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Photo of the Month - November 2007


200dpi jpg (98K) 033

Columbus Delaware & Marion Electric Co. freight motor #301 at the Columbus Interurban Terminal located on Third Street between Town and Rich Streets.  The camera is pointed north and the buildings in the background are facing Town Street.  (DAK Collection) 

        Interurban railroads, in the first four decades of the twenty century, carried both passengers and freight.  Freight motors like #301 would carry Less-than-Carload (LCL) packages to the many stations along an interurban route.  In the early history of the interurban, before cars and trucks took the business away, LCL service was the life blood of many a small village.  Nearly everything moving between the cities and small farming villages was carried by the interurban railway.

        This photo was probably taken sometime in the 1920's.  #301 had already seen many years of service since it was new in 1903.  The CD&M logo is almost weathered off as are the identifying numbers.  It even looks like it is sagging a little toward the front.  These wooden cars were supported by the truss bars you see under the car.  As the car aged they tended to sag. 

        Freight motors were roughly the same size as the interurban passenger car and used the same electrical equipment.  They would be geared for a lower speed (25-40 mph) than the passenger cars (60-70 mph).  This gave them the extra power to pull trailers like the three interurban box trailers in the photo.   

        Since freight motors could pull up to five trailers through the city streets they had to have special radial couplers that could swing to the side to let the cars navigate sharp turns.   For example the CD&M had to turn from Third Street onto Chestnut Street and then onto Fourth Street, both very sharp turns.  

        The box trailers were often interchanged with other interurban lines.  The three in the photo could have come from Indianapolis, Dayton or Springfield and be headed to Marion, Bucyrus or even Cleveland.

        These interurban freight trains would often operate during the night when passenger traffic was reduced and also in order to provide early morning LCL delivery.  Imagine living in a house fronting on a streetcar line and having #301 with three trailers rumble past at 2:00am.