Columbus' Streetcar Track Gauge
5'2" vs 4'8 1/2"
Notice anything strange about this 1940's picture?
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You are looking at dual gauge track. There are actually two rails on one side of each of these double tracks. Why this is, goes back to 1863 when the first horse car line was built in Columbus, Ohio. At that time the steam roads used a variety of track widths or gauge. It wasn't until later that 4' 8 1/2" became the standard gauge for any railroad that wanted to interchange freight cars in North America. When that original 1863 horsecar line was constructed on High Street the owners chose 5' 2" for their gauge. It could be as simple a reason as they had some 5' 2" gauge horsecars lined up for their new streetcar line.
As other lines were built in Columbus and became part of that original streetcar company most were built to 5' 2". At least one was built at 4' 8 1/2" and another at three foot gauge. Both were changed to 5' 2" when they became part of the dominant Columbus streetcar system. When the horsecars were converted to an electric streetcar system they stayed with 5' 2". Streetcar systems didn't always have a need to interchange railroad freight cars with the steam roads so this wasn't much of an inconvenience, until the interurbans came along around 1900.
Like the streetcars the interurbans also used city streets to get downtown and they were interested in exchanging freight cars with the steam roads, at least the four interurbans that traveled the four points of the compass out of Columbus. In each case, standard gauge track was constructed on streets that didn't already have streetcar tracks. Except, there were a few points where sharing the street was unavoidable and dual gauge track was installed. The CRP&L did eventually operate one of those standard gauge interurban lines. It was the standard gauge Steelton-Summit streetcar line giving Columbus a two gauge system.
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North High Street
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This portion of North High Street, in Clintonville, had seen many streetcar-interurban variations over the years. In 1892 the one mile standard gauge Columbus & Clintonville Electric Street Railway was build on High Street to connect to the Columbus Consolidated Street Railway at Arcadia Avenue. At about the same time, interests in Worthington built the four mile standard gauge Worthington & Columbus Street Railway from Worthington to the north terminal of the new Clintonville line. The two companies feuded over the next few years about division of revenues to the disadvantage of the customer.
In 1902 the Columbus Delaware and Marion Railway, an interurban line, was started, It took over the two feuding lines giving the CD&M an entrance into Columbus. At High Street and Arcadia Avenue the CD&M turned east on Arcadia, climbing a steep hill, and turned south again at Summit Street on its way to central Columbus. In addition to its interurban trains it also operated a Worthington streetcar from Worthington to Arcadia Avenue where the customers could transfer to a High Street car going downtown. The CD&M always had trouble with that steep hill on Arcadia Avenue especially with its 3-4 car freight trains. In 1922 a bypass was built around Worthington that took the interurbans off North High Street. The Worthington streetcar was replaced by an extension of the standard gauge Summit-Steelton line.
In 1927 the Columbus Railway, Power & Light Company extended its High Street Line from Arcadia Avenue north to Oakland Park Avenue by installing the dual gauge track you see in the above picture. In 1933 the CD&M went out of business and the Worthington street car was discontinued. The CRP&L extended the High Street track north of Oakland Park Avenue as far as Blenheim Road with wide gauge track. A motor bus line was inaugurated from Blenheim Road to Worthington.
In 1947 the streetcars on High Street were replaced by trolley coaches. The trolley coach line was extended 1.3 miles from Blenheim Road to Jeffery Place which became the new southern terminal of the Worthington motor bus line.
Wide Gauge Street Scenes
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To get a better feel for where these photos were taken and the lines of the Columbus streetcar system see the 1927 Columbus Street Railway Map prepared by B.J. Kern and E.H. Miller. All photos shown were taken in 1948 and are from the DAK collection.
Summary of Columbus Track Gauges as of December 1925
Dual Gauge Track
* From Innis to Barthman Northbound track only was dual gauge.
Standard Gauge Track
Wide Gauge - 5' 2"
All other tracks were Wide gauge. There was a Pennsylvania Railroad siding at the
Grandview Material Yard.