Among the artifacts often unearthed during major street reconstruction projects in Toledo are the old rails of trolley tracks that once laced the city. Images of Rail: Toledo Trolleys takes its readers back to the days when those tracks were a vital and vibrant transportation asset to the city, to days when downtown was the place where virtually everyone worked and shopped and the streetcars were the fastest way to get there.
This modest-sized paperback volume is a picture book of black-and-white images taken primarily between the late 19th century and 1949, when Toledo's final streetcar line, the Long Belt, was replaced with bus service. The trolleys and the men who worked on them are unabashedly the stars of this collection, but there also is plenty for the reader whose primary interest is seeing the Toledo of that era, a Toledo whose city limits were much smaller than they are today but which was still a major manufacturing and commercial center.
Highlights include a shift change at the old Overland Motors plant on Central Avenue, with workers swarming the street to board the various cars that would take them home; a trolley crossing the Cherry Street bridge while that structure's original construction was as yet unfinished, and views of the former intersection of Summit, Cherry, and St. Clair streets, a streetcar hub long since reconfigured by urban renewal in that area.
Postcard pictures of that corner on pages 24 and 25 also seem to offer a case study of pre-Photoshop image retouching, too, as a statue, lamppost, and utility pole prominent in one picture are absent from an otherwise identical view on the facing page.
Older pictures show the streetcars' domain challenged only by pedestrians and horse-drawn wagons, while the encroachment of automobiles is evident by the late 1920s. Later images include photos of East Toledo's last streetcar run in 1939, along with melancholy shots of trolleys succumbing to the scrapper's torch behind the old carbarn on Central Avenue, now the location of the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority bus garage.
Not forgotten are the old interurban lines that provided rapid transportation between Toledo and its neighboring cities and to mostly forgotten resort areas like Toledo Beach, which at one time had a car fully decorated as an advertisement, complete with a bathing beauty of the day.
Other noteworthy pictures include an interurban car in Northwood along Woodville Road, a muddy mess at the time; an electric-powered Toledo & Western freight train toting boxcars purportedly loaded with Willys automobiles poking through Sylvania on a snowy day, and a photo showing the removal of interurban tracks along Tremainsville Road that explains that thoroughfare's wide right-of-way that exists to this day.
Despite the limitations of some of its oldest photographs -a concession to the film technology of a century ago - Toledo Trolleys will be a valuable addition to the collection of anyone interested in trolley history or that of Toledo in general.