleveland Av from Agler Rd. to Mecca Rd. approximately 800 feet.
Nov. 12, 1934 Streetcar operation to Worthington discontinued, High St car service extended from Oakland Park Av to Blenheim Rd and bus line substituted between Blenheim Rd and Worthington.
Dec. 16, 1934 Eleventh and Chittenden cross-town line changed from streetcar to bus operation.
May 5, 1935 S. Hague Av feeder bus line established to run from Sullivant Av north to Broad St, west to Sylvan Av, a distance of 1.5 miles.
May 5, 1935 Sullivant Av line changed from streetcar to trolley coach operation and combined with Cleveland Av line to form the Cleveland-Sullivant Av line. Route extended westward on Sullivant Av from Hague Av. to Binns Blvd, approximately 1250 feet.
Dec. 29, 1935 Leonard and W. Mound line changed form streetcar to bus operation.
March 22, 1936 Arlington-Grandview line changed from streetcar to bus operation. Route change to run on Goodale Av to Northwest Blvd, thence north to First Av and return to former route.
March 22, 1936 Fifth Av cross-town line extended westward from Wyandotte Rd to Cambridge Blvd, approximately 700 feet.
April 26, 1936 Leonard Av bus line extended westward from Leonard and Ohio Avs to E. Fifth Av. and Sterling Rd. approximately three miles.
Nov. 1, 1937 Eastgate feeder bus line inaugurated, to run from end of Mt. Vernon Av streetcar line to end of Long St car line approximately 1.25 miles
May 1, 1938 North Hague Av feeder bus line established to run from Hague and Ridge Av to Broad St and Sylvan Av, a distance of 1.16 miles
Oct 16, 1938 Oak St car line detached from Oak-Long line and its down-town terminal established at High and Chestnut Sts, the Long St car line being this day combined with the Livingston Av car line which had previously been a part of the Livingston-N. Fourth St car line.
Oct. 16, 1938 Long-Livingston St car line established as a combination of (1) the Long St division of the former Oak-Long St car line and (2) the Livingston Av division of the former Livingston-N. Fourth St car line.
Oct. 16, 1938 Indianola division detached from Indianola-Steelton streetcar lines and changed to trolley coach operation, with southern terminal at State and High Sts. Route extended northward on Indianola Av from Oakland park Av to Torrence Rd, approximately 1500 feet.
Oct. 30, 1938 Frebis Av bus line inaugurated upon discontinuance this day of streetcar service on the Steelton division of the former Indianola-Steelton Line, the new line to operate from Frebis and Champion Avs to Broad and High St, a distance of approximately 3.5 miles.
Nov. 13, 1938 Oak St division changed from streetcar to trolley coach operation and combined with the Indianola Av trolley coach division to form the new Oak-Indianola line
April 14, 1940 Broad and Mt. Vernon line changed from streetcar to trolley coach operation. Route extended eastward on Mt. Vernon and Greenway Avs from Taylor Av to a point east of Woodland Av, approximately 1500 feet. Route extended westward on W. Broad St from Hague Av to Southampton Av, approximately 4000 feet.
April 16, 1940 N. and S. Hague Av feeder bus lines combined to operate between Sullivant and Ridge Avs.
June 14, 1940 Streetcar operation for Bexley beyond Main St and Drexel Av discontinued and feeder busses substituted over north and south Bexley routes extending between Broad St and Livingston Av, a route distance of 2.75 miles.
May 19, 1947 East Broad St express has line established, to operate between Marconi boulevard and James Rd, a distance of 4.75 miles.
May 26, 1947 Hudson St cross-town bus line established, to operate from High and Hudson Sts to Parkwood and Genesee Avs, approximately one half mile east of Cleveland Av, a route distance of four miles.
June 2, 1947 East Main St feeder bus line established, to operate from Main St and Drexel Av to a point near east corporation line a distance of two miles.
June 9, 1947 Ohio Av cross-town bus line established, to operate from Champion and Frebis Avs to Leonard Av and Twentieth St, a route distance of 3.33 miles
Aug. 3, 1947 Frebis and W. Fifth Av bus lines inaugurated as a combination of (1) the Frebis Av line, (2) the Pennsylvania division of the former Parsons-Pennsylvania streetcar line, and (3) the western section of the Fifth Av cross-town line, the new line to operate from Frebis and Champion Ave to Fifth Av and Cambridge Boulevard in Upper Arlington, a distance of slightly more than eight miles. (The Parsons Av division was continued as a streetcar line with its northern terminal at High and Chestnut Sts; the western terminal of the Fifth Av cross-town line was fixed at Michigan Av)
Aug. 17, 1947 Long-Livingston line changed from streetcar to trolley coach operation. Route extended eastward on Long St from Parkwood Av to a point near Nelson Rd, approximately one-half mile. Route extended eastward on Livingston Av from Kelton Av to a point east of Bulen Av, approximately one-half mile, replacing a feeder bus service established Nov. 1, 1936
Sept. 7, 1947 North and South High line changed from streetcar to trolley coach operation. Route extended northward from Blenheim Rd to Jeffrey Pl. approximately 1.3 miles, replacing a feeder bus service, S. High route changed to operate on Fourth St between Hanford St and Barthman Av.

