Rail Transportation History

This page details how rail developed in the Columbus area, how it died, and what has occurred in relation in the years since.

**Last Updated: 4/20/2020

1850
The first railroad reaches Columbus, the Columbus & Xenia Railroad.

June 10, 1854
The Columbus Street Railway company is formed, and is authorized to build a street-based railway system on multiple streets within the city. These include High, Harrisburg Pike to Green Lawn Cemetery, Broad Street, Town Street and others. None of these lines are constructed by the company.

June 10, 1863
The Columbus Street Railway Company completes Columbus’ first streetcar line and begins service on High Street between Mound Street and the rail depot on North Public Lane (now Naughten Street) on the north side of the city. It operates on a 6-minute schedule. The streetcar barn is located on High Street between Goodale and Poplar Street.

1864
The Columbus Street Railway Company extends the High Street line north to University Street (now Poplar Street), and south to Stewart Avenue.
Also in 1864, the Columbus Railroad Company is absorbed by the Columbus Street Railway Company.

November 25, 1865
The North Columbus Railroad Company is formed and is authorized to construct streetcar lines from the High Street-Union Depot terminus to 5th Avenue, but doesn’t construct any track.

July 16, 1869
The Friend Street (Main Street) Railway is incorporated in order to build a line from High Street to Franklin Park (then the Ohio State Fairgrounds).

1870
The East Park Place Street Railroad Company is formed.

January, 1872
The East Park Place Street Railroad Company builds a streetcar line from High Street to Albert Street (Garfield Avenue) along Long Street.

April 23, 1872
The Glenwood & Green Lawn Railroad Company is formed.

July, 1872
The State and Oak Street Railroad Company, formed sometime earlier in the year, completes a new streetcar line on State Street between High and 7th (Grant Avenue).

1873
The East Park Place Street Railroad Company extends the Long Street streetcar line from Garfield to Winner Avenue.

1874
The Columbus Street Railway Company builds a new line starting at the High/Goodale intersection and then north on Neil to Ohio State.
Also in 1874, the East Park Place Street Railroad Company extends the Long Street line from Winner Avenue to Franklin Park.

1875
The North Columbus Street Railway Company builds an extension of the High Street line from Poplar Street to 5th Avenue.

September 25, 1875
The Glenwood & Green Lawn Railway Company completes a new streetcar line on West Broad Street between High Street and the state asylum in Hilltop. A secondary branch is also completed on Glenwood Avenue south from Broad, west on Mound and south on Harrisburg Pike to Green Lawn Cemetery.

December, 1875
A tunnel to go under the 10 grade-level tracks of Union Depot on High Street is completed. Trains would often block the High Street crossing for up to 7 hours per day, creating the need for a new tunnel for streetcar and other traffic. These 325-foot “subway” tunnels are the only ones ever built in Columbus.

1876
The East Park Place Street Railroad Company builds a streetcar line on Cleveland Avenue from Long Street and then East on Mt Vernon to 12th Street, as well as a spur line that traveled on Washington Avenue from Mt. Vernon to Buckingham street that primarily served the US Barracks, now known as Fort Hayes.
Also in 1876, the North Columbus Street Railway Company is allowed to extend the High Street line from 5th Avenue to Arcadia Avenue.
Later in 1876, the North Columbus Street Railroad & Chariot Company purchases the North Columbus Street Railway Company and adds a fleet of chariots running south on High Street from Union Depot.

1879
The Friend Street Railway and the East Park Place Street Railroad are consolidated into one company, but keep separate names.

December 22, 1879
Columbus Street Railway Company, Friend Street Railway and East Park Place Street Railroad Company join together to form the Columbus Consolidated Street Railway Company (CCSRC).

1880
CCSRC buys the North High Street Railroad & Chariot Company and ends chariot service.

1882
Also in 1882, CCSRC buys the State & Oak Street Railroad Company and builds and extension of their 7th Street line from the intersection of State and 7th north to Oak Street and then east on Oak to Franklin Park.

1883
CCSRC builds a streetcar line from Cleveland Avenue north to Mt Vernon and then east on Mt Vernon to North 17th Street.

