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 - Redifer Bus System

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 Redifer Bus System.

Redifer Bus System

Charles J. Redifer started operating charter service in and around the Cleveland area in 1926. Essentially nothing is known of the buses or the type of service offered during the earliest years, though tiny model 19 Twin Coaches and at least one Mercury sedan strechout were used in sightseeing service. Redifer's Bus Co., or Redifer's Charter Bus Co., as the operation seems to have been variously known, eventually became the local Gray Line affiliate.

Cleveland-University Heights Bus Line, another Redifer operation, was certificated by the Ohio PUC on December 22. 1937, and presumably began operations shortly thereafter. though what sort of equipment is again not known. Cleveland Railway Co. complained that the line duplicated its own service, and Redifer was forced to withdraw from the scene by PUCO order in the summer of 1940.

Regular route service started again in 1942 between Public Square and the suburban towns of Gates Mills and Chesterland. Unlike the earlier line, this was a closed-door operation within the city to comply with Cleveland Railway wishes and PUCO restrictions. A second route to various industrial plants on the east side of Cleveland was started during the war and later certificated as the Cleveland-Chardon route. Then in 1945 a feeder to the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit line at Van Aken Boulevard & Warrensville Center Road, running through Shaker Heights and North Randall, was opened, to be extended to Chagrin Falls in 1950.

In the spring od 1945, Redifer bought Shepard Bus Co., primarily a local carrier through adjoining towns of South Euclid, Lyndhurst, and Mayfield Heights along Mayfield Road to the east of Cleveland. Two years later, service waqs extended to Public Square, principally along Mayfield Road and Euclid Avenue, but with a restriction against passengers traveling entirely within CTS territory.

Charles Redifer was killed in an airplane crash in 1952, and his vice-president and maintenance superintendent George Fehlner took over the reins of the company, by then known as Redifer Bus System. Shepard Bus Co. was formally merged into Redifer in 1958, when the last few buses to arrive on the property were delivered by Mack. Over the years, Redifer was one of the more interesting  companies with regard to buses, operating many former demonstrators, pilot models, and the like, and the last Macks were no exception, four of the eight being former sales demos. In the last years, the Chesterland and Chardon routes declined and were finally abandoned; the Shaker Heights-Chagrin Falls route was sold to an employee named Alex Marker. CTS paid $185,000 for what was left, and the Mayfield Heights service ws combined with CTS Rt 9 on March 1, 1964. ICC charter rights from Ohio to 27 eastern states were sold to Paul Bortner (Bortner Tours)  of Sharpsville, PA., in 1969.

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Page updated on August 13, 2004