D&W - Dayton & Western Traction Company

 

Dayton - Richmond, Indiana

1898-1937

Standard Gauge

Constructed by the Dayton & Western Traction Co. to Eaton, 1898

Extended to Richmond, with a branch line to New Paris, 1903

Leased to the Indiana, Columbus & Eastern Traction Co., 1906

IC&E lease transferred to the Ohio Electric Railway and the D&W was operated as the Ohio Electric's Dayton-Richmond Division, 1907

Ohio Electric goes bankrupt, line returned to original owners and New Paris branch abandoned, 1920

Line goes bankrupt, but is operated by the Cincinnati & Lake Erie, 1931

C&LE relinquishes control, and the receiver sells the line to the Fidelity Trust Co. which leases it to the Indiana Railroad, 1936

Indiana Railroad terminates the lease and the receiver scraps the line, City Railway purchases track from Elmhurst to Miller, operates as Drexel Transit Co., 1937

Drexel Transit operations converted to trolleybus, 1947

This road began service from Dayton to Eaton, Ohio, on June 26, 1898 [questionable date, see information below], and completed its line to Richmond, Indiana, in 1903. Although its main line was only 38 miles long, and it had only a single branch (New Westville-New Paris: 3 miles, built in 1903), the company was significant because of its strategic location. It had the most direct connection between the Indiana and Ohio networks, and formed part of a continuous line from Terre Haute to Zanesville. As a result, it had a much larger roster of equipment than most roads of its size, and throughout its history was either sought or controlled by the major interurbans with which it connected. It was built by interests affiliated with the Dayton and Troy Electric Railway and the city lines in Dayton, but in 1906 it was leased in perpetuity to the newly formed Indiana Columbus and Eastern Traction Company. In the following year, the lease, along with the properties of the IC&E, passed into the hands of the Ohio Electric Railway.

 

As a consequence of the financial difficulties that caused the Ohio Electric to go bankrupt in 1921, the Dayton and Western was returned to its owners in April 1920. It had eleven years of independence, during which it made a serious effort to develop interline limited traffic with the THI&E [Terre Haute, Indianapolis and Eastern], but in 1931 the company went bankrupt. The road became one of the few interurbans to default on an equipment trust (except at abandonment), and surrendered its best cars, which the Cincinnati Car Company [actually Barney & Smith Car Company] had lengthened and modernized in the 1920s. The Dayton and Western then acquired five Cincinnati lightweight cars from the Cleveland Southwestern, which had recently been abandoned. Also in 1931, the Dayton and Western came under the supervision of the Cincinnati and Lake Erie Railroad, which operated it until 1936. Traffic was declining drastically during this period—gross revenue fell from $293,000 in 1929 to $74,000 in 1933—but the line was kept as the last connection (after 1932) between the Indiana Railroad and the Ohio interurbans. In 1936 the receiver sold the property to the Fidelity Trust Company of Indianapolis, as trustee, and it in turn leased the physical plant and a single piece of equipment, a freight motor, to the Indiana Railroad. The Indiana Railroad operated the property with its own equipment for nine months, and terminated its lease effective May 9, 1937. The trustee then dismantled the road. (From: Hilton, George W. and John F. Due, The Electric Interurban Railways in America. Stanford University Press, 1960)

(Most of the information and photographs used in this write-up are from "The Dayton & Western Traction Company" by Scott D. Trostel)


Dayton & Western Combine 165

D&W combine #165 sits at the 8th Street station in Richmond in August 1903, just after completion of the line.

