The Ohio Museum of Transportation

Ohio's Transit History

Seventy Years of Dayton Trolley Buses: 1933-2003

Dayton Street Railway (DSR)/Dayton Street Transit (DST) Company

Ohio's 1st Electric Trolley Bus (ETB) Line started service April 23rd, 1933.

During the night of 24 August 1932, the DSR Lorain Avenue car barn went up in flames, destroying most of the DSR's fleet of rail cars. While temporarily borrowing old cars from the other Dayton streetcar companies, Phillip Worman, the DSR President, had to make a monumental decision as to how to keep his company afloat. The DSR's one streetcar line ran from Linden and Santa Cruz on the East side of Dayton, through the Central Business District (CBD), and thence out Salem Avenue to Catalpa. Most of the trackage was in bad shape, and with the '30's Depression in full sway, revenues were hardly supportive of extensive rail renewal, as well as obtaining replacement rail cars.

Over in Indiana, the newly-reorganized Indianapolis Railways was experimenting with Electric Trolley Busses (ETB's) on their Riverside-South Meridian line, with an inaugural parade being staged on the 2nd of December 1932. Brill had provided 15 new T-40 ETB's, consecutively numbered from 501 through 515. In attendance were several Dayton street railway magnates, including Phil Worman of DSR, and WW Owen of the City Railway Company.

Later that day, after the ETB parade, Brill executives, knowing of Worman's dilemma, made him an offer to supply 12 identical T-40 ETB's and have them ready to roll in Dayton by April of 1933. Worman accepted the deal, and returned to Dayton to start stringing the additional 2nd trolley wire needed by ETB's. DSR street-car motormen were retrained to become ETB operators in early April 1933, and Dayton had it's own ETB inaugural parade on 22 April 1933. Revenue operation started the next day, the 23rd of April.

The DSR Brill's were numbered by 5's, starting with #100, 105, 110, etc. The traction orange and cream-colored DSR Brill's were an immediate success, and one-by-one, the other 4 Dayton street car companies converted their rail lines to ETB operation. Ridership grew and Worman ordered 5 more identical T-40 Brill's, which had rear exit doors and 2 GE traction motors. After another year or so, DSR ordered their final ETB's, a pair of T-40 Brill's, but these two (#185 & 190) had the exit doors at mid-bus. By this time the Dayton Street Railway Company had renamed itself as the Dayton Street Transit Company (DST).

On 12 April of 1941 the DST was sold to the big City Railway Company (CRC). CRC paid $185,000 for the DST's 19 Brill T-40 ETB's, Lorain Avenue barn, overhead infrastructure, and franchise. The Lorain Avenue barn was later sold off. It survives today as a tool manufacturing facility. DST had no substations of it's own, buying 600-volt DC from the DPL CBD substation and from the Oakwood Street Railway Company, which had a rotary converter in their Brown Street barn. Henceforth the Linden-Salem ETB line was operated out of the CRC Western Avenue barns, and the orange and cream Brills were repainted/relettered into standard CRC yellow and gold. Many of the sturdy ex-DST Brill T-40 coaches remained in CRC tripper service into the early 1950's. None are known to have survived the scrappers, and there is no known color photograph of DST Brill's in their original orange and cream paint.

The innovative gamble made by DSR's management set forth a local legacy that remains operational seventy years later. Most of the original ETB lines operated simultaneously by five different private companies were eventually merged into and operated by City Transit Company by 1956; City Transit in turn was taken over in 1972 by a new public agency, The Miami Valley Regional Transit Authority (MVRTA). The fate of the Dayton ETB system hung in the balance several times during MVRTA's early years. Some original ETB routes have disappeared under freeways; others today hang unused. The MVRTA recently changed its name to the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority (GDRTA).

The GDRTA fleet of ETI/SKODA ETB's today follow much of the overhead wire that Brills, Pullmans, ACF-Brills, Marmon-Herringtons, Flyers, and BBC's have used over the ensuing seventy years.

Submitted and written by: Harvey I. Hylton, Dayton Railway Historical Society April 2003

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This page updated on August 13, 2004