18 Chapters
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1. Genesis: 1901–1903

Jr.Herbert H. Harwood Indiana University Press ePub

The year was 1901, the first year of the twentieth century. Ohio’s own William McKinley was in the White House and Victoria was Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India, and monarch of Britain’s other dominions beyond the seas — including Canada. Neither would survive the year — McKinley felled by an assassin’s bullet and Victoria of the more natural effects of age. She was 82, had reigned for 64 years, and had defined an entire age.

And in Ohio, reigning over a wholly different empire — which also included Canada — were Henry A. Everett and Edward W. Moore, two Cleveland entrepreneurs who were rapidly moving to exploit the latest and most promising technological development — the electric railway. By the dawn of the new century steam railroads overwhelmingly dominated American intercity transportation; virtually all overland travel and freight movement was by rail. To get anywhere beyond a few miles, there was no other way.

But a different kind of railroading had suddenly evolved during the decade just past. Electricity was applied to urban street railways beginning in 1888, radically changing their form and potential. Now no longer limited by the speed and stamina of horses, these street railways were built outwards from the cities over increasingly longer distances. By the mid-1890s some were beginning to link towns and cities and distinguishing themselves from ordinary streetcar lines with a new name — interurbans. By the turn of the century the development of high-voltage three-phase alternating current transmission made long-distance electrified lines practical, and proved the key to interurban expansion.

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9. Epilogue: The Afterlife

Jr.Herbert H. Harwood Indiana University Press ePub

One certainty during the LSE’s last several years was that finality was a flexible concept. Nothing seemed to end cleanly or exactly as planned.

All Lake Shore Electric revenue services ceased May 15, 1938 — or May 25, or May 30, depending on one’s preference. But even afterward, genuine LSE trains, with LSE crews, ran for another two years. Unlike many defunct interurban lines, the LSE was not turned over to commercial scrappers. Fred Coen remained very much on the scene, now managing the Lake Shore Coach Company and still responsible for the deceased but still-intact railway. Apparently under no pressure from Toledo Edison to vacate the rights-of-way, Coen decided that his own employees would dismantle the line themselves — thus keeping many of them employed for some time longer. For accounting purposes, all remaining rail employees were transferred to the Toledo Edison payroll on July 1, 1938, but during 1938, 1939, and early 1940 they regularly operated salvage trains with LSE work motors and line cars under Coen’s management.

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4. The Great War: 1914–1918

Jr.Herbert H. Harwood Indiana University Press ePub

The summertime of the Lake Shore Electric’s life was like most summertimes — reasonably fruitful but full of annoying insects and turbulent thunderstorms. In the interurban’s case, the insects took the form of more automobiles and, in the cities of Sandusky and Lorain, “jitneys” — privately-owned, unregulated motor vehicles which operated over the streetcar routes stealing passengers. As for the storms of World War I, the LSE — like most interurbans — did not see much of the huge traffic surge which eventually paralyzed the steam railroads, but it did fully experience the material and fuel shortages, the wage and price inflation, the influenza epidemic, and the first efforts at unionization. And while not yet unhealthy, the financial results began to show some instability.

On the plus side, improvements continued, with a new cutoff around Huron, extensive rebuilding in Lorain, a new fleet of steel interurbans, and (through no effort of its own) improved access to Cleveland’s Public Square. The war period also saw the beginning of a new direction for LSE traffic — freight service.

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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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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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