The Cleveland Railway Co. was Cleveland’s privately owned public transit franchisee from 1910 to 1942. The City of Cleveland awarded franchises to private companies to operate horse-drawn car, and later, electric streetcar lines. The increased cost of electric streetcar lines caused consolidation of the industry in the late 1880s. In 1903, the two remaining companies merged to form the Cleveland Electric Railway Co.
Mayor Tom L. Johnson, who had been involved in the electric railway business before moving to Cleveland in 1883, was an advocate of municipal ownership of public transit. The Municipal Traction Co. was incorporated in 1906, and in 1908, the company leased the operations of the Cleveland Electric Railway Co. In 1910, the Municipal Traction Co. and Cleveland Electric Railway Co. filed for bankruptcy protection, and a new franchise agreement was created between the city and the former Cleveland Electric Railway Co., renamed Cleveland Railway Co.
Many of the cars owned and operated by the Cleveland Railway Co., including Car 1218 were manufactured by the G.C. Kuhlman Car Co. of Cleveland. Car 1218 was built in 1914, and improved in 1920 and leased to the Cleveland Interurban Railroad, owned by the Van Sweringen brothers, to provide transportation between Shaker Heights and Terminal Tower. The brothers purchased the Cleveland Railway Co. in 1930. Car 1218 was retired in 1960.
1218 was a center-entry car, meaning that there was only one door, located in the middle of the car. Once the passenger entered the car, and placed his or her fare into the collection box, there were two more steps up to the seat level. Many of the fare boxes were manufactured by the Johnson Fare Box Company, founded by Tom L. Johnson.
The Cleveland Transit System (CTS) was established after the City of Cleveland purchased the Cleveland Railway Company, in April, 1942. By 1954 the conversion to rubber tires vehicles was completed, and rail transit was limited to the Windermere line, which was extended to the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport in 1958. In 1974, CTS was reorganized as the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) which absorbed the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit the following year.
An agreement was reached between RTA and University Circle Incorporated, by which Car 1218, having been retired to Trolleyville in 1966, was to be restored and placed on display in the vicinity of the Children’s Museum in University Circle (so named because it was once the circle where street cars turned around to return to downtown Cleveland). Lacking funding, the project was never completed, and Car 1218 has been sold.
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