The following is an article written by Robert S. Korach for the April-June 1997 issue of Motor Coach Age, which is no longer available as a back issue. It is being reproduced here with permission of the author. Not all of the photos printed in the magazine article were available for use on this page, so photos from other sources have been substituted. The text of the article, with the exception of the photo captions, is exactly as originally published.

Lake Shore Coach
by Robert S. Korach

Ohio's Lake Shore Electric Railway was one of the more important interurbans, serving the densely populated Cleveland-Toledo corridor along Lake Erie. Considering its early beginnings dating to 1893, it was one of the longest lived.

It also set some more dubious records. Although moderately profitable into the 1920's, it began losing money heavily in the economically troubled 1930's and by 1938 had accumulated operating loses of some $3 million, an enormous sum in Depression dollars. There had been labor troubles, strikes and arguments with cities and towns over paving assessments and other contentious matters.

Yet receiver Frederick William Coen, a onetime banker, staved off the scrappers and stubbornly kept the service going over weedgrown tracks for year after year. Elderly interurban cars, some of wooden construction, trundled daily between Cleveland and Toledo and had until 1932 gone even as far as Detroit when the connecting line went bankrupt.

LSE 165, a wood Jewett built in 1912, at Beach Park in 1932.
This 60-seat coach was typical of the big cars used in Cleveland-
Toledo limiteds, and could be run in multiple unit trains with
cars from the Detroit United Railway and the Western Ohio.
(Drew Penfield)

Steel cars were preferred for limiteds through the 1920's, as seen
in this LSE publicity photo. Multiple unit trains were largely
eliminated later in the decade in an attempt to be more efficient,
flexible, and competitive with automobiles and buses.
(Drew Penfield)
LSE might have been a dinosaur, but it was a far-reaching dinosaur. In addition to the 116-mile main line, part of which (between Cleveland and Lorain) was double-tracked, the company operated four rural branches and city lines in Sandusky, Lorain and Norwalk. The corporate setup was not simple. The Gibsonburg Jct.-Gibsonburg sand Sandusky-Norwalk via Milan branches belonged to LSE. The third branch, 10 miles between Lorain and Elyria, was owned by the subsidiary Lorain Street Railroad Co. The fourth branch was owned by the Avon Beach & Southern Railroad and connected Beach Park and South Lorain, eight miles.

Still, it was all Coen's empire. The LSE operated four local lines in Sandusky, one in Norwalk and two in Lorain; it's subsidiary the LSRR was responsible for two additional local Lorain lines but in practice all Lorain city lines were run as one system.

In addition to the through cars to Detroit, LSE ran through schedules to Lima; was joint owner (with the Western Ohio Railway) of the Fostoria and Fremont Railway Co. and it participated in interline freight service with many midwest interurbans in their heyday.

Most of the LSE system was complete by 1911 but as late as 1931 the company built a new rail bypass around the southern edge of Sandusky to cut freight running time between Cleveland and Toledo. Coen obviously had faith in the continued viability of the interurban car. But he had long since hedged his bet.

Lake Shore Coach Is Formed

It was in 1923 that the peak rail route mileage of the system was realized, when the Lorain Street Railroad took over the Oberlin Ave. local line in Lorain from the Cleveland Southwestern & Columbus Railway.

Unlike the neighboring state of Michigan, Ohio laws to a degree protected interurbans from unrestrained bus competition. Ohio had started regulating motor carriers in 1921. A proposed new bus line had to be necessary - not merely convenient. But Coen had experienced a harbinger of serious bus competition in the early 1920's when the Cleveland-Lorain Highway Coach Co. began running on a parallel route about three miles south of LSE, and so on April 19, 1923, LSE incorporated a subsidiary known as the Lake Shore Coach Co.

