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Focus on Fostoria - aug_18_99

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August 18, 1999


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Last Remnant of Interurban Line set to Fade Away?
August 18, 1999

On your way through Bascom, there's an old red brick building on the south side of SR 18. Today it's abandoned, rundown, its grounds overrun with weeks, some of its windows broken.

In its day, though, it was a marvel.

That building was the powerhouse for the Tiffin, Fostoria & Eastern Electric Railway, an interurban trolley line that served this area between 1898 and 1918.

It had a 112 foot smokestack, 225 hp engines and 9 foot, 2 ton flywheels. The electric current reached the train through a third rail buried between the tracks.

It's the last physical reminder of interurban travel in this area and it's slated for demolition soon unless another practical and affordable use for the building is found.

The Hopewell Township trustees purchased the powerhouse along with the former Gem Manufacturing building. The Gem building was leveled for safety reasons and the same fate may await the powerhouse.

Township trustee Dick Gosche told the Tiffin Advertiser-Tribune in May that the trustees are considering demolishing the building because of its potential health hazards and the cost of renovating it.

The entire building, especially the roof, is in need of repair and renovation.

Until recently, the powerhouse was home to the Bascom Wood Shop, since relocated to the Thermo Gas building, also in Bascom.

Some area residents have expressed a desire to preserve the building for its historic significance. One suggestion is to make a renovated powerhouse part of Meadowbrook Park.

The building might then serve a dual purpose as a local history museum and a rental facility for functions that wouldn't require a hall as large as the Meadowbrook Ballroom.

On June 21, the Hopewell trustees delayed their official decision on the demolition for two weeks to give interested citizens the opportunity to explore such alternatives to demolition and obtain cost estimates.

However, trustee Leonard Watson doubts the feasibility of a restoration.

"It was a wonderful thing in its day," he said, "but its day is gone."

When its day dawned back in 1898, the powerhouse was a stop the inaugural run of the TF&E. Local dignitaries toured the powerhouse to see it at work.

The TF&E was something of an innovator in rail travel. It owned the distinction of being the first interurban in the U.S. to operate a double-deck car which caused quite a stir when it was exhibited at the St. Louis World's Fair.

In addition, the TF&E line covered 14 miles which made it the longest line in Ohio at the time. The trolleys carried freight in addition to passengers. Gem had an interurban interchange so it could receive shipments.

Meadowbrook Park owes its existence in large part to the TF&E. Many interurban lines established such parks. The Toledo, Fostoria & Findlay operated Sam Reeves Park in Arcadia. Those parks gave people another reason to use the trolleys.

The interurans even figured in matters of the heart.

Kathryn Genola Smith came to Fostoria with her parents in 1911. Her father was manager of the Toledo, Fostoria & Findlay Railway. Kathryn attended Heidelberg College as an art student and rode the TF&E every day.

One day she was walking to class when her eyes met those of Wayne Dewald Funk. It was love at first sight. They married and eventually Wayne became president and general manager of Gem Manufacturing.

The TF&E expanded educational opportunities by making it possible for youngsters in the Bascom area to attend high school in Fostoria and Tiffin and for students to get to Heidelberg.

Being a trolley motorman was no picnic. The job was 10 hours a day, seven days a week.

However, one of the services the interurbans provided was to drop off deliveries for the county folk. The motormen received fresh vegetables in return or sometimes even a dressed chicken.

The trolleys had designated stops. Passengers held their arm across the tracks at the approach of the trolley. The motorman would answer with two blasts of the whistle, indicating he would stop.

The TF&E went out of business in 1918, the same year that a tornado destroyed its car barn across SR 18 from Gem. The powerhouse was eventually purchased by Gem and supplied power for its operations.

The Hopewell Township trustees will make their decision at an upcoming meeting.





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