Railroads, Industrial Railroads, Trolleys and Interurbans
Railroads were a dominant industry and means of transportation from the mid-nineteenth century through the late post-WWII era. Their significant effects on the landscape, settlement patterns and economy, and their physical remnants and lore are important aspects of geography, material culture and architectural history.
Infrastructure, including transportation systems, played an important role in the historical economic development of Ohio, as it did elsewhere. Types of transportation included rivers, trails, canals, roads and railroads. The use, construction and improvement of these transportation methods altered the pattern of settlement and farming. Settlers entered the area on the transportation routes that were available, and they preferred to live near a means of transportation. With easier access to markets, it benefitted the farmer to put more of his acreage under the plow, consequently increasing his income (Noble and Wilhelm 1995).
Early railroads in Ohio - 1838
1st boom in RR construction
1852 canals begin loosing out
Peak about 1903
Early railroad lines, like early roads, tended to radiate out from the principal population centers. They also ran north-south like the canals, but the newer systems tended to travel east-west. By 1860, there were four major east-west lines crossing the state, and nearly every substantially sized community had at least one rail connection. Like roads and canals before them, the railroad network influenced the future development of cities and towns (Knepper 1989).
Beyond expanded market opportunities, railroads had many other effects. They provided thousands of construction jobs and opportunities for local labor such as train crews, depot agents, maintenance workers, and supervisory officials. The railroad's demand for iron and steel rails was a boon to Ohio's metal industry. By 1900, many Ohio towns had the railroad as the principal employer. The railroad was also a social phenomenon. Not only was it a link between the small town and the metropolis, it was a symbol of power, travel, speed and adventure (Knepper 1989). All industries in the county benefitted from the arrival of railroads. Railroads, like the canals, gave industries and farmers access to larger, outside markets.
- A railroad that is at least minimally intact and in use, however infrequently.
- A railroad that is at least minimally intact (the track has not been dismantled nor bridges removed) and usable, but no longer in use. Usually the brief precursor to abandonment. e.g. NYC south of Athens (at least in early 1990s) - though saplings were growing among the ties, it would have been usable after some effort.
- A railroad that is inactive, the tracks removed or never laid, and the roadbed abandoned for use as a railroad or never finished. Roadbed usually sold off by railroad company.
- These are the typical historic railroads that hauled primarily freight, but with a significant amount of passengers. These were usually standard gauge, but some were narrow gauge until converted (e.g. S.J.& P.) to standard or abandoned (e.g. Dayton, Chicago & Toledo by Englewood, Ohio, abandoned 1923 - Englewood survey).
Light-Duty Industrial Railroads
- In Ohio, these were small, isolated, very obscure railroads that tend to be long-extinct, and often were not even permanent structures. They were popular in the early 20th century for use in large industrial complexes, large construction projects, mining, or sometimes logging where short distance hauling of large amounts of material was needed.
- They usually used two-foot gage ³Light Rail² track, but narrow gage was also popular. Tiny engines (sometimes called ³Dinkeys²) about eight to 15 feet long were smaller versions of freight railroad switcher engines. As soon as the technology was available, most were probably available to run on gasoline power instead of steam, since gas did not require the additional support facilities of a coal bunker (large container mounted on locomotive frame), coal stockpile, and water storage tank.
- Horses, donkeys and mules were originally used to haul cars out of coal mines, to avoid the explosive danger of fire-heated steam engines among coal dust and explosive gases in the mine. Stationary steam engines outside of the mine were also used to power cables to move cars. Mules were sometimes used for moving empty cars even as late as the early 20th century. Specialized electric engines designed for underground coal mines are low and boxy, usually with an overhead wire feed.
- Since most hauling was probably of aggregate material such as coal, gravel, earth and concrete mix, most cars were small hoppers or dump cars. Flatcars would have hauled logs. Two-foot gage ³Portable Track² was available, usually in 15 foot lengths with steel ties. Track built on-site used parts similar to standard track, but with smaller rails and ties, and also was assembled to allow it to be moved in sections.
- Industrial Complex Railroad:
- Permanent track used in large industrial complexes. Some Temporary Construction Railroads may have survived by being reused as permanent industrial railroads. Early 20th century.
- The WWI army training "Camp Sherman" near Chillicothe had an industrial railroad encircling it...
- Temporary Construction Railroad:
- Temporary track, sometimes portable track in sections, used to haul aggregate material from delivery sites at a freight railroad or manufacturing plant to construction sites, usually for roadbeds, fills or building construction. Early 20th century; rendered largely obsolete by development of large construction automobile trucks.
- Coal Mine Railroad:
- Permanent track used in large underground coal mines. Often called ³Tramway² or ³Mine Track.² Usually never any direct connection with a freight railroad since all coal was usually pre-processed just outside the mine, thus not necessitating mine railroad equipment to haul coal onto incompatible non-mine track. Dates from earliest large coal mine through present; horse- or mule-drawn coal mine tramways were the immediate progenitor to freight and passenger railroads.
- Logging Railroad:
- Long-term temporary track used in extensive logging operations. Usually not permanent, but may be used for several years and have a significant earth roadbed and fill, and timber bridgework, especially if a ³Trunk Line² to a large logging area. Roadbed was sometimes used for later roads, often modified by the WPA (e.g. vic. Hocking Trail, southern Vinton County: EC fall 1998). Usually has a direct connection with a freight railroad. A mix of gages, often narrow-gauge, usually with a connection to a freight railroad that was originally narrow gauge. Shay engines and other gear-driven engines were popular for this use. They were very adaptable steam engines (later also gasoline) that could burn almost any fuel, including sawings and waste lumber; they were available in several gauges; and they had recessed gear-driven wheels, and so could negotiate tight curves with tight clearance. Late 19th to early 20th century in Ohio. In other more remote and heavily forested areas, such as the Appalachians and the Rockies, logging railroads were a significant presence in the wilderness and left a small but extensive mark on the environment.
