APTA Streetcar and
Seashore Trolley Museum Logo
Heritage Trolley Site
Hosted by the Seashore Trolley Museum
Lorain - Project Description

[Back to Lorain]

Lorain — Heritage Trolley

Executive Summary

From 1894 to 1938, Electric Streetcars carried the people of Lorain and Elyria from their homes to their shops, jobs and recreation. Lorain's growth from the 1890's to the 1930's was based on the industrial expansion in the area beginning with Tom Johnson's simultaneous construction of a steel plant to roll streetcar rail and a street railway to connect Lorain and Elyria with the works.  It is fitting that a Heritage Trolley System become part of the "New" 2005 Lorain Development as it played a key part in the "New" 1895 Lorain Development.

In order to implement the restoration of the streetcar system in Lorain, OH a Community Improvement Corporation (501-c3) has been formed.  This Lorain Street Railway Inc. will be made up of members from the Lorain Port Authority, City of Lorain, Mainstreet Lorain, Chamber of Commerce, Lorain County Metroparks, Developers, Civic Leaders and other persons knowledgeable in the field.  The wide range of membership is an indication of the community support behind this project.

Lorain Street Railway Inc. commits to be a catalyst in bringing an historic streetcar system back to downtown Lorain. By recapturing a fascinating part of our past, this system will enhance the city's quality of life and provide opportunities for economic growth.

We recognize that the need for improved mobility coupled with nostalgia to preserve and improve the livability of the city for its residents, points to a return to an electric streetcar tying together new waterfront development with existing businesses can accomplish a number of worthwhile goals such as:

A streetcar system can provide a visible and attractive means of mobility linking the Waterfront Development Areas with Lorain's Downtown Business and Commercial District. A "Funnel Effect" to provide more flow between these two community assets. The system allows you to rethink the percentage of land normally allotted to parking by concentrating parking areas in less desirable areas and connecting them to attractions by rail. No place in the area serviced by the proposed system is more then 10 minutes away from any place else on the system, rain or shine.  Land hitherto considered out of the scope of current development can be easily incorporated into the program by being included in the transportation system.

The technology of an electric streetcar is consistent with the urban design framework of the area, and thus helps to visually unify it.  The permanent nature of the corridor signifies commitment.

A Heritage Trolley is an environmentally friendly, pollution free, all weather, Transportation System.

The streetcar system serving Downtown Lorain can provide a high-capacity circulation link, connecting large parking areas to the south with the various waterfront facilities being developed. 

The combination of dedicated service and expanded parking intercepts can increase access for visitors of our hotels, shops, and restaurants while increasing the ability of the city to safely handle the large crowds experienced during waterfront events.

The use of the streetcar system as a development tool can minimize land wasted on parking and bring land hitherto excluded from development into the program.

Reminiscent of streetcars of the past, a restored streetcar line would be an attraction in itself, and thus add to the appeal and charm of a visit to Lorain.

With these goals in mind, Lorain Street Railway Inc. has created a feasibility study of restoring an electric trolley in Lorain. Below is a summary of that work.

Experience and Benefits Realized in Other Cities

In recent years, a number of American cities and towns have built vintage streetcar lines or have begun planning for such a system.  For operating systems, surveys in various cities have shown that the vintage streetcar line has had a positive impact and is viewed with favor as a community attraction. Available evidence indicates that benefits are maximized when the streetcar is planned and implemented as part of a concerted and broad-based program of improvements in a community. Further, the benefits require support of business leaders, particularly those whose establishments are served by the line. Finally, benefits accrue over a fairly long time span, and are not realized immediately. There is a definite need to further explore and quantify the specific economic benefits which are possible in Lorain, and such a detailed study is highly recommended to be undertaken as the waterfront development matures.

Route Alignment

The streetcar route with the most development potential is a loop starting at the proposed ball park parking lots near the Black River Boat Launch facility, proceeding South, crossing CSX at the South side of the former Gaylords Store, coming out onto the pavement on Elyria Avenue and running North down the original streetcar alignment on Broadway.  North of City Hall the route swings west and enters the Pellet Terminal site, heading East to go under the viaduct and connect to the former CSX track servicing the Black River Landing Docks and Transportation Center. The line would cross the Norfolk Southern Track close to the site of the original diamond and connect back up at the ball park parking area. (see attached aerial view).