When Lake Shore Coach bought the Cleveland Sandusky Bus
Co. in 1927, they inherited this unique vehicle, the only bus ever
built by the Clydesdale Motor Truck Co. of Clyde, Ohio.
(Bruce Dicken)

Lake Shore Electric's first motor coach was B-1, a White model
50A built in 1925 with a Kuhlman body. Along with sister B-2, it
was purchased for East Erie Ave. service in Lorain.
(John A. Rehor)
For two years the charter gathered dust in some LSE filing cabinet, but in the summer of 1925 LSE actually got into the bus business. On September 6 of that year it replaced the one-car East Erie line in Lorain with two new White model 50-A buses with Kuhlman bodies. A second-hand 1922 White model 50 Kuhlman body bus was soon purchased as a backup. The buses were driven by motormen and conductors assigned to the South Lorain carbarn.

Buses for the Main Line

Lake Shore Coach Co. finally stepped out of the filing cabinet and into the spotlight on June 3, 1927 when LSC bought the Cleveland- Lorain-Sandusky Bus Co. and 13 vehicles - some of which were touring cars. Included with the larger vehicles was what could well have been the one-off bus product of the Clydesdale Motor Truck Co. of the hamlet of Clyde, located on the LSE south of Sandusky.

This unit is reported to have been Cleveland-Lorain Highway Coach's first bus, and later evidently migrated to the C-L-S system. No other Clydesdale buses are known to have been built, and it wound up as a line truck in Lorain.

The Ohio PUC authorized the acquisition on July 11, 1927 and LSC began service between Cleveland and Sandusky on July 19. There were some real, if small, buses. Two were White model 50-A coaches. Most were retired or replaced with six new buses in 1928 and 1929 as business began to pick up on the highways paralleling the LSE rails.

Lake Shore Electric assuredly did not go in for fancy depots.
Exhibit A is this view of the ticket office and waiting room in
Lorain, which happens to give a glimpse of the front of Lake
Shore Coach's White B-3 at the right margin.
(Dennis Lamont)

The first bus substitution of a main line rail route came in 1928
when the Sandusky, Milan & Norwalk branch was replaced by a
single bus on a two-hour headway. This is the 1931 timetable.
(Dennis Lamont)
Service was hourly during peak hours, with two-hour base service between Cleveland and Lorain, which was also LSE's main rail commuter market. One daily bus trip extended to Sandusky along Ohio Route 2. The buses were garaged in Lorain at East Erie and Iowa Ave. Three buses were required on a daily basis.

The first rail substitution followed shorlty. On April 6, 1928, the LSC replaced the Sandusky-Milan-Norwalk interurban with one bus. This, plus a spare, were moved from the Lorain garage to the Sandusky carbarn.

Local bus operation in Sandusky followed on October 16, 1928 when another bus was moved over from Lorain to take over part of the LSE Milan Road car line, which became the East End bus route.

LSC's collection of dilapidated buses did not add luster to the new operation, and after customer and Ohio PUC complaints, LSC bought three new White model 53's in 1928 for Lorain base service, and three Yellow model W's in 1929 for Sandusky. These six new coaches plus two older White 50-A's provided all LSC service with five of the eight needed in peak hours.

One of the worst interurban-bus accidents in national history involved the luckless LSE on January 22, 1929 near Bellevue when a Toledo limited car struck a brand-new Greyhound over-the-road bus carrying 32 passengers at a grade crossing. A snowstorm was in progress, limiting visibility. Nineteen bus passengers perished and 13 others were seriously injured. There were no major injuries on the much- heavier rail car.

In 1930 LSC received permission under its Sandusky-Norwalk rights to handle local passengers effective September 13 between Milan and Norwalk, removing a restriction due to its duplicating another bus company's route. LSC had coveted the more direct route over the roundabout former rail line.

The decrepit White 50A's continued in use through most of the
1930's, much to the dissatisfaction of riders. They were finally
replaced by new Yellow 742's.
(Harry Christiansen)

One of the worst interurban-bus accidents in history occurred
near Bellevue on January 22, 1929. Nineteen bus passengers
died, thirteen others were seriously injured.
(Drew Penfield)
New Territory Invaded

The Cleveland Southwestern & Columbus Railway was another extensive interurban network, serving the sector just south of the LSE's. But it was weaker and the last of its rail lines was abandoned on February 28, 1931. Like the LSE, it had a bus subsidiary, the Cleveland Southwestern Bus Co.

