1907: Traction Line Planned for Chatt

Chattanooga, Ohio, was founded a little before 1840. It was and still is a very small town. Some might call it a hamlet. It hasn’t grown much over the years.

A state highway runs through it and there are no side streets. It is a one-road town, bounded by two roads, Strable Road and Tama Road.

At one time there were a number of businesses in the town, including a bank, a couple grocery stores, a saloon, a post office, sawmill, garage, a hardware and implement store, and several other businesses over the years. Today there is a restaurant and two churches. The town saw a little boom in the late 1890s and early 1900s when there was oil drilling in the area.

1912 picture postcard of Chattanooga, Ohio.

I have heard that a railroad was expected to go through Chatt years ago. The 1978 History of Mercer County states that a train from Bluffton, Indiana, to Celina was planned to go through Chatt, but that the train got only as far as Geneva. Whether this was to have been a steam train or an interurban electric train, I do not know. That was the only Chatt train story I had heard until recently, when I read this 1907 newspaper article about yet another train bound for Chatt, a traction/electric train:

And the Springfield & Ft. Wayne Traction Line Will be Extended Without Delay

With a view of extending the line from Decatur, Ind., to Celina, via Pleasant Mills, Willshire and Chattanooga, the Springfield & Ft. Wayne Railroad Co. has a surveying party now going over the route. It is estimated that the cost of the extension will be $600,000, of which about $400,000 has been guaranteed. This means that the towns of Rockford, Mercer, Mendon, Neptune and St. Marys will not be touched by the line, although a route including the latter towns would be more feasible and better paying one than the one the Company contemplates adopting.

However, if the people along the route including these towns would raise the required amount of money there is no doubt that this route would be adopted. The company does not ask the money as a donation but will issue stock in the road for the amount subscribed. The portion of the road now in operation is doing fine only 25 per cent of the receipts being required to operate it. This shows that it is under conservative management, and for the towns of Rockford, Mercer, Mendon, Neptune and St. Marys to lose sight of this opportunity of getting an electric road means that the probability of being compelled to ride from one town to another in the “old spring wagon” for years to come is very favorable.

Obviously, that railroad, an interurban line, was never built in Chatt. Going from Willshire to Celina via Chatt is not the most direct route, although it would have been a nice means of transportation for the Chatt locals. I don’t think this interurban ever made it to Willshire or any of the other towns mentioned.   

The Fort Wayne & Springfield Railway Company was incorporated in 1903. Grading was completed from Fort Wayne to Decatur in 1905 and the first car ran in December 1906. Regular service between Fort Wayne and Decatur started 1 February 1907. The rails ended at five points in Decatur. After some major flood-damage in 1913-1915, the line was sold and became the Fort Wayne-Decatur Traction Company.

The Interurban was a type of electric railway with streetcar-like electric rail cars, used primarily for passenger travel between cities and their surrounding rural communities. The cars also ran within the cities and towns. They were prevalent in North America between 1900 and 1925, before most people owned automobiles.

In the early 1900s most roads and many town streets were unpaved. Transportation and hauling was done by horse-drawn carriages and carts, which was often inadequate in rural areas. Steam railroads made limited stops, mostly in towns. The interurban provided reliable transportation between town and rural areas and offered the possibility of increased business. Interurban railways were popular in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Iowa, Utah, and California. Although they started mainly as passenger carriers, many survived as freight railways after passenger their service ceased.

An interesting little story in Chatt’s history.


“The Surveyors Are at Work, Sidney Daily News, Sidney, Ohio, 29 May 1907, p.6; Newspapers.com.

Fort Wayne & Springfield Railway Station, Decatur, IN, published by lumbricus, 2011; Waymarking.com, viewed 30 Nov 2022.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.