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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CLEVELAND RAILWAY CO. - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

The CLEVELAND RAILWAY CO., held the city's public transit franchise from 1910-42. During that time its streetcar lines carried hundreds of millions of passengers on a fleet that numbered as many as 1,702 streetcars and buses. Cleveland's privately owned street railway industry began as the city awarded companies exclusive franchises to operate horse-drawn cars and later electric streetcar lines along specified streets. In the late 1880s, the increased capital needed to operate the electrified lines prompted a period of amalgamation. By 1893 only 2 companies remained, and they merged in 1903 forming the CLEVELAND ELECTRIC RAILWAY CO., popularly referred to as "ConCon." Mayor TOM L. JOHNSON†, an advocate of municipal ownership, warred with the private traction interests. Under his aegis, the Municipal Traction Co. was incorporated to operate street railways at cost in 1906. In 1908 the company leased the Cleveland Electric Railway operations, offering customers a $0.03 transit fare. However, financial and labor troubles led both the Cleveland Electric Railway Co and the Municipal Traction Co. into receivership later that year. Federal Judge ROBERT W. TAYLER†, overseeing the receivership, produced a new franchise agreement between the city and the renamed Cleveland Railway Co. in which the company would provide transit services at cost (which included a 6% return to stockholders), while the city would have regulatory control vested in a traction commissioner. Voters approved the Tayler Grant in Feb. 1910, and on 3 March the Cleveland Railway Co. era began.

Under the leadership of its first president, John J. Stanley, CRC ridership jumped from 228 million in 1910 to 450 million in 1920. Competition from the auto, and later the effects of the Depression, diminished passenger traffic. Control of the company was wrested from the stockholders by the Van Sweringen brothers in 1930, and their interests controlled its management until 1937. By that time many transit changes had occurred. The first buses appeared in 1925, and the first trackless trolleys in 1936. With decreased patronage in the 1930s, CRC found it ever more difficult to maintain the aging streetcars, meet the fixed charges, and modernize the system. The Tayler Grant expired in 1935, and though it was extended, Cleveland, under the prodding of traction commissioner Edward J. Schweid, pressed for municipal ownership as the key to needed improvements. Four years of negotiations led to an agreement. The city issued revenue bonds in the amount of $17.5 million to purchase the company shares, and on 28 April 1942, the municipally owned Cleveland Transit System took over the city's transit operations.

Greater Cleveland RTA Records, WRHS.

Last Modified: 14 Jul 1997 02:37:48 PM

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