On May 22, 1931, LSC purchased a CSB route from Lorain via Penfield Jct. to Amherst and South Amherst. This line required one bus, so a Southwestern Studebaker bus with a Superior body was included in the deal. It ran out of Lorain until retired in April 1935. LSC would later build on this new territory.

In 1931 also, LSE began to chip away at its several city streetcar lines, mostly served by four-wheeled Birney cars. Major changes were coming up in Sandusky, and to prepare for them without making a major investment, LSC disposed of its Sandusky-Norwalk bus certificate on October 24, 1931 to the Norwalk and Mansfield Bus Co., later the Norwalk Bus Co.

The one bus which had been used on this intercity branch showed up in Sandusky three days later when on October 28 the LSC opened a new West End bus line replacing the Tiffin Ave. car line and part of the Depot Belt rail line. Then on November 11 the LSE East Monroe car line came off, replaced by an expanded East End bus through-routed with the West End. The new line needed two buses, but five Birneys were replaced.

Counting the 1928 partial replacement of the Milan Road streetcar line, two buses and a spare had replaced eight Birney cars plus a spare. Much of this miracle of efficiency was due, of course, to declining ridership.

Meanwhile, a through Cleveland-Lorain-Penfield Jct.-Amherst bus service was started on December 10, 1931, with one daily trip plus a few extra Amherst-Penfield Jct.-Elyria trips, requiring four buses in the AM peak, three in the PM. In part, this replaced the former CSW Lorain-Elyria via Penfield Jct. rail line. The Amherst-South Aherst trips and the Lorain-Sandusky daily intercity trip were dropped to free up buses for the new service. Coen's careful approach to asset management was still the guiding principle.

A similar Studebaker bus was inherited by Lake Shore Coach
from the Cleveland Southwestern Bus Co. when it purchased
the Lorain-Amherst route in May 1931.
(Jim Wallace)

In 1938 the interurban station at 25 Public Square in Cleveland
became the Lake Shore Coach bus station. Andy Palcisko
continued as the ticket agent with Lake Shore Coach, then
Greyhound, and finally retired in 1970.
(Dennis Lamont)
In 1933 the parent Lake Shore Electric slid into receivership, from which it would never recover. Freed of fixed charges, Coen kept rail service going and if he had visions of modernization, perhaps with a new bus fleet, he seemed to be in no hurry.

On November 1, 1933, the court transferred to LSE ownership the East End-West End bus line in Sandusky but leased LSC buses continued to serve. Replacement of the remaining streetcar lines might save money, but as usual, Coen took his time.

July 1, 1935, saw the conversion of another Sandusky rail line when Hayes-Depot gave up its two Birneys for one bus, which turned out to be a White pulled from storage. Also in 1935 the East Erie line in Lorain was reduced from two buses to one, indirectly permitting the retirement of the lone Studebaker.

The Beginning of the End

Coen finally began girding for the inevitable end of rail operations. On October 1, 1936 he restored the daily Lorain-Sandusky bus round trip (which apparently had not run since the summer and fall of 1932) because he was afraid other carriers - perhaps including Greyhound - had designs on the territory. And he made some corporate moves.

To prepare for the end of al rail service, in August 1937 Lake Shore Coach created two new subsidiaries, the first being the Lorain Transit Co. to replace all rail and LSE bus operation in the Lorain-Elyria area. Lorain-Elyria interurban buses were run via Pearl Ave. because the rail route on Grove St. south of Lorain was on private right-of-way.

Second, Lake Shore Coach Lines Inc., was chartered to replace LSE interurban rail service fromCeylon Jct. to Toledo via Norwalk and Clyde, plus the rail line from Sandusky to Fremont with two bus routes: Sandusky-Bellevue and Sandusky-Clyde, both connecting with the Ceylon Jct.-LSCL Toledo rights.

