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Ask Rufus: Streetcars in Columbus


A postcard depicting Columbus streetcars.

A postcard depicting Columbus streetcars. Photo by: Provided


Rufus Ward



A reader asked about the streetcars or electric trolley line that once served Columbus. For an answer, I called on Columbus architect and historian Sam Kaye, who knows more about the old trolley lines than anyone else. Here''s what he said: 


On May 19, 1906, the Columbus Traction and Light Co. was incorporated by G.T. Heard and Leopold Marx and on May 26 of that year a ceremony was held on Main Street between Fourth and Fifth streets to kick off the service. On June 7, line extension to the GM&O Depot located in the vicinity of the old Marble Works. On June 17, 1907, the Columbus Railway Light and Power Co. was incorporated by Charles F. Sherrod, William Baldwin and Walter Weaver. This company took over operation of the railroad until around 1919 or its dissolution Dec. 10, 1928. 


A line went from Main and Market east along Main and College streets past the C&G Depot at Main and 13th streets, a skating rink and golf course at 19th Street, the Frisco Depot at 21st Street, and the car barn on 23rd Street. Eventually the line extended to Lake Park and a large pavilion located on Seventh Avenue just north of the VFW Lodge near the Luxapalila River in what is now Propst Park. From Lake Park, the return route went south on 27th Street past the "Cotton States League Ball Park" and the "Colored Park" and then returned along the outbound route to Main and Market. The landscaped median on Main Street from Seventh to 13th is a remnant of the trolley line. 


Another line started at Main and Market and went north east past the present library to Eighth Street, then out Military Road to what is now Billups Drive near the present location of Wheeler Roofing on Military. 


There were two sets of cars, open for summer and enclosed for winter. The Military line used only enclosed cars. The one-way distance for all three routes was a little more than four miles. 


Lake Park and its 45-foot diameter pavilion were a promotional venture of the trolley company to generate ridership and, of course, rental fees. Skating, concerts, dancing and other events were the mainstays of the park and pavilion. The interior would be enclosed with canvas curtains in cold weather. 


The trolley ridership declined, mainly because of mobility due to the automobile. Service was curtailed around 1919 and finally ceased in the 1920s, but for around 15 years Columbus did have its real electric streetcars. 


Later Columbus had a bus service that essentially served the same function as the streetcars, but that''s another story for another day.


Rufus Ward is a Columbus native a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to Rufus at [email protected]


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Reader Comments

Article Comment Margaret Ann Evans commented at 3/27/2010 11:50:00 PM:

Thanks for enlightening me on the streeetcar/electric trolley rail line that I inquired about. Appreciate the reply. My Father had told me that he rode it from town to the pavilion at Lake Park when he was just a young boy in the 1920's. Later our family moved to 7th Avenue North and lived there for 39 years (1950 - 1989). Our House was near the location of the pavilion at Caldwell's camp house and Lake Park (now Propst Park). I played in this area as a child and rode my bicycle around Propst Park, and the general area where the trolley had been years earlier. Once again, Thanks for the info.


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