Threshing The Wheat From The Chaff

| January/February 1973

According to the latest news from the city of Dayton, Ohio, it appears that a new gang has taken over the control and ownership of the city transit system. We speak of 'gang' meaningfully, in that it looks like the next step will be to get rid of the wonderful electric trackless trolley system throughout that city. It just looks like these so-called modern 'engineers and experts' simply can't be happy with something that's already tried and true, clean and economical to run, as well as almost fool-proof in operation and maintenance. Although we did hate to see the wonderful old electric street cars go, that ran on the tracks with a nostalgic clickety-clack, some years ago, the fine electric trackless trolleys are at least next best. They are silent, have the fastest get-away of any public conveyance I ever saw, and the sparks from their overhead trolleys and electric motors actually put out the element of ozone which purifies the city atmosphere. Besides, the electric trackless trolleys don't have the extra parts the diesel busses require, such as transmissions to replace, etc., etc. They are simple, powerful, speedy, and clean the very finest thing in this age of so-called ecology. And yet, in an era when political ideologists are crying their eyes out for pure air, if we are to survive, the new Dayton Rapid Transit Authority 'take-over' is already planning to scrap the fine machines for diesel busses that will further pollute the city atmosphere. Those opposing this move have even revealed that the new ruling transit body has gone to such extremes as destroying all parts-replacement sheets and data pertaining to the electric transit trolleys, in a secret maneuver to prevent repairs of existing equipment and hasten conversion to the diesel pollution.

Even though the city of Dayton already has the expensive overhead trolley system in working condition, they still prefer to rip all this fine transit equipment out for something that's worse, noisy and dirty and, in performance, can't equal it in any way, shape or form.

Modern politicians keep crying for some kind of mass transportation, as a needed solution to solving our overcrowded highway dilemna. Yet none of these super politicos ever seem to be historically cognizant of the fact that we once had in America the finest mass transportation systems in the world when the rest of the nations were still travelling by canal boat. We had the complex system of steam passenger trains, keeping schedules no diesel has ever matched yet. And the sleek, comfortable, fast and clean electric interurbans which served the smaller towns and country between the larger cities. What our modern politicos should really be crying about is that, years ago, other fellows like them had all these advanced modes of mass transportation torn up by the roots and covered over so completely that no trace is barely left to remind us they were here.

When my 'Mommy' took me several times to the city of Dayton, Ohio, on the big electric interurbans, the thrills of the wide curves over the beautiful countryside, the swishing of the electric power poles past the car window, the climbing up over the tall wooden trestle, the rumble of the inter-urban air-pumps and the plaintive wail of the air-whistle, all lent memories that haunt me to this day. And I never have forgotten the thrills of the big red and green cars that arrived in my hometown of Union City, Ind., which I paused many a time with my wagon or on my bicycle just to observe. To the south of the interurban lines, running down the main thoroughfares, there were the many steam trains arriving and departing on schedule. We had sights and sounds, the perfumes of ozone and coal smoke and cylinder oil all about us. And no one ever got lung cancer from it all. The kids of today never had it so niceor so thrilling as did we. Railroad historians, looking back nostalgically, sum it up in only three words-they call it 'the glory days'.

Then came the modern age ripping up the interurban tracks, tearing down the fine overhead trolley system, the historic power stations, the little village depots and finally selling the big, sleek interurban cars as common junk. Gone was a great and glorious era of superb mass transportation, only to be followed a few decades later by the scrapping of the wonderful, powerful and fast steam locomotives. The planners of this new and 'unexciting' age made quite sure that no remnant of those great days would remain to remind us of the grandeur and glory that was. They dismantled the trackside water tanks, razed the picturesque village and country depots, wiped the slate clean, making dead sure that the ghosts of the electric and steam transportation systems would never rise again. Next came the diesels, polluting the air, killing fruit trees along the way, spewing oil and setting fires in wheat fields for miles and miles.

They all said, 'If we could eliminate the dirty steam locomotives and pull the trains with diesels, we'd clean up the country.' Now they are crying their eyes from their sockets, begging for billions for some kind of effective mass transportation system to decongest the highways, while the ecologists weep over the fact that the air has become so foul that man's survival is at stake.