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Dayton Electric Railway Historical Collection

Identifier: MS-209

Scope and Content

The Dayton Electric Railway Collection is divided into three series that cover the time span from 1907 to about 1930. Series 1 is composed of official documents dated from 1918 and continuing to circa 1930.

Series 2 is made up of file ten containing miscellaneous items such as time cards and schedules, a newsletter, pamphlets as well as advertisements. Series three comprises file eleven that consists of two maps of positive feeder lines.

The series and files that may be considered important are file eight, file nine, series two, and series three. File eight indicates that as far back as 1929 a company was organized that would bring together all of the extant city and inter-urban railways into one corporation. File nine constitutes a study that discusses the problems of the Dayton railway system as well as the inter-urban lines. It proposes solutions and suggests a transit plan for 1950.

Of special historical significance is Series 2. Among other documents, it includes a history of the 1918 arbitration proceedings between the management of the streetcar lines and its employees' union. Involved in the arbitration were both the governor's office and the National War Labor Board. Also important is a reprint of a speech by a Dr. John Wesley Hill indicating the nature of labor and management conflicts in the early 1920s.

Series 3 shows the street names of Dayton and their layout in 1916.


  • Creation: 1907-1930


Restrictions on Access

There are no restrictions on accessing materials in this collection.

Restrictions on Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

History of Dayton Electric Railway

The Dayton Electric Railway Collection chronicles the evolution of the Dayton area transit system from 1907 to the 1930s. History indicates that the first streetcar lines, the earliest of which had been chartered in 1869, were not founded for profit from fares, but to open up the outlying farm lands to real estate development. Until 1887, the motive power of all city lines was horses and mules. In 1887, however, the White Line became the first railway company to operate on electricity. Thus Dayton has the distinction of being one of the earliest cities in the country to use electric power for transportation. It should be noted that at the end of 1909, Dayton had one hundred miles of railway tracks.

According to the collection, the city was serviced by four streetcar lines in 1918. They were The City Railway Company, The Dayton Street Railway Company, The Oakwood Railway Company, and The Peoples Railway Company. By 1930, this system had proliferated into six separate railway companies operating eleven streetcar lines, but no major bus line. Little cooperation existed between the different companies. For a city that was the size of Dayton, such a condition was unparalleled in the nation. The results of this hodgepodge system were predictable - duplication of service, reduced schedules, and reduced revenues for each line. A 1930 study concluded that the railway system, because of its poor financial status, could not keep up with the growth of the city, which was estimated to be twenty-five to thirty percent per decade. Nor was uncontrolled growth of a transit system, although on a lesser scale than in Dayton, unique to that city. . To quote from the 1930 study: "Uncontrolled transit development by private enterprise is more responsible than any other factor for the congestion from which our cities are suffering."

The authorities of Dayton certainly were aware of this chaotic transit situation. There was an attempt in 1929 to merge all railway companies into one corporation, The Dayton Railway and Transportation Company. Since additional research could not find a transit company by such a name at that time, it can be assumed that nothing ever became of this organization. Apparently the exigencies of World War II made consolidation imperative. It seems that The City Railway Company in 1943 emerged as the one line that would service the Dayton area. As far as can be determined, The City Railway Company was succeeded by the City Transit Line around 1953. The privately owned City Transit Line was eventually taken over by the publicly owned Regional Transit Authority of today.


0.5 linear feet

Language of Materials



Collection is an accumulation of records from four Dayton streetcar companies: the City Railway Company, the Dayton Street Railway, the Oakwood Railway Company, and the Peoples Railway Company. Records include operating reports, schedules, financial records, a study of Dayton's interurban transit system, printed materials, maps, and miscellaneous items.

Statement of Arrangement

The collection is arranged into three series:

  1. Series I: Official Documents
  2. Series II: Miscellaneous Items
  3. Series III: Maps

Other Finding Aid

A complete box and folder inventory for this collection is available on the Special Collections and Archives web site at

Acquisition Information

The Dayton Electric Railway Collection was discovered while the Wright State University Archives were in the process of moving in 1990. The donor is unknown.

Processing Information

Processed by Stephen F. Kahn, Fall 1990.

Guide to the Dayton Electric Railway Historical Collection (MS-209)
Finding aid prepared by Stephen F. Kahn, 1990
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • 2014 July: Finding aid reformatted by Toni Vanden Bos.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Special Collections and Archives
3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Dayton OH 45435-0001 USA