1886
CCSRC buys the South High Street Railroad and Chariot Company.

1887
CCSRC builds a new streetcar line on Chittenden Avenue from High to the new Ohio State Fairgrounds.

1888
Horse-drawn streetcar lines begin electrification in Columbus. The first electrified line is the new Chittenden Avenue line, which is only half a mile in length.
Also in 1888, CCSRC extends the High Street line south from Stewart Avenue to Innis Avenue.

1889
CCSRC builds a new streetcar line from South High Street to Brick Street on Schiller.
CCSRC also constructs an extension of the High Street line from Chittenden Avenue north to Hudson Street.

February 24, 1890
A heavy thunderstorm causes a sewer system to overflow, flooding Union Depot and damaging railroad tracks.

1891
The horsecar stables at Chittenden Avenue are destroyed by fire, including 25 of the cars.
Also in 1891, Columbus’ first interurban line begins construction, the Columbus & Clintonville Electric Street Railway.

1892
The last horse-drawn streetcar line, the Oak Street line, is electrified, ending horse involvement in public transportation.

1894
The Worthington & Columbus Electric Street Railway interurban begins operation as an extension of the Columbus-Clintonville line.

August 25, 1895
The Columbus Central Street Railway interurban between Columbus and Westerville begins construction.

1896
Olentangy Park amusement park is laid out and built by the Columbus Street Railway Company.



1901
The Columbus, Grove City & Southwestern Railway interurban opens its last section between Columbus, Grove City and Orient.
Also in 1901, the Columbus, Delaware & Marion Railway purchases the Columbus, Clintonville & Worthington interurban line and starts an extension to Marion.
The Columbus, New Albany & Johnstown Traction Company opens an interurban line to Gahanna.

1902
The Columbus, London & Springfield Railway interurban is completed.
Also in 1902, the Columbus, Buckeye Lake & Newark Traction Company completes an interurban line between the cities.

1903
The Columbus, Delaware & Marion Railway interurban is completed.
Also in 1903, the Columbus, Urbana & Western Railway is completed.

1904
The Columbus, Newark & Zanesvile Electric Railway interurban is completed between Newark and Zanesville as an extension of the Columbus, Buckeye Lake & Newark line.
Also in 1904, the Scioto Valley Traction Company opens an interurban line from Columbus to Circleville, and another branch from Obetz to Lancaster.
On Saturday, December 31st, 1904, 2 cars on the Central Market line crash at the intersection of Town and McDowell Street. One car is knocked off the tracks, while another is damaged. No one is injured.

1905
The Scioto Valley Traction Company extends its Columbus-Circleville interurban line to Chillicothe.

1925
Columbus purchases a new batch of streetcars for the last time.

October 29, 1938
The last interurban trip in Central Ohio, the Cincinnati & Lake Erie Railroad #110, departs Columbus from the terminal at Rich and 3rd in front of a small crowd.

September 5, 1948
The last streetcar arrives at its destination at Kelton Avenue on the Neil-Main line. As with the last interurban, a small crowd gathers to witness the event.

Sunday, January 8, 1950
Ten trains- 4 operated by Pennsylvania and 6 by New York Central- have their service canceled in and out of Columbus due to a coal shortage. These routes are not re-established.

Friday, June 2, 1950
Train service on New York Central between Columbus and Charleston, WV ends.

Tuesday, May 25, 1971
A new Amtrak “Turbotrain” prototype visits Union Station on its way back to the East Coast. The train attracts a large crowd of spectators.

Tuesday, December 20, 1994
Consultants with BRW Associates tell COTA board members to focus on improving bus service before attempting to build a proposed $276 million rail system. The consultants estimate the rail system would be used by 14,700 riders per day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2001
COTA is revealed to be considering asking Franklin County voters to approve a sales tax to help pay for a $445 million light rail system.

Monday, July 10, 2006
COTA’s board of trustees, citing an inability to qualify for federal funding, approves a resolution discontinuing its latest attempt to bring light rail back to the Columbus area.

Thursday, January 8, 2009
It is revealed that Mayor Coleman and local officials have asked President Obama to include $200 million in his economic stimulus package to facilitate the construction of a local rail system, beginning with a High Street line from Downtown to Polaris.

September, 2009
A study by Amtrak concludes that a passenger rail line connecting the 3-Cs will cost $517.6 million to build and $17 million a year to run, with average speed of 39 MPH and an average annual potential ridership of 478,000.