The Dayton & Western Traction Company was incorporated on February 10, 1897, to built a standard-gauge electric interurban from the end of the 3rd Street tracks of Dayton's City Railway towards Richmond, Indiana via Eaton. Under President J. E. Lowes of Dayton, $400,000 in capital was raised to begin construction. Previous plans for a traction line on a similar route by companies such as the Dayton, Johnsville & Eaton Railway were stillborn, but the principals of the D&W purchased a two-thirds interest in the Dayton & Western turnpike, now US-35, to secure a right-of-way and to prevent any direct competition from other fledgling electric railway companies. Montgomery and Preble counties granted franchises to the company to operate along the highways and surveying began, with initial construction of the 22 miles to Eaton under way by January of 1898. Spring storms on March 22 delayed construction due to damaged or destroyed bridges and roadbed along the nearly straight but none too flat route between Dayton and Eaton, which had a maximum grade of 4%.

 

Track was constructed mostly to the side of the highway with its own bridges, all of steel construction on their own abutments. In built up areas the track was constructed in the middle of the street. The single-track route was built west from the end of the City Railway tracks at 3rd and Abbey in Dayton. The downtown station was at different locations throughout the company's history, but it was first at the Beckel Hotel at 3rd and Jefferson, then during the Ohio Electric and C&LE years there was a shared passenger and freight depot a block and a half east at 3rd and Kenton. The power house and carbarn was located in West Alexandria. This location approximately half way between Dayton and Richmond was chosen for ease of power distribution. Like many smaller interurbans, the D&W generated direct current electricity that was fed straight into the running wires. However, because of the limited transmission distance achievable with direct current, a booster feed was also built to the Dayton side of the line to prevent voltage drop, especially when multiple cars were pulling up the steep grades. Dual overhead wires were used to eliminate the need for switches at turnouts or passing sidings, though in an unusual cost saving measure for the time, aluminum conductors were used instead of the traditional copper. Six cars were ordered from the G. C. Kuhlman Company of Cleveland, four were passenger cars, and two were combines with baggage compartments in addition to passenger seating. Delivered with only one traction motor per truck, these underpowered cars were later refitted with extra motors to help climb the difficult grades on the line. Operations from Dayton to West Alexandria began on June 15, 1898 with service to Eaton commencing exactly one month later.

 

After only six months of operation, the original incorporators sold a controlling interest in the D&W to a Dayton syndicate under the leadership of local banker Valentine Winters II and his father-in-law Charles B. Clegg, owners of the Dayton & Troy Electric Railway and the City Railway that operated on 3rd Street. Extension to the Indiana state line was the next priority, though it took until December 7, 1900 to acquire a franchise beyond Eaton, which had already been granted to the Hamilton, Eaton & Richmond Traction Company. They had secured $200,000 in stock and began construction on their traction line to Eaton, paralleling the PRR Richmond Division and/or US-127 north from Hamilton via New Miami, Seven Mile, and Somerville. Due to financial hardships they sold their franchise to use the highway between Eaton and Indiana to the D&W, but they still planned to finish construction between Hamilton and Eaton, and they would utilize trackage rights over the D&W to reach Richmond. Eaton granted permission for the combined operations in 1901, though construction on the HE&R was halted by January 1903, most likely due to a lack of funds, and the line was never completed.


Dayton & Western Ohio Viaduct West of Eaton

A D&W car is climbing the southern/eastern approach to the Ohio Viaduct along US-35 northwest of Eaton near Lexington Road.

Grading for the extension to Indiana began in early 1903, but the Pennsylvania Railroad was unwilling to allow the D&W to cross their Richmond Division tracks despite an existing grade crossing at Main and Vine in Eaton, and another crossing of their Springfield & Richmond line by the street railway in Dayton at Conover Street. Both of those crossings could not be grade-separated due to being in such densely built-up locations. Because of the Pennsylvania Railroad's intransigence, the D&W had to build two steel viaducts over the railroad. Due to the relatively flat terrain near Lexington Road northwest of Eaton (the Ohio Viaduct), and what is today Roby Lane east of Richmond near the state border (the Indiana Viaduct), these overpasses required long approach ramps in order to keep the grade manageable. The construction of the viaducts represented a significant expense for the D&W, along with the concomitant expansion of the car roster, barns, and power plant. Nevertheless, the extension was finally completed with a large celebration in Richmond on August 13, 1903 with six new cars from the Barney & Smith Car Company in Dayton. Connections to the Indiana system were over the Richmond Street and Interurban Railway between Richmond and Dublin, with the Indianapolis and Eastern Railway running from Dublin to Indianapolis. These would become part of the Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Eastern Traction Company in 1907, a conglomeration of previously independent lines similar to the Ohio Electric and later Cincinnati & Lake Erie. A branch line was also constructed to serve the Cedar Springs Health Resort about a mile north of the main line at New Westville. This branch was continued north of Cedar Springs to the small village of New Paris, and it opened on November 22, 1903.

