The Pumpkin Vine by Randy Studer
To tell the story of the Toledo, Waterville & Southern Railway Co. (aka the “Pumpkin Vine”) interurban, we need to start at the very beginning. Keep in mind this is not the Ohio Electric Railway that ran across the Maumee River on the old concrete interurban bridge by the Roche de Boeuf rock. We will talk about that interurban line later.
In July of 1887, The Toledo & Maumee Valley Railway Co. was formed by A. K. Detwiler, G. G. Metzger, G. K. Detwiler and C.P. Griffin (dba the Detwiler & Metzger syndicate.) In April of 1896, the Toledo, Bowling Green & Fremont Railway Company was formed by the King-Tracy syndicate. This line will run from Perrysburg or Maumee to Bowling Green, Pemberville, Gibsonburg and Fremont. In 1897, the Toledo & Maumee Valley Railroad leased the Toledo, Bowling Green & Fremont Railway line and operated them both as part of its own system. This was done to increase the growth of the electric railway systems with Toledo as the central point for all the railway lines. On January 21, 1901, the “Pumpkin Vine” was incorporated with $25,000 in capital stock. The Toledo, Waterville & Southern Railway Co. was a subsidiary of the Toledo & Maumee Valley Railway Co.
The new Toledo, Waterville & Southern Railway Co. proposed to build and operate an electric railway following the Maumee River with stops in Toledo, Maumee, Waterville, Grand Rapids, Napoleon and Defiance. However there was one problem that had to be resolved. The Toledo, Napoleon & Defiance Railway was being incorporated on the same day, January 21, 1909. Both lines immediately engaged in a heated rivalry for the franchises from the various towns that the line would serve. A franchise is the permission from a town or city to lay track and operate them in accordance with the terms of the franchise agreement. The fare amounts to be charged are also set within the franchise agreement.
Let’s go back to January 3, 1901, when the village of Waterville received applications from Abraham K. Detwiler (dba Toledo, Waterville & Southern Railway Co.) and William R. Hattersley (dba Toledo, Napoleon & Defiance Railway) to construct, maintain and operate an electric street railroad with the necessary equipment on and along Main Street (River Road) in the Village of Waterville, Ohio. A sealed proposal with a deposit of $2,500 had to be submitted by January 28, 1901. Abraham K. Detwiler was awarded the franchise with a 25-year lease by the Waterville Village Council. On October 14, 1901, an ordinance was passed by the village of Waterville to grant “The Toledo, Waterville & Southern Railway Company, it’s successors and assigns, the right to lay, construct, maintain and operate a railroad, to be operated by electricity or other motive power, except steam, in, along and upon a certain street herein after described, in the Village of Waterville, Lucas County, Ohio. Passed and signed by G. T. Ging, Mayor.”
With all the new interurban/street car companies being formed in the Toledo, Ohio, area in the late 1800s and early 1900s, changes were on the horizon for the electric lines. The Toledo, Waterville and Southern Railway, the Toledo, Bowling Green & Fremont Railway and the Toledo and Maumee Valley Railway did not go unnoticed. Henry A. Everett and Edward W. Moore from Cleveland, Ohio entered into the picture. They were both active since 1895 when they built the Akron Bedford and Cleveland Railroad. It served in a populous area and proved to be profitable for them. They formed the Everett-Moore Syndicate in 1899, with several of the directors and officers of the Cleveland Electric Railway Co. At this time, they were the largest syndicate building and operating interurban railways. They were also in the process of expanding toward Toledo and Detroit.
They controlled 1,200 miles of interurban electric railways. The syndicate owned outright or controlled vast local and long-distance telephone systems in Ohio. In December of 1901, the Toledo, Waterville and Southern Railway (Pumpkin Vine), Toledo, Bowling Green & Fremont Railway and the Toledo and Maumee Valley Railway were sold to the Everett-Moore Syndicate. The new electric railway line that was formed from the sale was named the Maumee Valley Railway and Light Co. It was organized with a capitalization of $1,000,000 to take over and operate the 36 miles of electric railways. The electricity to power the railway was purchased from The Toledo Railways and Light Co. With the consolidation of all three electric lines it would mean more improved car service and freight hauling with a better system of car transfers between the various interurban railway lines.
