The Ohio Museum of Transportation

Ohio's Transit History

This article was written by one of the Ohio Museum of Transportation members in 1970 and originally appeared in the February 1971 issue of the Motor Bus Society's publication Motor Coach Age. Due to it's size, it has been broken down by each individual carrier. We wish to thank the author for allowing us to post his article on our site.

Cleveland Suburban Buses - North Olmstead Municipal Bus Lines

By David B. Decsman

Owing to it's location on a wide, gently sloping plain, to it's industrial and commercial character, and most importantly to the fact that electric interurban railroads and not steam roads carried people to the surrounding towns years ago, Cleveland has bus lines radiating from the city center to outlying suburbs in all directions. The suburban operations are unusual in being completely independent from one another and from any larger companies, though some are basically one-route carriers, but even more unusual is the fact that many are publicly owned. In fact, public ownership came to some of the suburban lines even before Cleveland Transit System (CTS) succeeded from the old Cleveland Railway back in 1942.

In addition to seven suburban operations in business now, four others have been absorbed over the years by CTS. The extent of knowledge about some of these 11 operators is not great, but in this article we attempt to put them all together so that their separate stories will add up to a history of suburban bus service in Cleveland.

This section of the article looks at the North Olmstead Municipal Bus Lines.

North Olmstead Municipal Bus Lines

The Cleveland Southwestern Railway & Light Co.'s dark green and orange interurbans made their last runs on the night of February 28, 1931, and on the next morning Ohio's first municipally owned buses were on the streets in their place. The Village of North Olmstead (it became a city in 1951) was almost immediately taken to court by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, which wanted to retain jurisdiction over the service because it ran outside of the North Olmstead limits. Ultimately, the matter was decided in favor of the Village, and the decision has set the pattern for many publicly owned transit operations in Ohio since that time.

Restored NOMBL 1951 GM TDH4509 #110
NOMBL's restored 1951 GM TDH4509

The principal route to Cleveland, the Lorain Road line, was the only service given for five years. The Butternut Ridge branch was started in 1936, and the Olmstead Falls line was purchased in 1937 from Atkinson Bus Lines (which is still in the school bus business). During the war, North Olmstead started its Westwood line, completing the list of routes serving downtown Cleveland. The Westgate, Clague Road-Westgate-Rapid Transit, and Barton-Mackenzie-Rapid Transit local lines have been opened in recent years, and late in 1969, two new Flxettes were used to start feeder lines connecting with Lorain Road trips in rush hours only.

North Olmstead's buses are operated entirely on farebox revenue, though there is talk of seeking Federal aid in the purchase of a number of new buses to replace the small, old vehicles no longer adequate for the rush-hour crowds. For many years the Trailways terminal in Cleveland was the layover point, but overcrowding has recently forced North Olmstead buses to stand on East 18th  Street.

Update: North Olmstead is the last of the Cleveland Suburban operators which has maintained it's own identity after becoming a part of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA), which took over CTS and the suburban operators in 1975. Although currently using GCRTA equipment on it's routes, the coaches have green NOMBL emblems  displayed on them to identify them as North Olmstead units.

Up through the last order of coaches ordered by NOMBL in 1976, a single green center marker light was used on every coach to help it's customers identify the NOMBL buses from a distance at night. This light was simply a green lens placed over the existing center yellow "Michigan Marker" lamp.

The majority of North Olmstead's equipment over the years has been "muzzle loader" (no center door) transit coaches. The last order of coaches (1976 GM T8H5307A's) did have a center door. They also have two buses preserved which are used for special events, and in some cases emergency service. Coach 110 (1951 GM TDH4509) and Coach 204 (1976 GM T8H5307A) are the two NOMBL preserved coaches and are the pride of the fleet.

The Ohio Museum of Transportation has several examples of North Olmstead equipment preserved as well. Coach 121 (1954 GM TDH5105), Coach 150 (1971 GM T8H5305), and Coach 213 (1976 GM T8H5307A) which is the sister coach to the preserved NOMBL Coach 204. In addition our restored Cleveland Transit System Coach 641 has a small history serving NOMBL as well during 1976.

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Page updated on August 13, 2004