 

A serious banking crisis and Wall Street panic in 1903 had caused the collapse of the A. E. Appleyard syndicate, owners of traction lines mainly between Dayton and Columbus. The Pomeroy-Mandelbaum syndicate also lost control of much of their trackage on the lines between Cincinnati an Dayton as well. With the financial distresses, a new syndicate was formed by W. Kesley Schoepf, head of the Cincinnati Traction Company. He teamed up with Hugh J. McGowan of Indianapolis, and Randal Morgan, a Cincinnati financier, to buy up the Appleyard and Pomeroy-Mandelbaum properties at a discount. Hoping to create a powerful conglomeration of electric traction lines spanning Ohio and Indiana, they formed the Indiana, Columbus & Eastern Traction Company on April 14, 1906. To make this plan a reality, they needed the Dayton & Western for the critical cross-state connection. Valentine Winters was uninterested in selling since the D&W was doing a strong business and wasn't affected by the Appleyard collapse. However, after threatening to build a parallel competing line, the Schoepf-McGowan-Morgan syndicate was able to convince him to lease the D&W to the IC&E on June 27, 1906. Less than a year later, on May 17, 1907 the IC&E was succeeded by the newly formed Ohio Electric Railway Company, which would operate in partnership with the Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Eastern Traction Company that was formed on March 1 of that year by Schoepf-McGowan-Morgan.

 

With the new syndicate now in control of several Ohio and Indiana interurbans, the D&W connection became the critical link for through passengers and freight. Unfortunately, the freight hauling situation quickly became untenable in Richmond, which had never granted any through freight hauling franchises to the parent companies. The town wanted the increasing number of freight cars off of Main Street, and since the company did not have a freight-hauling franchise, cars were regularly turned away by the police. After much legal wrangling, a freight bypass was built through the north side of town and opened in January, 1909.

 

With the formation of the Ohio Electric Railway came an upgrade and modernization of the power system to supply all the now-consolidated railways. Many of the smaller lines like the D&W generated direct current with little or no facility for transmission beyond 10-15 miles from the power house. This caused service problems and disruptions to long-distance schedules. The Ohio Electric decided to build a large new power station in Hamilton's Lindenwald neighborhood to serve their lines in southwest Ohio. High voltage alternating current would be generated and fed via high-voltage transmission lines to substations with rotary AC to DC converters at strategic locations along each line. Other power stations were located at Medway (between Dayton and Springfield), Hebron, Zanesville, and Lima. For the D&W, substations were installed in Drexel, at the West Alexandria power house that was then decommissioned, near the Ohio Viaduct west of Eaton, and in New Hope. The remainder of the route to Richmond would be powered from the THI&E which had built a new power house on the east bank of the White River in Richmond in 1907. The new power system on the Ohio side came online in 1910.

 

The massive 1913 flood, which crippled Dayton and most communities along the Great Miami River, also dealt a huge blow to the Ohio Electric Railway. Power was interrupted for weeks in some cases, miles of track and bridges were washed out, and rolling stock and equipment was damaged or destroyed. The D&W was not seriously hurt, especially compared to some of the other lines, but operations were still shut down since transmission lines from the Lindenwald power house were knocked out. Repairing all the damage put the Ohio Electric in a precarious financial condition. Employee strikes, as well as shortages of coal and supplies due to World War I didn't help the situation either. The Ohio Electric finally entered receivership on February 8, 1919 as the Schoeph-McGowan-Morgan syndicate began to collapse. The D&W was then returned to Valentine Winters on April 24, 1920.