At this time the Maumee Valley Railway and Light Co. had begun operating the “Pumpkin Vine” interurban. The “Pumpkin Vine” got its moniker because of its twisting, turning corkscrew tracks paralleling the Maumee River between Maumee and Waterville. It was still only extended into Waterville and ended at River Road and Mechanic St. There were plans at one time for it to go across the Maumee River at Waterville, but that never happened. Since there was no loop or way to turn the car around, the line used doubled ended cars. The motorman and conductor had to go to the back end of the car and go reverse of the route. Over the years the people of Waterville found the Pumpkin Vine interurban to be a convenient way of commuting to Maumee, Toledo, Perrysburg and other towns by transferring to different lines. It ran each hour between Waterville and Maumee.
Unfortunately, the route the line took from Maumee to Turkey Foot rock was in low areas prone to flooding from the Maumee River during the spring and ice jams in the winter. It was reported in the Perrysburg Journal dated February 19, 1904, “The tracks of the Waterville line have been covered with ice for the past three weeks which caused a complete suspension of traffic along the line. For the past week a force of men have been working to clear the tracks.” The entire roadway from Maumee to Turkey Foot rock was impassable. It became necessary to put in a new line of trolley poles, as nearly every one of the poles was carried away by the floating ice. This would cost the company around $25,000 to replace track and trolley poles each time an ice jam would take out the poles. Mr. Leroy Waffle, father of Lois Waffle who was a noted librarian at the Waterville Library, was the motorman for the “Pumpkin Vine.” He kept a diary in which he would include the name of the conductor with whom he worked with each day. On February 10, 1910 he noted that a car become jammed in an ice gorge near Turkey Foot rock.
On March 18, 1910, it was reported in the Perrysburg Journal that the Maumee Valley Railway & Light Company is seriously considering abandoning the Waterville extension of the rail line on the Lucas County side of the Maumee River. They had a new plan which was to lay new track and trolley poles on the Wood County side of the Maumee River, extending it to Haskins. With this new route the railway would not have any problems with ice jams and flooding. The line was surveyed several years ago and the right of way secured between Waterville and Haskins with a spur across the river at Waterville for the accommodation of the village, which would later extend the line to Bowling Green, Ohio. Unfortunately that did not happen but what did happen came on May 9, 1910.
Albion E. Lang, president of the Toledo Railways and Light Co. (which controlled the Maumee Valley Railway and Light Co.) made the decision to remove the tracks and trolley poles from Maumee to Waterville and abandoned the line. Lang did say, “When the road was constructed several years ago by the Detwiler’s, it was the intention to extend it south into a section of the state so that it would ensure a reasonable return on the investment, which never happened.” The Pumpkin Vine had never paid for any of its operating expenses and had become a liability due to inadequate fares and track wash outs. The short lived “Pumpkin Vine” Interurban was no more. One interesting note is that the builders of the Lima and Toledo Traction Co. (Ohio Electric) had originally planned to enter Toledo using the Pumpkin Vine route, but changed their mind and built their own entrance into Toledo via Waterville and Maumee in 1908.
The Maumee Valley Railway and Light Co. continued to operate its other lines. In 1921, the Maumee Valley Railway and Light Co. went into bankruptcy. In 1924, the Maumee Valley Railway and Light Co. line was abandoned. Its gross revenues no longer covered operating costs, and the trackage rights over the Toledo, Bowling Green & Southern Railway line were proving prohibitive. In the 1920’s -1930’s, bus lines started to take over when the interurban lines stopped running. Times were changing and the interurban were losing favor and becoming less profitable due to poor service, more bus and truck lines, and more personal cars.
The Toledo Traction Light & Power Co., Toledo and Railway Light Co., Cities Services Co., and Community Traction Co. controlled most of the interurban and city electric railways in the Toledo area and provided electrical power to them and to the city of Toledo. All of the street and interurban cars are long gone now and we still have two companies in Toledo which are direct descendants of the Toledo Traction Light & Power Co. and Toledo and Railway Light Co. The Toledo and Railway Light Co. itself was composed of several electric streetcar and utilities companies that were purchased and consolidated. They provided electric and gas service to Toledo and surrounding areas. In 1921, The Toledo Railways and Light Co. was renamed Toledo Edison. Later it would become Toledo Edison / Centerior Energy / First Energy Corp. The streetcar operations were sold to the Community Traction Co., which later became the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) providing transportation services. A final note is that the last Community Traction Co. street car ran on December 31, 1949, and that was the end of street cars in Toledo, Ohio