High and Whittier line also changed this day from streetcar to trolley coach operation. Route extended northward on High St. from Oakland Park Av to Blenheim Rd, approximately 4200 feet. Route extended eastward on Whittier St from Lockbourne Rd to Seymour Av, approximately one-half mile.
March 22, 1948 E. Broad St express bus service extended northward on James Rd to entrance of Columbus General Depot, approximately 3300 feet, to provide limited morning and afternoon service, Monday through Friday.
Aug. 22, 1948 Parsons Av line changed from streetcar to trolley coach operation and northern terminal fixed at High and Spring Sts.
Sept. 5, 1948 West Mound division separated from Leonard-W. Mound bus line and combined with part of Arlington division to form a new Arlington-W. Mound bus line.

Leonard-E. Fifth Av division down-town terminal fixed at Broad and Front St.
Sept. 5, 1948 Oak St division detached form Oak-Indianola trolley coach line, and made a separate operation, from Oak St and Fairwood Av to High and Long St.
Sept. 5, 1948 Neil Av division detached from Main-Neil line, changed from streetcar to trolley coach operation, and combined with Parsons Av division to form new Neil-Parsons trolley coach line, operation from Neil and Tenth Av to terminal south of Parsons Av viaduct.
Sept. 5, 1948 Main St division changed from streetcar to trolley coach operation, and combined with Indianola division to form new Main-Indianola trolley coach line, operating from Indianola Av and Torrence Rd to Main St and Remington Rd.
Sept. 5, 1948 North and South Bexley feeder bus lines discontinued and a cross-town line substituted, to operate between Astor and Maryland Avs.

Sidebar #1 - History

         The first streetcar in Columbus appeared June 9, 1863. It was horse-drawn and ran on High St between North Public Lane (Naghten St) and South Public Lane (Livingston Av).

         Horse-drawn cars began to disappear in August 1890, when the first electric car ran on W. Broad St from High St to the State Hospital.

         (An experimental electric car was operated on Chittenden Av from High St to the Stare Fairgrounds during the summer of 1888 but the trial was regarded as a unsuccessful and regular operation was deferred to two years.)

         The first electric car on High St appeared Jan. 14, 1891; on Neil Av July 4, 1891; on Long St Sept. 7, 1891; on Main St and Mt. Vernon Av Nov. 11, 1891.

         The last horse-drawn car in the city was discontinued (on the Oak St line) in February, 1892

Sidebar #2 - New Coach Routes

         The route of the new Neil-Parsons Trolley Coach Line - Northbound: From Parsons Av and Groveport Pik north on Parsons Av to Fulton St, west to 3rd St, north to Spring St, west to Front St, north to Goodale St, west to Neil Av, north to 10th av. Southbound: On Neil Av to Goodale St, east to High St, south to Fulton St, east to Parsons Av, south to Groveport Pike.

         Coaches of the new Main-Indianola line will operate in both direction on High St between Goodale St and Main St.