Lake Shore Coach 122, a Yellow 739, waits at Ceylon Junction
on January 30, 1938. LSE 20, the Ceylon-Bellevue shuttle car,
is turning on the wye in the background.
(Ralph A. Perkin)

Eastbound 157, once the pride of LSE limited service, rolls
through Clyde and past one of the buses that will replace it
before the spring is out.
(Dennis Lamont)
Lorain Street Railroad streetcar conversions began on September 5, 1937 with the 31st Street branch due to repaving, but this line was eventually taken over by the new Employees Transit Line as its first route on March 12, 1938. The aggressive ETL eventually elbowed Lake Shore local buses out of the city.

The need for new equipment to take over from the ancient, lumbering interurban cars was addressed, as usual, with caution. LSC received Ohio Public Utilities Commission permission to finance eight new interurban buses for LSCL Inc. and five new interurban buses for LSC itself, plus four city buses for Sandusky which entered service in April 1938. No buses were ordered for Lorain due to a growing uncertainty about whether newly-formed Lorain Transit would be able to secure a franchise.

In reality, only three Yellow model 739 buses were bought by LSCL Inc., but ten 742's were purchased by LSC itself. Sandusky's four new city buses were Yellow 733's. With this modest infusion of new equipment , Lake Shore Electric prepared to wind up a venerable rail operation which had at one time required a fleet of 40-odd heavy interurbans and several dozen streetcars.

Lake Shore Coach 122 is brand new in this 1938 photo as it
symbolically blocks the path of one of its electric
predecessors in Clyde.
(Clyde Public Library)

Lake Shore Coach purchased ten Yellow model 742's in April
1938 to begin replacing rail operations. Buses 150-159 are
seen here lined up after delivery in Sandusky.
(John A. Rehor)
Lurking in the background besides the Lorain franchise squabble was the problem of keeping Greyhound and Buckeye Stages from getting the Norwalk-Toledo bus rights. It was quite a fight. First PUCO awarded Greyhound the rights but after further argument changed its mind and gave LSCL the prize. The controversy wound up in the Ohio Supreme Court but in April of 1938 the high court gave the final nod to LSCL.

Interurban employees, fearing job losses, tried to set up a cooperative to keep rail operations going, but Coen had no choice but to surrender the property to a finance company at a receiver's auction on January 4, 1938 to satisfy an $800,000 debt. By now there was no doubt about what was going to happen.

Bus Network Similar to Rail

Mainline conversions began on January 23, 1938, when three of the 739's supplemented and then replaced most Ceylon Jct.-Fremont through cars. Cleveland-Toledo rail service continued via Sandusky, but the alternate main line was severed by construction of a subway under the Nickel Plate railroad tracks in Bellevue.

On April 1, 1938, LSE gave up its East Erie local bus line in Lorain, allowing ETL to start its second line. By so doing, LSE avoided relicensing its oldest three buses, one dating to 1922.

Lake Shore Coach had planned to operate the Lorain city lines, converted from rail to rubber, and had set up a new subsidiary to do it. But 35 employees of Lorain Street Railroad and the LSE had other ideas. They formed Employees Transit Co. and snatched the franchise out from under Coen's nose. LSE's Lorain Transit Co. ended up only with the intercity permit between Lorain and Elyria, but without local rights.

Times are changing by 1937, when this photo captured a Grey-
hound bus passing through Lorain. A Lorain Street Railroad
interurban and a Cleveland-Lorain Highway Coach bus wait
at the intersection.
(Drew Penfield)

Employee's Transit Line, founded by former employees of the
Lorain Street Railroad, managed to muscle Lake Shore Coach
out of most of the Lorain local routes.
(Dan Brady)
Initially three rented LSC buses sufficed, but on May 8, 1938 they were replaced by part of a group of six buses - ranging in age from eight to 14 years - which Coen had rented from Toledo's Community Traction. They hardly presented a progressive image, but they soon showed up all over the bus system.

