A group of boys and girls from Lorain County, Ohio posed outside the Cleveland & Southwestern inter-urban car that they road to school in Elyria, Ohio, ca. 1907.
During the late nineteenth century, some Ohio business owners and communities began to build smaller railroads that usually extended only a few miles either between towns or within a community. These railroads were known as interurbans when they connected two towns or as electric trolley lines when they operated only within a single community. Electricity powered these railroads. The lines provided a quick and cheap alternative to regular railroads, canals, or horses. While the interurban railroads primarily transported people from one location to another, they also carried farmers' crops and business owners' products. Electric trolleys usually only carried people.
The first interurban line in the United States connected Newark and Granville, Ohio. Initially, coal powered the engines on this line, but electricity eventually replaced coal as the power source. By World War I, 2,798 miles of electric track existed within Ohio. Ohio's mileage exceeded the next closest state by approximately one thousand miles. Unfortunately for electric railway companies, the advent of the automobile quickly caused these types of railroads to become unpopular among travelers, especially as state and local governments invested funds to improve streets and roads. While most electric railway lines ran several trains an hour, it became much easier for people to simply climb into their car to travel to their destination than to wait for the trolley. By the early 1930s, most interurban and electric trolley lines in Ohio had ceased operation.