Since none of the areas that will be serviced by the Heritage Trolley have reached final design status the perfect opportunity exists to maximize its potential.  The members of the Board of the Lorain Street Railway Inc. will have been chosen to insure that the principles of Transit Oriented Development are implemented.

Broadway uses two lanes of traffic and two lanes of parking.  Fitting the streetcar into the right-of-way will have impacts on both traffic and parking. The streetcar line will always operate in one direction with the cars running south to north on Broadway with the flow of traffic, returning south on private right of way next to Black River Lane.

The streetcars will not generate exhaust and will be propelled by electric power. Like the streetcars of by-gone days, this will require a single wire suspended over the center of the track. Other cities have reported no unfavorable impacts as a result of the overhead wire, provided the system is properly designed. The support poles can also be used for street lights and signage, and can be an attractive unifying urban design element.

It would be most fitting if an existing unused building close to the proposed route could be recycled into a storage and maintenance facility for the Heritage Trolley Line. The ideal site would be a building large enough to both provide storage and house a museum displaying Lorain's heritage and streetcar history and possibly serve as a repository for suitable items from the other Historical Societies in the county.


The historical vehicles for the Lorain Street Railway will consist of a 1915 Jewett Interurban car from the Lake Shore Electric Railway and a 1925 freight motor from the Interstate Public Service System.  Two PCC cars will be obtained for daily service be equipped with air conditioning and for ADA compliance.  The system will be grown to match the conditions at Lorain.  PCC type cars will be added as the service demands with a maximum number of six giving the most efficient crowd handling capabilities.  Discussions have been initiated concerning sharing special pieces of equipment with the Brookins Foundation of Cleveland and other individuals.


The Lorain Street Railway will begin operation to service the large crowds present when the large scale events occur at the Lorain Waterfront Area.  To date 300,000 to 400,000 people have been present during the 11 days per year these festivities occur. By carefully scheduling operations to match the events a breakeven point of 50,000 riders per year can keep the system self supporting at the planned $1.00 daily pass rate. It is not hard to imagine the cars carrying 40% to 50% of the visitors during these events.  As the Waterfront and Downtown Lorain grows the service times will be expanded to match demand.  Special operations consisting of charter groups for parties, picnics and weddings including the historic fleet will add to the income.  The historic cars will be utilized as living class rooms for educational purposes as requested by the school system and special groups.

Capital Cost

The complete streetcar system is estimated to cost $6,463,372. This estimate includes track, power distribution, vehicles, passenger stops, and a maintenance facility. It also includes the Broadway track mentioned above. Engineering and design costs are calculated as a percentage of the project. Because of the preliminary nature of the project, a 26% contingency is included in the overall cost estimate. The capital cost estimate will be refined as part of the engineering and detailed design phase.  The project may be done in two parts; the first being a single track next to Black River Lane with loops at each end to service the parking lots and the Black River Landing at a cost of  $3,507,475 with the completion of the main loop and track down Broadway costing an additional  $2,955,897.

Operating Cost

As mentioned above careful scheduling to maximize ridership will work to keep the system operating in the Black.  The Lorain Street Railway does not intend to operate as mass transit at this point in time.  As the overall waterfront development in Lorain grows, the system will grow with it and if the need requires will be able to provide full time service.


The Funding portion of this project utilizes Federal, state and local sources of funding for capital expenses.   In addition there is a significant value of vehicles, equipment, tools supplies and parts being donated to the Lorain Street Railway Inc. to insure that the project gets off to a very real start.


Restoration of an electric streetcar system in Lorain, as proposed by the Lorain Street Railway Inc., can provide significant benefits to the community, is feasible from an engineering standpoint, and appears capable of being funded.

Map Of Completed Loop

Streetcar map

Detail of Museum Plan

Museum Plan


The Beginning of Lorain's Heritage Trolley Fleet

Interurban Car

The Last Interurban Car to run in Lorain

Two PCC cars will be restored with air conditioning and ADA compliance for every day operations

PCC Cars


[Back to Lorain]