The Ohio Museum of Transportation

Ohio's Transit History


Columbus Trolley Coaches

From 1933 through 1965, Columbus Ohio ran trolley coaches. This system was one of many trolley coach operators within the State of Ohio and was the second one started, following Dayton by just a few months. Similar to Dayton, trolley coaches were initially brought in to replace existing streetcar lines.

The initial route, the 5.5 mile Cleveland Ave. line was converted to trolley coach operation on December 3, 1933 as the rails on the streetcar line were worn out and in need of replacement. As it was cheaper to convert to trolley coaches than replace the rails and Dayton was successful in it's conversion, Columbus made the switch.

Initially, service was provided by twenty 30 passenger Brill T30 coaches. These small coaches made the round trip of the Cleveland Ave line in 56 minutes as opposed to the 70 minutes for the streetcar. The speed increase as well as the uniqueness of the trolley coaches proved successful in attracting new riders as well as increasing revenue for the Columbus Railway, Power & Light Company (CRP&L), the transit operator at the time.

The second route converted was the Sullivant Ave. line on May 5, 1935. The CRP&L purchased eighteen 40 passenger St. Louis Car Co trolley coaches for this conversion. Also at the same time, the Cleveland Ave. line was through-routed with the Sullivant Ave. line providing for a 10.23 mile crosstown style route.

In 1937, the CRP&L became the Columbus & Southern Ohio Electric Company (C&SOEC). Among the first things that happened under the new company was a decision to convert the remainder of the streetcar system to trolley coaches. The first line converted under the C&SOEC was the Oak St. line on October 16, 1938 with the Summit-Indianola line following on November 13, 1938. The conversion was implemented with forty 44 passenger Brill 44SMT's which arrived just prior to the opening of the Oak St. line.

The next conversion occurred on April 14, 1940 with the Broad-Mt. Vernon line. Twenty-five additional Brill 44SMT's were purchased for this conversion. At this point, the total route mileage for the trolley coach system was 26.25 miles. By this point, WWII was underway and further conversions had to be put on hold.

It is interesting to note that the Columbus trolley coach system was one of the few systems in the nation to have a grand union in it's overhead. This permitted easier operations as the trolley coaches could go straight, left or right regardless of the direction of travel when it came to the intersection. Columbus also was one of the few systems to have a trolley coach wye at the end of the line instead of a loop to turn around in.

After the war, streetcar conversions started again with the conversion of the Long-Livingston rail line into a through routed trolley coach line on August 17, 1947. The heavy haul High-Whittier and North & South High lines were converted over on September 7, 1947. These conversions added an additional 25.03 miles to the trolley coach system. The C&SOEC purchased eighty-three 44 passenger Marmon Harrington TC44's to handle these conversions.

The final conversions from streetcars to trolley coaches occurred on September 5, 1948 with the conversion of the Main-Neil and Parsons lines. This added an additional 11.1 miles to the trolley coach system Fifty-five additional Marmon Harrington TC48's were ordered to allow for the conversion of these two final lines.

At this point in time in 1948, Columbus had 62.38 miles of trackless overhead and 226 trolley coaches. This was sold to the Columbus Transit Company (CTC) in 1949 as the C&SOEC was under court order to divest of transit properties. The change to CTC really had no impact on operations as employees and key management were retained and no service changes were implemented.

What had taken sixteen years to build only took two years to dismantle. In 1964, conversions again started but this time it was to convert the trolley coaches to bus operations. Between 1964 and 1965, all of the trolley coach lines in Columbus were converted to bus. The last trolley coach operations occurred on May 30, 1965.

Most of the trolley coaches were scrapped however thirty-two of the Marmon Harrington TC48's were sold to Dayton for service there.


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This page updated on April 03, 2007