The Ohio Museum of Transportation

Ohio's Transit History

Cincinnati Trolley Coaches

Cincinnati operated trolley coaches from 1936 through 1965. Already noted for it's dual overhead streetcar operations, trolley coaches were a natural addition and required virtually no additional costs other than the price of the cars. The dual overhead was in place due to the inherent problem of current leakage which could play havoc with the underground city infrastructure including buried telephone lines.

As far back as 1891, the streetcar system in Cincinnati was mostly dual overhead as the one of the primary early operators of the lines also owned the local telephone company. As it was less expensive to string an extra overhead line than ensure all rails were properly bonded to prevent current leakage, the makings of the trolley coach system were in place and ready for the first day of service in 1936. Although the dual overhead was in place, all overhead switches did need to be replaced however so the cars could utilize them without problems.

Trolley coach service started on December 1, 1936 on a test route. The #15 Clark St.-Chase was the streetcar route selected for the trial project. All overhead special work was replaced so the trolley coach could operate and the service commenced using ten 40 passenger Twin Coach 41RWFT's and seven 40 passenger Mack CR3S's.

Even though the system was already strung with dual overhead, there were sometimes problems. Over the two years the pilot program was in place, the trolley coaches were sometimes used for charter service and did have difficulty on the rest of the system. In addition there were places that the streetcars operated on a private right of way and additional wiring needed to be strung so the trolley coaches could operate along with moving some wires closer to the curb. The other unique thing about Cincinnati's overhead was that it was 18" spacing as opposed to the 24" spacing considered standard and utilized round wire instead of the more common grooved wire utilized by many transit systems.

The trial period ended successfully, even with the few quirks that were inherent in the system, with the addition of a second line, the #64 McMicken-Main line. This was added on October 9, 1938. Additional trolley coaches were already in the system, being added during the time of the trial project and included five 40 passenger Twin Coach 41RTT's and six used 40 passenger Twin Coach 40TT's from Detroit.

Additional routes and trolley coaches were added in 1943 with the addition of six 43 passenger Twin Coach 44GTT's, in 1945 with the addition of six 44 passenger Pullman 44AS-100-44CX's and in 1946 with the addition of thirty 44 passenger St Louis Car Co units. The big push on conversions happened in 1947 however.

In 1947, six routes were converted over. The #69 Madisonville line on July 6, 1947, the #44-46-53 Highland-Auburn lines on August 17, 1947 and the #27-28 East End lines on September 28, 1947. Forty-five 44 passenger Marmon Harrington TC44's were brought in for these conversions.

Three more routes followed in 1948 with the #31 Crosstown line bring converted on April 11, 1948, the #16 Colerain line on June 6, 1948 and the #17 College Hill line on June 27, 1948. 1948 also saw a large purchase of trolley coaches with thirty 44 passenger St Louis Car Co units and three orders of 48 passenger Marmon Harrington TC48's totaling 59 units.

In 1949, eight more lines were converted. The #8 South Norwood on January 1, 1949, the #60-62 Fairview-Ohio lines and the #61 Clifton-Ludlow line were converted on March 6, 1949 and the #47 Winton Place line on April 17, 1949. On July 24, 1949 the #4 Kennedy Heights, #7 North Norwood and #10 Vine-Woodburn lines were converted. There were also sixty-five more 48 passenger Marmon Harrington TC48's purchased.

At the end of 1949, 229 trolley coaches were in service in Cincinnati. Also at this time, a decision was made to eliminate the remaining streetcar system. In 1950 the #68 Delta line was converted and finally in 1951, the remaining streetcar lines saw conversion. The #32 Price Hill and #36 Warsaw went under the conversion in early 1951 and the final routes converted to trolley coaches occurred on April 29, 1951. The final converted routes were the #21 Westwood-Cheviot and the #55 Vine-Clifton. Additional trolley coaches were brought in during 1951 with the arrival of forty-five 48 passenger Marmon Harrington TC48's.

While all these trolley coach conversions were taking place, some streetcar routes were replaced by bus. The conversion of the #78 Lockland streetcar line in 1949(?) to bus proved to be the downfall of the trolley coaches in Cincinnati. The #78 was a heavy haul line and by 1952, the diesel bus proved it's versatility and cost savings so well that the management decided no further trolley coach expansions or conversion were to take place. In fact, trolley coach lines started just a few years before started to be converted to diesel operations.

During the 50's and 60's, more buses arrived and trolley coaches were gradually phased out. The last trolley coach operation occurred on June 18, 1965. Some of the Cincinnati Marmon Harrington TC44 and TC48 trolley coaches continued to see service however in it's neighboring city, Dayton where they were purchased in 1964 & 1965.

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This page updated on August 13, 2004