By Joan Baxter
A few weeks ago, I shared information about the small electric trains which provided passenger and freight service between local cities. This was known as the interurban. There was another similar train which did not go from city to city, but the tracks went only around the City of Xenia. Although the car was smaller than the usual interurban cars, it also ran on tracks and was powered by electricity. Because the car was considrably smaller, it became familiarly known as “The Dinky.” The first contract for service was approved on Jan. 29, 1897.
Apparently, there were several different investors interested in this type of venture, but the newspaper reported that “Mr. Martin’s is, without a doubt the best yet proposed, both as to the accommodations of the greatest number of the public and profit to the investors.”
One of the primary stops was for the OSS&O Home on South Detroit Street. Quite a number of pupils and visitors as well as teachers and staff needed reliable transportation to and from that site. At the time, it was reported that the home boasted a population of from 1,200 to 1,500 people. In addition, there was an almost constant stream of visitors each day.
The Dinky next passed by Spring Hill and toward the C.H. and D. Railroad station, past Orient Hill and on to the Pennsylvania Railroad Station. Those who were planning a trip out of town, or those who just arrived in the city were welcomed by the ease of transportation downtown.
To accommodate the many employees of the Xenia Shoe Factory (corner Detroit and Leaman), a stop was made there and then the Dinky continued on Detroit Street, through the business center, and of course, stopped at several hotels in the downtown area. Although the tracks did not go directly to the Central School Building, that was only a short walk away.
Those who worked at the cordage factories could board the trolley near their homes to be transported with relative ease to their places of employment.
The tracks went on Dayton Avenue to Woodland Cemetery. Those who had previously walked to the cemetery were pleased with this means of transportation.
Proceeding further down Dayton Avenue, one would arrive at the Greene County Infirmary and also the Children’s Home (no longer standing). Those who lived in the Infirmary had been unable to visit with family or friends because of the lack of transportation. When the trolley came into being, visitors could be transported to and from the Infirmary and Children’s Home at a minimal cost.
There was hope that perhaps the line would someday be extended to Lucas Grove Park, (now Kil Kare) but this was not feasible.
Ray Higgins remembered with some glee the fact that one of his youthful buddies, Paul B. Evers, delighted in getting up very early on Independence Day. Paul would place dynamite caps at regular intervals on the track. These were relatively harmless, but made a great deal of noise when stomped upon, or of course, when the trolley ran across them.
The lad was up before 5 a.m. with caps in hand and placed the caps on the tracks along Detroit Street from Home Avenue to the OSSO Home. The first trolley was to pass by at 5 a.m., so one could imagine the neighbor’s wrath when those caps went off, one after another for that distance. Paul eventually grew up to be a model citizen in spite of his early prank.
Different cars were run in the summer than in the winter, partly because there were more passengers. The summer car had seats which were the width of the car. Passengers boarded by using a running board which ran the length of the car. There were no closed windows on the summer car.
Once the car was in motion, and the passengers inside, as much as possible, the conductor would move along that running board, hanging on to the car to collect the fare which amounted to five cents per person.
The winter cars had windows for some degree of comfort. Seats were placed on either side of the car with a passageway between the seats. No doubt this was safer for everyone including the conductor.
The tracks continued North on Detroit Street to Ankeney Mill Road and then on to the fairgrounds, but the route was used only during the fair, and transportation to and from the fairgrounds was a necessity. Folks from around the county, and even nearby counties would take the interurban to town, then get on the Dinky for a ride to the fairgrounds.
There were support handles placed so those who could not secure a seat could hold on. One individual was reported to have thought he was holding this, but was actually holding the signal which indicated a new passenger had boarded. He had to explain this to the conductor who was ready to collect the additional fares.
Eventually, automobiles became popular and the Dinky disappeared. All the tracks were removed, and the little trolley became a distant memory.
Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.