“The Pleasure Line” – the Interurban Traction Electric Railway.

Interurban Rail
pen & ink by Edie Mae Herrel

It was in 1885 that a little farm boy was born at Pleasant Valley, Ohio (just west of Zanesville where Dillon Dam is now) and his mother names him Hayward. When he grew old enough, little Hayward Dickie, each day, would climb over the fences and walk through the woods with his brother and sister to their little country school house. Little did this little, carefree, country lad realize that one day he would be part of an exciting adventure into the fast-moving world of “modern” transportation.

Up to this time in history, most travel between towns was by covered wagon, stagecoach, or by foot, for those who could not afford the luxury of a stable, horse and carriage. The Ohio canals had flourished for a time until the team railway made them obsolete.

By 1900, interurban electric traction railways were proving that they could outrun the “steam roads” and were the best means of travel for business and pleasure. They were begin proposed and built almost equal to the rate of today’s interstate highways. (These lines are not to be confused with the city street car or trolley line systems, which were smaller and ran on narrower gauge track, although they were developed almost simultaneously.)

Pleasant Valley was a hub of activity when they started to build their powerhouse for the interurban. At 17 years of age, Hayward was restless and wanted to be part of this exciting new world, so he quit school to help shovel gravel for the new powerhouse. After lots of hard work and patience, in 1907 he received the distinction of being one of the youngest motormen for the Columbus, Buckeye Lake, and Newark Traction Company and everyone called him “the kid”.

In 1913, after living in Newark and downtown Columbus, Hayward brought his wife, Pearl, and sons, Richard and Robert, to the small country village of Bexley to live in a little white frame garage home that he had built at 2270 E. Main Street.

Here, his family grew, and with his salary of 18 cents an hour and working ten hours a day, he was able to add two rooms and a lovely porch onto his home.

By now, Ohio had the most mileage of interurban lines of any state, and Columbus was an important interurban center with lines running to most points in Ohio and neighboring states. The Village of Bexley was served by the Columbus, Newark, and Zanesville Electric Railway (incorporated in 1899), which built its line east out of Columbus in 1902.

The fame of this particular line spread throughout the country and was acknowledged by experts to be the best equipped, best constructed (with no expense spared), to make it a model of electric railways. It was called the “Pleasure Line” because of the ease of ride and the beautiful scenery.

This was Hayward Dickie’s line. From its terminal at Third and Rich streets in downtown Columbus, the line left town by East Mount Street, rather than Main Street – due to the fact that the interurban was built to the standard railroad track gauge of 4′ 8 1/2″, while the city street car system was 5′ 2″. Both were powered by overhead electric wires.

The line came east on Mound and crossed over the railroad at Nelson Road on a high overhead viaduct (at that time, the railroad track was not elevated over Main Street, but was a street crossing), then on over the corn fields. At this point, the track curved just slightly north approaching the steel Alum Creek bridge, which curved again slightly back east across the river. The bridge was very high, and upon one occasion, Dickie had to slam on his brake when a man suddenly appeared walking across the bridge. He patiently waited and motioned the pedestrian to hurry on.

There was a Bexley siding just east of the bridge and south of the track near a barn for the trains to pull on to in order to wait for oncoming trains to pass, for there was single track most of the route. At Pleasant Ridge, it swung past the Old Pleasant Ridge School and north to connect with the famous National Pike (Main Street), which followed on top of an embankment on the north side of the road. At Schneider’s Lane (northeast corner of Remington & Main), the “local” train would stop at a platform for passengers – the “limited” only stopped at Columbus, Buckey Lake, Newark, and Zanesville.

Daily, Dickie would proudly drive his passengers a dangerously fast speed to keep his schedule (sometimes a mile a minute) over this route through Bexley and on East through “rich agricultural country furnishing his passengers with a panorama of beautiful views and continuous fit picture of rare beauty.” Some would stop for the day at “the Mecca for all kinds of pleasure, fishing, boating, bathing, duck shooting, and dancing” – Buckeye Lake. The fair was $1, round-trip, between Columbus and Newark and the trains ran every hour from 6 AM to 10 PM. Sometimes Dickie would haul milk from station to station. In 1922, another motorman, and a friend of Dickie’s from Newark, hauled many loads of stone, mortar, and steel beams to a siding especially constructed (where Montrose Avenue is today) to aid in the building of a new high school on Main Street, for the city of Bexley.

As a motorman, Hayward had to be alert at all times and his most valued piece of equipment was his watch. With tight schedules, high speeds, single tracks and limited sidings, a few minutes off schedule could mean “head-on collisions” which did frequently happen. Upon one occasion, something on the track threw Dickie’s car, #69, off the track with 32 passengers aboard. Luckily, no one was seriously injured.

Many funny things also happened. One afternoon, Dickie looked up ahead in disbelief – a horse was on the track. He slammed on his brakes and came to a stop within inches of the horse that never moved. Upon careful examination, he found the horse’s hoofs were stuck in the tracks. Dick gathered together all of his passengers and together they pried and worked the horse loose from his prison. Lifted him up and set him down in the field. To their amazement, he galloped away, unharmed.

Dickie always had two men to help him on his runs – a brakeman and a conductor to take care of the passengers and to stoke the fire in the steam heat coal stove that kept everyone warm on cold days. Dickie did not always benefit from this, as he sat up front where it was almost always old; so, he would often “double up” by wearing two pairs of underwear, socks and gloves, if necessary.

The railroad company was not only praised for the smooth, comfortable (“as sitting in an easy chair”) ride, but also for the exceptional craftsmanship and exquisite detail of the design of the cars. Each car had a parlor and smoking apartment and some separate baggage apartments. Each had a toilet room and water cooler and all the comforts and elegance of the finest Pullman cars.

Dickie’s car, #69, had beautiful chrome and brass fixtures, exquisite hand-rubbed and polished wood, and stained glass windows.

Interurbans were at their peak in the years prior to the first world war. The necessity of the private automobile had not yet developed and the interurban provided a cheap and frequent means of local travel. By the late twenties, Henry Ford had won over America, and most everyone was rolling on rubber wheels. The competition was too much.

In 1929, the Depression hit Hayward Dickie, his family, his neighbors, and all businesses – including the interurban. Dickie struggles, as everyone did, to keep his boy, Richard, in school at OSU. Mr. Hayward Dickie survived the struggle.

As the the interurban, it was not so lucky. For Bexley’s traction line, the end came January 14, 1929, and the fast electric cars that had once taken many a Bexley family for a Sunday outing to Buckeye Lake, faded into history.

By Edie Mae Herrel
Bexley High School, Class of 1947
Artist, Historian, Author, Founder Bexley Historical Society
Originally published in Historical Bexley Images, ©  1974

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Sincere thanks to Hayward Dickie, James Green, Joan Thomas, Carolyn Wood, Charles Brackway, and Ronald Jedicka.

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