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Appendix 2: Carbarns, Shops, Power Houses, and Substations

Jr.Herbert H. Harwood Indiana University Press ePub

Each of the LSE’s five predecessors built its own central operating complex consisting of a power house, car shop, and car storage facilities. All of these were taken over by the LSE in 1901, and all but one of them served the railway until its last days. Always economy-minded, the Lake Shore itself never built a new car shop of its own. In 1902 it planned a carhouse on Whittlesey Avenue in Norwalk, and after the Fremont barn was seriously damaged by fire on October 16, 1906, it announced that it would build a large new shop there. Neither materialized, and the company managed to spread various construction and repair functions among the old facilities.

Beginning in 1903, heavy repairs and new construction work were concentrated primarily at Sandusky and secondarily at Fremont; the other carhouses handled only storage, light repairs, and servicing. The five were:

Beach Park

Built by Lorain & Cleveland 1897; located at Stop 65 in Avon Lake. Brick carhouse 65.5´×200´, with 12´×12´ brick oil house. Carhouse included passenger facilities.

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12. City Operations

Jr.Herbert H. Harwood Indiana University Press ePub

Although noted primarily as an interurban system, the Lake Shore Electric operated extensive local city routes in Lorain and Sandusky plus a single franchise-required service in Norwalk. Their traffic and economic characteristics varied enormously, from heavily burdened, industrially oriented lines to casual and folksy little Toonervilles with no visible means of support.

Sandusky’s city streetcar lines were a perennially vexing financial burden, but because its interurban services depended on city franchises the company could not walk away from them. Its problems stemmed partly from early competitive overbuilding and partly from the nature and development of the city. When its horsecars began running in 1883, Sandusky’s population was more than 16,000 and it was Ohio’s eighth largest city. But afterward the city attracted little new industry and experienced little growth. There was only an 8 percent population gain between 1890 and 1910, the period when most of the streetcar lines were built. By 1920 Sandusky ranked only 24th among Ohio cities. The lines built into the outlying areas never attracted new residential subdivisions as they surely would have if Sandusky had enjoyed the remarkable expansion of some other Lake Erie shoreline cities. As a result, much of the territory served by the city cars was always relatively unproductive.

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5. Not Quite Normalcy: 1919–1922

Jr.Herbert H. Harwood Indiana University Press ePub

When peace returned in 1919 the Lake Shore Electric faced a mixed but mostly sunny outlook. Entry into the general freight business came too late to contribute much for the war effort, but by the early 1920s that traffic was growing as fast as equipment, physical plant, and new interline arrangements permitted. For the first two years after the war, ridership, revenues and profits rose heartily; the profit growth was especially great.

But the picture was darkening on its outer edges. The general postwar business boom masked some subtle signs of trouble which were noticeable only in certain special types of business. The interurban’s managers discovered, for example, that the peak loads that they traditionally carried to fairs and on day-trip excursions were substantially smaller; many were driving autos to the events.

The two local city systems were their own special kind of problem. Unregulated jitneys continued to take passengers off the streetcar routes, some of which were economic albatrosses to begin with. Yet the cities seemed indifferent to regulating the competition and, especially Sandusky, hostile to fare increases or route adjustments.

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10. The Predecessors: 1883–1906

Jr.Herbert H. Harwood Indiana University Press ePub

The Lake Shore Electric’s family tree dated back to the electric railways’ equivalent of Pilgrim Father days and included some especially distinguished pioneers. Inevitably too, it was a complex assemblage of different personalities and lineages. At least ten different company names showed up at one time or another, but by the time the LSE was created in 1901 these had boiled down to four — the Lorain & Cleveland, the Toledo, Fremont & Norwalk, and two Sandusky-based companies, the Sandusky & Interurban and the Sandusky, Norwalk & Southern. A fifth, the Lorain Street Railway, joined the family in 1906.

Three of these had comparatively simple, straightforward histories, but the city of Sandusky seemed to spawn financial and corporate instability for its two railways — perhaps the result of too much competition in a stagnant and marginal market. Whatever the reasons, the Sandusky predecessors were both the oldest and the most complex.

Sandusky’s modest street railway system had its origin in the Sandusky Street Railway, a locally promoted horsecar line which was built primarily to connect its steamship piers and downtown area with the then-remote Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway station. The LS&MS main line was the city’s primary rail route, and originally had entered town from the east along the waterfront. In 1872, however, it was relocated a mile south of the city’s center, and reaching it became a hardship. The first solution was a horse-drawn omnibus line organized by Sandusky’s Gilcher brothers in 1882. But even by then competition was brewing; another group of local businessmen headed by Clark Rude had incorporated the Sandusky Street Railway on August 3, 1881.

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3. The Developing Years: 1908–1913

Jr.Herbert H. Harwood Indiana University Press ePub

If the Lake Shore Electric system was within a few hairs of its full physical growth in 1908, its peak years of long-distance services and high-capacity operations were just ahead. Within three years it would be innovating again with two long-distance interline services, as well as helping sponsor a new line to make one of these operations possible.

It was a time when the Midwestern interurban industry was reaching full flower, too. As it expanded and matured, the industry was now more conscious of itself as an interconnected system instead of a collection of separate localized entities. Back in 1906 it formed the Central Electric Railway Association as a trade association, and in 1908 the Central Electric Traffic Association was created as a CERA adjunct to develop interline rate tariffs and mileage books.

The Lake Shore Electric’s location was one of the most strategic in the developing interurban network, linking lines in Michigan, Indiana, and southwestern Ohio with Cleveland and other such northern Ohio population centers as Akron and Canton. It also connected the Midwestern lines with a somewhat tenuous route along the Lake Erie’s eastern shore to Buffalo and upstate New York. That plus its pioneering of long-distance limited-stop services made the company a natural industry leader. Symbolic of both his company’s stature and his own within the industry, the CERA invited Fred Coen to be the featured speaker at its 1908 annual meeting in Dayton.

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