By Harvey Hylton
Today, August 8, 2000, marks 112 years of continuous Electric Transit system operation in Dayton, Ohio.
On 8/8/88 (1888) the first electrically-propelled street cars of the White Line Electric Railway sparked their way up the rails on North Main Street from downtown, and out Germantown Pike as well. Daytons other street railways, which started operating in 1869, were operated with horses and mules, soon converted to Electric cars also. By 1894 or so, all of the Dayton street car lines were electrified.
Other cities, such as Cleveland and Lima, had electric street cars before Dayton, but due to their use of unproven technology, had to abandon their operation until the Van De Poele system was installed. Daytons White Line used the Van De Poele system from the start, and thus has the distinction of being the city with the longest continuously running electric transit system in the USA.
Charles Van De Poele invented the idea of trolley poles pushing upward against the trolley wire. Previous systems had little carts ["trollers"] riding on top of the wires, which fell off quite often.
Electric rail cars were the primary mode of city transit until their tracks started wearing out. In April of 1933 a new type of transit vehicle, the Electric Trolley Bus (ETB) came to Dayton, and eventually replaced the rail cars. The last street car in Dayton ran across Third Street from East (Drury) to West (Drexel) in September 1947.
With a fleet of new ETI/SKODA ETBs, the Miami Valley Regional Transit Authority (MVRTA) continues the Dayton tradition of quiet and non-polluting electric transportation.
Harvey I. Hylton, ETB Prog Mgr 8/8/00