 

While the Ohio Electric had modernized the power systems of the companies it operated, much of the rest of the rolling stock and physical plant was in very poor condition. Bridges near West Alexandria were significantly weakened, ties were rotted, and rail was worn out, all of which led to reduced running speed and poor riding comfort. The cars, which had been pooled among the various consolidated companies, were returned and found to be in very poor shape, many needing extensive rebuilding. Some cars were from the original D&W roster, while others were newer Ohio Electric purchases. Six of the best cars were sent to the Barney & Smith Car Company for lengthening and refitting in 1921 and 1922 right before the company went out of business. These were still heavy wooden cars, but they rode well and had the sorts of amenities passengers wanted.


Dayton & Western New Paris Branch at Cedar Springs

A D&W car approaches the Cedar Springs stop at Cedar Springs and Guy Murray Roads on the New Paris branch. The depression in the foreground is now a pond, and the bridge abutments at the bottom right now support the pond's spillway.

With the road under independent operation again, it was quickly realized that the New Paris branch was a significant liability. The expected patronage to the Cedar Springs Health Resort was nowhere near sufficient to sustain a branch line, nor was the traffic to and from New Paris. A petition to abandon was sent to the Public Utilities Commission on June 22, 1920, and it was granted by the end of the year. The Lindenwald power station was also no longer available to supply power, having been purchased by the Cincinnati & Dayton Traction Company. Presumably the D&W began purchasing power from Dayton Power & Light at this time, since the West Alexandria power house had been inoperable for 10 years, aside from the substation, and much of the roof was destroyed by a storm. The building was finally demolished in 1921. The D&W sold their power and light franchises, and the transmission lines to DP&L at this time as well. Permission was granted by the Public Utilities Commission on December 22, 1921.

 

In the 1920s as more automobiles and trucks came on the scene, cities and towns began demanding more maintenance and improvements of the streets in which the interurbans ran. Traditionally, in cities the interurbans and street railways were required to pave and maintain the street between their tracks and 18 inches on either side, usually with brick or granite blocks. On rural highways and in small towns, they were generally just required to maintain the dirt or gravel street inside their tracks and on either side, with occasional water sprinkling to keep dust under control. With more motor vehicles however, brick and stone were no longer considered adequate, and some small towns and villages wanted the traction lines to pave the previously unimproved streets, sometimes from curb to curb. The small town of New Lebanon wanted the D&W to not only pave Main Street, but also to install electric lighting and cut the fares to Dayton in half. Valentine Winters refused, threatening to relocate the traction line around the village to the north outside the corporation limits. Thinking Winters was just posturing, the village remained obstinate, but the bypass was eventually constructed on a private right-of-way overlooking Bear Creek, opening on October 24, 1923 at which point the tracks on Main Street were pulled up. The new station was called Valley Bluff, a seemingly legitimate nod to the steep bank above Bear Creek, but in actuality a spiteful gesture towards the stubborn village. The station was renamed New Lebanon after a few years, and a public street called Traction Avenue was dedicated next to the right-of-way after the land was annexed to the village.

 

Despite the dissolution of the Ohio Electric, the D&W's strategic position between the Ohio and Indiana systems allowed it to continue to capitalize on freight hauling. While they had few on-line customers, they profited from through-running interchange traffic. For a relatively small company they had an impressive array of freight equipment, including four box motors and 15 trailers, five of which could be used to haul automobiles, two flat cars, and four gondolas. In 1921 they entered an equipment pool with the Dayton & Troy Electric Railway, the THI&E, and the Cincinnati & Dayton Traction Company, their principal connecting railways. They added 25 more box trailers in 1922 and by 1926 were able to increase their freight business by 230%, a significant achievement in the face of the overall decline of the industry by that time. With their recently remodeled cars and aggressive scheduling of through runs between Dayton and Indianapolis every two hours, the D&W saw only modest drops in passenger service of 8% by 1927, compared to 1/3 to 1/2 on other nearby roads. To try to maintain competitive service, the D&W even began reconstructing its overhead from a simple directly-suspended wire on cross arms to a catenary system more common in high-speed electrified mainline railroads. The western end of the system between Eaton and the Indiana state line was converted sometime in the late 1920s.

