Thursday, June 02, 2016

Early Transportation in Sandusky had Horse Power

In the 1820s  mail was delivered to Sandusky by the mail stage. Passengers, as well as the U.S. mail, were transported from Sandusky to Norwalk, Mansfield, Mount Vernon and on to Columbus and then back again. Of course, since Ohio was known as the Gateway State, many families traveled by horse and covered wagons through Ohio as they made their way to the west. People who traveled to Sandusky could board a steamer to several different port cities along the Great Lakes. 

Pioneer Sandusky residents recognized the importance of railroad transportation, and showed interest in railway lines being developed in Sandusky as early as 1826. Ground was broken for the Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad in 1835; it began running from Sandusky to Bellevue in 1838, with trains pulled by the Sandusky Locomotive, the first locomotive with a steam whistle. Rail transportation made it easier for people to travel longer distances, and enabled the shipping of products, which in turn boosted local economies. 

In 1882 the first intra-city transportation route was begun by Charles and William H. Gilcher. It was known as the "herdic lines." Horse drawn passenger vehicles took people along three different local routes. The first route operated from the West House downtown to the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway depot on the south side of town. The second route traveled from the West House to Oakland Cemetery. The third route was an east-west route from the city’s waterworks to Tiffin and Mills Streets. The Sandusky Railway was  the first street railway in Sandusky. It was begun in 1883 by L.D. Alcott, and featured fourteen-passenger side-seat cars that were pulled by two-horse teams. The route was double tracked, and went from the West House to the depot on North Depot Street, and back to the West House. You can see several people gathered around Sandusky’s first streetcar in the picture below, taken in 1883 by W.A. Bishop.

J.O. Moss purchased the Sandusky Railway in 1885, and organized more lines across the city.  An article in the November 27, 1947 Twin Anniversary Edition of the Sandusky Register Star News,  reported that the first electric streetcar operated in Sandusky in 1889 from Scott Street to the Soldiers’ Home, and linked with a spur track from Hayes Avenue. The Peoples Electric Railway Line was built in 1890, with financial support mainly from Sandusky residents. The charter of the Sandusky, Milan and Huron Electric Railway, later the Sandusky, Milan and Norwalk Electric Railway, was applied for in 1892. The line began operating in May of 1893 and connected with the local Sandusky lines.

Eventually all the local streetcar lines were absorbed by the Lake Shore Electric Railway, which was replaced by bus service in the late 1930s. 

As automobiles became more popular, more area residents began to drive their own vehicles instead of relying on public transportation.

However, public transportation is once again available to Sandusky residents as well as visitors to the area aboard the Sandusky Transit System, which operates three lines in the immediate Sandusky area. Sandusky’s Amtrak station operates out of the depot originally built for the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad. Several area boat lines also provide service to Cedar Point and the Lake Erie Islands. You can read more about the history of transportation in Sandusky, Ohio in the book Sandusky’s Yesterdays, by Charles E. Frohman.

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