LSE's last day as an interurban rail operator was May 14, 1938. On the following day, buses were everywhere. The interurban system, however, appeared on the map much as before. Like the old rail system, Lake Shore Coach had the long-distance business between Cleveland-Sandusky-Toledo, traditionally handled on two-hourly headways, and the heavy suburban traffic between Cleveland and Lorain which demanded a more frequent service.

However, on May 15 the LSC Lorain-Penfield Jct.-Amherst-Elyria line was cut loose from the Cleveland-Lorain operation, and became Lorain-Penfield Jct.-Elyria with only the Amherst trips being given to Employees Transit.

After May 15 LSC's buses were deployed as follows:
  • The Cleveland-Sandusky-Toledo main line operated out of the Lorain and Sandusky garages, using the
       10 1938 Yellow 742's plus the two White 65's and one White 54 rented from Community Traction.
  • Ceylon Jct.-Clyde ran out of Sandusky garage with the three Yellow 739's assigned , two needed.
  • Sandusky city service required he three Yellow W's and two of the 733's, four needed.
  • The two Lorain-Elyria lines (including the one via Penfield Jct.) made do with two 733's, the old
       50-A of 1927, and three of the Community Traction buses, four required.

  • There was a footnote to LSE's ponderous exit from the rail business. May 14 wasn't quite the last day of rail operation after all. The company, it seems, had neglected to secure PUCO permission to abandon the Soldier's Home Birney car line in Sandusky, so it soldiered on until May 25 when the requisite paperwork was completed.

    The sad old White 50-A finally entered retirement later in 1938 when three more new Yellow 742's arrived. Leased CT buses 551 and 553 were returned to Toledo and in September 1938 LSC bought CT units 253, 552 and 569.

    Lake Shore Coach 120, another of the Yellow 739's, is making
    its stop in Clyde while working the Ceylon Junction - Fremont
    route in 1938.
    (Paul Jenck)

    Lake Shore Coach naturally followed the routes laid out by the
    electric interurbans more than three decades before. The
    electric cars helped grow the towns and cities which now
    required transportation from buses.
    (Robert Korach)
    Gearing Up for Growth

    On May 31, 1939, Lorain Transit and Lake Shore Coach Lines were merged into Lake Shore Coach, and a new era - one which promised growth rather than retrenchment - began. This corporate reorganization left the estate still controlled by Ohio Utilities Finance Corp., which had forced the rail abandonment issue early in 1938. And this firm was still a subsidiary of utility giant Cities Service, which operated a number of urban and interurban transit systems, especially in the Toledo area, and had once directly controlled LSE itself.

    Traffic picked up, slowly at first, but as World War II war cliuds gathered, LSC knew it was in for expansion. Seven Yellow PG-2903's were purchased in 1941 and 1942 plus five TD-2705's for Lorain suburban service. Gas and tire rationing took hold and soon rush hour buses on the Cleveland-Lorain line ran as often as every five minutes.

    The influx of new and used equipment continued as six Fords and five of an unknown make were added to the roster, then two used Yellow came in early 1944. These were followed by five new PGA-3702's and a single Flxible Clipper.

    Coen, meanwhile, had retired in 1940 after finally achieving stability for his battered and bruised transportation empire, and on August 29, 1943, Cities Service sold Lake SHore Coach to Harry Arnold, who controlled city bus lines in Newark, Zanesville, and Mansfield, Ohio, plus over-the-road operations under the name of Granville Motor Stages and Fairlick Stages. All of these were marketed under the name of Ohio Rapid Transit Inc.

    On September 15, 1943 the Sandusky routes were put into a new company called Sandusky Rapid Transit, and Fairlick's line from Sandusky to Bucyrus was turned over to Lake Shore. Ohio Rapid Transit took over 45 coaches from LSC.