 

Once the Great Depression hit however, things took a turn for the worse. Revenues dropped from $293,000 in 1929 to $220,000 in 1930, with a significant drop in the first quarter of 1931. This caused them to default on the equipment trust which paid for their reconstructed cars, and they surrendered them to the Cincinnati Car Company since Barney & Smith was out of business. Dr. Thomas Conway Jr., who created the Cincinnati & Lake Erie out of many of the former Ohio Electric lines in 1930, realized that if the D&W folded it would be a huge blow to the C&LE that depended on connecting lines for interchanging freight. Conway convinced Winters to voluntarily put the D&W into receivership under Frank Currigan of Dayton effective June 15, 1931. With the D&W in receivership, the C&LE became the court-appointed operator, allowing them to maintain the important link between the C&LE and the newly formed Indiana Railroad. The connecting THI&E had entered receivership on April 2, 1930 and was sold to the United Midland Corporation in June 1931. It was then operated as part of the new Indiana Railroad system which was formed in 1930-31 by combining the operations of the five major interurban systems in central Indiana into one entity. This was the brainchild of Samuel Insull, who worked to modernize and improve the interurbans of Indiana and the Chicago area, similar to Conway in Ohio. With the D&W now being operated by the C&LE, they then acquired five secondhand Cincinnati Car Company lightweight cars from the recently abandoned Cleveland Southwestern to replace the surrendered rebuilt cars.

 

In 1932 the C&LE itself was in receivership with the Depression worsening and other connecting lines falling. The D&W itself was able to slightly improve its operating ratios by 1934 mostly through deferred maintenance on the track and cars, but it was still showing losses. On November 19, 1935 the newly appointed receiver, Peter Hommel, petitioned the Public Utilities Commission to abandon the D&W but on March 18, 1936 he instead sold the tracks, bridges, and overhead to the Fidelity Trust Company of Indianapolis who in turn leased it to the Indiana Railroad. They only purchased one box motor, leaving the Cincinnati cars to be disposed of by the receiver, and they began formal operations of the D&W with their own equipment on July 1, 1936. Unfortunately, the Depression had taken its toll, and the Indiana Railroad was collapsing. Their receiver petitioned the courts to abandon the entire Indianapolis to Dayton line, and permission was granted on April 29, 1937. The last run on the Dayton & Western was on May 8, 1937, helping to seal the fate of the Cincinnati & Lake Erie, which would itself collapse two years later. The Dayton City Railway purchased a 1.2 mile section of track from Elmhurst Road to Miller Avenue and began operating streetcars along this last remnant of the D&W. A wholly owned subsidiary of City Railway, the Drexel Transit Company operated that service, which had a separate fare past Elmhurst. When the 3rd Street line of the Dayton City Railway was finally converted to trolleybus on September 27, 1947 (the last remaining streetcar line in the system), the State of Ohio had not yet approved the hanging of trolleybus wires over US-35, so City Railway continued to operate the short Drexel extension with a shuttle car until November 23 of that same year.


Dayton & Western Tracks Approaching West Alexandria

D&W tracks approaching West Alexandria. This is one of the few, if not only, places the track was on the south side of the highway, having just come off of the Twin Creek bridge. The abandoned power house is at the left.

