Monday, February 4, 2013


CLANG, CLANG, CLANG! went the trolley on a sunny afternoon in the city of Painesville, in Lake County, Ohio in 1896. The CP&E Interurban had extended its street car lines to Lake County, and the dedication and first run were taking place amid a day of fun and feasting. For the debut, citizens from all areas of the county crowded along the streets of town to be a part of the excitement.

From that day forward, for three decades in our Lake County, this electric trolley line would give our residents another mode of transportation that brought a certain "city flavor" here.

The tracks, newly installed in the sandy strip on the south side of the brick pavement of Mentor Avenue, would soon deliver passengers from Cleveland to Painesville and vice versa, and eventually beyond to Ashtabula.

The trolley's maiden run in Painesville was supervised by C. W. Wason, president of the line, assisted by a "Miss Wright" of Cleveland, who, for whatever reason, was the person in charge of the first pulling of the switch of most "first runs" in various cities along the line.

The bright-and-shiny, many-windowed car took off from the Lake Shore station on Railroad Street and moved through happy crowds along State and Main Streets, pulling around the park to the court house where it was greeted with rousing cheers. On board were members of the press, clergymen, town officials and other "V.I.P"s.

The Painesville Telegraph wrote that, "Conductor Pat Lynch delayed the start for 20 minutes. He had been driving the old horse car until shortly before starting time, and had to don the uniform of his new position. At 10:20 he appeared and was received with hand-clapping by the guests on the car, and cheers from the spectators."

During the rest of that innaugural day, free trolley rides were given to the crowds of citizens who had turned out to witness the launch of the extended line.

With its extension into the county, trolley barns had been built on the Lake Shore Depot block, east of the depot on Railroad Street. The trolley's first run originated at that depot, and the shadow of the
tracks on which it ran are still discernible today in a pieced strip of brick along the roadway that runs in front of the depot.

The power plant and car barns for the system were based in Willoughby, and the electricity that provided current for the trolley also supplied lights and power for houses along Mentor Avenue. (Later the Cleveland Electric llluminating Co. purchased the poles and power lines from the railroad).

The three types of trolley service offered were the "Limited" (regional runs), the local, and the passenger-baggage runs which also carried mail between Cleveland and Painesville. It was not unusual to see all three types of trolley cars lined up together in Painesville near the elegant Parmly Hotel at Public Square and Main Street.

The flagship of the Interurban was "The Josephine," the private rail car of CP&E owner Henry Everett. Named for Everett's wife, it was staffed and opulently appointed inside and out, and it was often seen at the siding at Everett's estate in Kirtland (now the Kirtland Country Club). The Josephine burned in 1909; her replacement in 1910 was later purchased by a national trolley museum as a prime example of a private rail car.

The Interurban plied our city streets for 30 years, but in that brief interlude it carried farmers, school children, shoppers, young lovers, families... and it provided an accessible and inexpensive magic carpet to museums, parks, movies, concerts and other places. There was a romance to it, and long after it was gone, the Interurban still ran the tracks in the memories of many who had used it.

The trolley took its final run in 1926, its existence terminated by the success of yet another mode of transportation---the automobile. For years after the demise of the system, the tracks were visible in the paved streets around the square in Painesville. And for many years, when children asked about those tracks, it set their parents and grandparents reminiscing about another time.

And now you know.

(Rose isn't old enough to have ridden on the CP&E trolleys, but she IS old enough to have been among the youngsters who saw and asked about the tracks that still remained in various places around town. And the elders who answered were usually happy to have been asked, and were generous with their memories).