Dec. 17, 1913: First light-rail service operates in Shaker Heights

 Dec. 17, 1913: First light-rail service operates in Shaker Heights

CLEVELAND -- In 1913, Cleveland’s rapid transit system began growing into the system we know today.

Brothers O.P. and M.J. Van Sweringen had started to develop the City of Shaker Heights. Their goal -- connect the suburb to their Terminal Tower project with a private right-of-way light-rail. Then, it was called the Cleveland & Youngstown Railway. Now, it is called the Green and Blue lines of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA).

100 years ago

On Dec. 17, 1913, trains began operating on the first 1.6-mile segment in the median of what would become Shaker Boulevard, from Coventry Road east to Fontenay Road. They called it "the Shaker Lakes trolley."

The fare: 3 cents. The vehicle: a center-entrance car from C. Ry, as pictured above.

The Coventry to Fontenay track is now the oldest section of continuously operating Rapid tracks still in use today in Cuyahoga County. It is also one of the few surviving American light-rail systems of the original streetcar era. The longest in-use light-rail track is Boston's Boyleston Street Subway, 1897.

That section is now served by 5 Green Line stations -- Coventry, Southington, South Park, Lee and Attleboro.

Back in 1913, it was a 45-minute, 1-seat trip from Coventry Road to streetcar tracks on Fairmount Boulevard, Cedar Glen and Euclid Avenue and downtown.

Just a few years earlier, in 1906, the all-dirt Fairmount Road became the first divided highway in the nation. The name was changed to Fairmount Boulevard.

Light-rail grows up

In 1915, service was extended to Courtland Boulevard, and in 1936, to Green Road.

In 1920, after it became apparent that the Cleveland & Youngstown Railway would never reach Youngstown, it was renamed the Cleveland Interurban Railway (CIRR).

In April.1920, the brothers opened a direct, dedicated line, with trains separate from rail and street traffic, from Shaker Heights to East 34th Street. From there, trains used streetcar tracks to reach downtown.

In 1923, the Standard Oil Company built the Coventry Road Station for $17,500. That building, at 14100 Shaker Blvd., is owned by RTA, and leased to the Ledsky Insurance Co.

In 1924, the Shaker trains were referred to as "the private right-of-way rapid transit line," but calling it "the rapid" probably dates back further than that.

On July 20, 1930, Shaker Rapid cars began using the Cleveland Union Terminal (CUT), after the Terminal Tower opened. Today, that is called RTA's Tower City Station.

In 1942, the City of Cleveland acquired the Cleveland Railway, and in 1944, the City of Shaker Heights acquired the Cleveland Interurban Railway. In 1975, the two systems became one as RTA was formed.

The original Cleveland Union Terminal (CUT) is now called RTA's Tower City Station. The Green Line is route 67A, the Blue Line is 67. Ridership is more than 12,000 a day.