The route of the D&W is pretty simple, but the specifics of its disposition on the ground is unclear without a detailed track map. As with many interurbans, it's difficult to distinguish between an in-road and side-of-the-road right-of-way. In the case of the D&W, they operated within the public road's right-of-way, but generally operated to the side in open country, and in the center in built-up areas. Out in the country the dirt or gravel road surface snugged up to the side of the track which had to follow the grade of the existing roadway. If the D&W had purchased land next to the roads for their right-of-way, they would have been able to establish their own grades and drainage patterns, with a ditch separating them from the roadway. Since they constructed and maintained their own bridges, despite operating on the public right-of-way, in a sense they had the worst of both worlds.

 

Originally the D&W junction with the Dayton City Railway's 3rd Street car line was at Abbey Avenue. Just west of Abbey the route became single track and moved to the north side of the road. Sometime prior to 1926, City Railway took over the right-of-way to Elmhurst Road and double-tracked it, while also adding branches north on Elmhurst to Residence Park and south into the Soldiers' Home, now the Dayton National/Military Cemetery and VA Medical Center. The Drexel Transit operation from 1937 to 1947 mentioned above was old D&W single track on the north side of the road, with a loop added at Miller and one passing siding. The original line continued down the north side of the road, passing the Drexel substation which remains today at Knox Street, presumably continuing as far as New Lebanon whereupon it moved to the center of the road through town. The New Lebanon bypass, or Valley Bluff, peeled off US-35 to the north at Access Road, ran through what is today the front yards of the houses on the south side of Traction Avenue, cut across B Street in the mobile home park, and came back onto US-35 just past Clayton Road.

 

At Twin Creek, just east of West Alexandria, the tracks made an S-curve from the north side of the road to the south onto the D&W's bridge (an old mill on the north side of the road might be the reason the tracks changed to the opposite side). The downgrade approaching Twin Creek and the curve caused a westbound THI&E car to derail and fall into the creek on April 15, 1910 after its brakes reportedly failed. The tracks stayed on the south side of the road until approximately Desoto Drive when they moved to the middle. There was a wye to Electric Street with multiple tracks into the carbarns, along with a connection to the former Cincinnati Northern/Big Four railroad that supplied coal to the power house. Beyond West Alexandria the tracks moved to the north side of the road on the way to Eaton. Approaching the center of Eaton, there was a passing siding in the middle of the street and a combined passenger and freight station at 225 East Main on the south side of the street, now the Fraternal Order of Eagles in a newer building. This was originally the only freight depot on the line between Dayton and Richmond, until an extra siding and platform were put in on the Valley Bluff/New Lebanon bypass in 1923.

 

After exiting Eaton and heading northwest on US-35, the D&W went back to the north/east side of the road on the way to the Pennsylvania Railroad crossing near Lexington Road. This was the Ohio Viaduct whose centerpiece was a Pratt Truss, owing to the longer span required by the skewed angle of the railroad. A substation was also located near here. At New Hope, about halfway between Eaton and New Westville, the track came back to the middle of the street and another substation was located near the center of the village. Currently US-35 connects to I-70 before reaching New Westville, but the D&W continued along today's OH-320 to the center of the village, running in the middle of the street. The New Paris branch also turned north up the middle of OH-320, running in or along the highway until reaching National Road, where it struck out on its own right-of-way to get down the hill to Cedar Springs. The route crossed Cedar Springs Road near the intersection of Guy Murray Road and formed a dam for a small pond near the intersection. Power lines and some stone bridge abutments remain along the east side of Cedar Springs Road. The branch line then crossed the road at a turn just west of Kristine Avenue and proceeded back to OH-320 (South Washington Avenue) which it followed into town, ending at Main Street.

 

Back at New Westville, the route followed County Road 335 to the Indiana Border where it then became West Eaton Pike and Roby Lane on the way to the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Indiana Viaduct. This viaduct was on the north side of the highway, and due to a less acute angle of the railroad crossing, a simple plate girder span was used. The D&W then continued west northwest on the Old National Road to US-40 and the center of Richmond. When the freight bypass was constructed in 1909, it split off the main line at Glen Miller Park just east of 23rd street. It then ran north through the park to 23rd Street, west on E Street to Fort Wayne Avenue, and back to Main Street.

 

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