Industrial Railways for Highway Paving illustrates several aspects of industrial railroads. It reprints information from a 1926 book, Road and Street Catalog, on the design and utilization of temporary railroads for building roads, with data, plans and photos. All the articles were written by contractors using the equipment. It also reprints a one-page ad from the same book for six gasoline-powered locomotive models. From an unknown source is a one-page reprint of photos and data on a narrow-gauge temporary railroad using a Shay engine to build a road overpass. Two pages are sketch plans for a two-foot gauge 1906 oil-burning locomotive and hopper car in use at Knottıs Berry Farm, California.
History of the Coal-Mining Industry in Ohio (Crowell 1995) illustrates some coal mine railroads and engines, and their operations. On the cover is an electric locomotive used in a one-man mine.
Known extant examples of Industrial Complex Railroads are limited to a small engine on display on a short section of two-foot gauge track in Marian, Ohio; another (a standard-gauge ³Vulcan² engine) set up at the Ohio Railway Museum in Worthington, Ohio; a standard or narrow-gauge engine in Circleville. Minor remnants of Coal Mine Railroads probably survive in mining areas where they have not been scrapped.
Trolleys and Street Cars
- Early in the twentieth century Ohio was swept with ³interurban madness.² First developed during the last decade of the nineteenth century, these interurbans were considerably cheaper to build than steam railroads, and the cars served local areas, were fast, and ran frequently. The interurban extended the market areas of larger cities, and in the process reduced rural isolation. Excess electricity distributed along the traction lines also provided electricity to farmers. The fall of the interurbanıs popularity began with the rise of the automobile as an important means of transportation in the 1910s (Knepper 1989).
- Interurbans were essentially large, high-speed trolleys and self-propelled passenger rail cars that travelled between cities, thus the term "inter-urban." They were also called "traction" lines and "Electric Railroads," and also hauled small amounts of light freight. They travelled at up to modern highway speeds. Since they were quick and light, the tracks did not need to be as level as a freight railroad and often followed major roads between cities.
Gauges were not standardized until after the Civil War.
Three common sizes:
- Two-Foot Gauge
- Two feet or 24 inches between center of rails. Also called "24 inch Track" or "Industrial Gauge." Used only for temporary or light-duty industrial track.
- 30-inch Gauge
- Least common of the three.
- Three-Foot Gauge
- Three feet or 36 inches between center of rails. Also called "36 inch Track." most common of the three, and usually referred to as simply "Narrow Gauge." Used for temporary or light-duty industrial track, and also for mainline track in 19th century. Now practically extinct for use as freight railroads; only survivors are archaic scenic and industrial railroads.
- 4 feet 8 inches between inside edges of rails. Typical gauge. Modern standard for almost all railroads. The odd dimensions evolved from British coal mines and carts, which evolved from vehicle dimensions determined by Roman roads, which evolved from Roman military marches (who rarely used vehicles in warfare) and pre-Roman war vehicles whose width were determined by the hitching requirements for a pair of smaller horses in tandem (q.v. Spikesys article...).
- Six feet or 72 inches between center of rails. Also called "Wide Gauge" or "Six Foot Gauge." Used for few well-funded and presumptive early railroad projects in 19th century, mostly 1840s; not too popular and now long-extinct.
- Two different gauges used in same track; usually Three-Foot Narrow Gauge and Standard Gauge. Where the gauges were offset, a second rail just inside and to one side of the larger gauge allowed smaller gauge equipment to be moved onto the track; a second coupler was needed to attach equipment of different gauges because of the offset (e.g. East Broad Top Railroad, Pennsylvania). More expensive and less common were the version where the tracks were centered, requiring a complete set of the smaller gauge inside the larger.
Mainline or Main Track
- Track that serves as the main conduit for traffic, in deference to branch lines. The track that connects one distant place to another.
- Short part of track that slides to one side to allow equipment to selectively roll onto another section of track. Usually only two routes are possible; some switches allow three. Switches were originally manual but many modern ones are additionally motorized and remote operated.
Diamond or Crossing
- Section of track that allows two tracks to cross each other at the same level. [The entire crossing assembly is also called a "frog."]
- Section of track that is connected to a Mainline by a switch and runs parallel to it. The siding is usually of lesser [magnitude] than the Mainline, with lighter-weight rails, ties, and/or roadbed.
- Spur Siding
- Short siding that does not rejoin mainline. Usually used as parking track to store equipment or load and unload deliveries.
- Passing Siding
- Short (usually at most a few miles) section of track that rejoins mainline and is used to allow trains and equipment to pass each other, rejoining at another switch. One train usually pulls onto it at a slow speed to allow another to pass.
- Parallel set of two tracks that allow trains and equipment to pass without interruption of slowing on the same railroad line. Both tracks are of same [magnitude], allowing full-speed and full-weight trains to move safely.
- Short (usually less than a mile) section of track that is connected to a Main Track by a switch and veers away, ending at a dead end or loop. Spurs usually serve a trackside industry a short distance away.
- Long (usually more than a mile) section of track that is connected to a Main Track by a switch and veers away; it may end at a dead end or connect with another railroad line.
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"Transp - Railroads.html" v1.0.1 - 10/25/02, 6/29/02
Intrepid Historical Services - Kevin B. Coleman - Columbus, Ohio, USA
(Adapted 06/28/02 in part from the Word Perfect document "I_Railroads"
entitled "Railroads, Trolleys and Interurbans" Third Draft - December 23, 1998 - v 3.3