    Lake Shore's 1946 bus timetable looked remarkably similar to Lake SHore Electric's 1937 rail schedule. There were still six daily through trips each way between Cleveland and Toledo via Sandusky most of which took 4 hours 10 minutes, not one minute faster than the cars had been. There was also service via Norwalk, of a similar pattern to the old days. LSE had offered extra service Cleveland- Lorain, but not as many trips as LSC later did.

    This 1939 Lake Shore Coach brochure reads much like earlier
    LSE advertisements, listing the towns and pleasure
    resorts convenietly served.
    (Drew Penfield)

    The main LSE shops at Sandusky, built by the Sandusky & Inter-
    urban in 1899, were converted to a bus garage in 1938, and still
    in use when this photo was taken in 1955. The building was
    demolished after a fire in 1964.
    (John A. Rehor)
    The Big Territory Swap

    In 1947 and 1948 LSC purchased five new Aerocoaches and three Mack suburbans, but many of the older buses carried on for a while longer. In 1949 Arnold bought some bus companies in southern Ohio that were collectively known as the Arcodel System. This set the stage for some dramatic developments in northern Ohio.

    On June 20, 1949, came a major announcement: Lake Shore and Valley Greyhound had signed an agreement to swap routes. Valley operated an extensive network in southern Ohio which complemented Arnold's Arcodel acquisition. He wanted to concentrate his activities there.

    Valley Greyhound, on the other hand, was attracted to the densely-populated Cleveland-Toledo orbit, so in an amazingly simple transaction each company signed over its routes to the other. With the deal VG picked up 41 buses, the garage in Lorain, and the following routes:
  • Toledo-Fremont-Sandusky-Ceylon Jct.-Cleveland
  • Fremont-Bellevue-Norwalk-Ceylon
  • Sandusky-Bucyrus
  • Sandusky-Milan-Norwalk
  • Sandusky-Castalia-Clyde

  • Greyhound, however, was not interested in the suburban lines so Lake Shore handed over its Sandusky-Soldiers Home route to Sandusky Rapid Transit.

    In a development which followed almost immediately, Valley Greyhound was dissolved and its routes merged into Central Greyhound which secured intrastate rights along Lake Erie to the benefit of the through schedules it was already operating.

    On July 21, 1949, Valley Greyhound abandoned one route and turned over its remaining southern Ohio services to Arnold's Ohio Rapid Transit along with 32 buses and the Columbus garage. ORT operated a number of lines south and east of Columbus to the Ohio River plus the Sandusky-Mansfield-Newark-Lancaster route.

    However, Arnold still owned the Lake Shore name and he used it in several transactions which variously expanded, contracted and altered his empire.

    A strike by the company's 50 drivers and mechanics that started on May 28, 1974, finally put Lake Shore out of business. At the end, its 34 buses included 4106's, 4107's, 4108's, 4903's and 4905's. Its intercity operations from Columbus to Parkersburg, Wheeling and Chillicothe were taken over by existing Greyhound routes. Thus ended the affairs of a company whose name once reflected the rich history of electric interurban and bus transport along Lake Erie.

    Safety certificate issued to a Lake Shore Coach driver, signed by
    Harry Arnold, who purchased the company in 1943. A few months
    later, Lake Shore swapped territories with Valley Greyhound.
    (Drew Penfield)

    A former Lake Shore bus, renumbered when acquired by Central
    Greyhound in 1949, is seen in its final resting place: a scrapyard
    near Fostoria, Ohio in 1952.
    (Jim Spangler)

    A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Robert S. Korach has had a lifelong fascination with the transportation business and particularly with urban transit and the long-departed interurbans - an interest stimulated by his contacts with the Lake Shore Electric as a child. It led him to a career in the transit business which, after graduating from the University of Wisconsin with a B.S. in Economics, included management positions with the Cleveland Transit System, PATCO's Lindenwold (N.J.) high-speed line (where he was Assistant General Manager), and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. He retired in 1988 as Assistant General Manager for Operations at the Los Angeles transit system. Korach is past president of the Association of Railway Museums and in 1995 was elected to the American Public Transit Association's Hall of Fame.

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