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Cleveland, Ohio:
Shaker Heights Rapid Transit


The Shaker Heights Rapid Transit was the predecessor of the Green and Blue Lines of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

These two lines were built by Oris P. and Mantis J. van Sweringen ("the Vans"), as streetcar lines serving their new residential development, Shaker Heights; they were named the Cleveland Interurban Railroad. From 1913-15 they built most of the sections east of Shaker Square, routing streetcars to downtown Cleveland via existing tracks of the Cleveland Railway Company. Later, they built the grade-separated "rapid transit" section between Shaker Square and downtown Cleveland, for faster service. This opened in two stages, first in 1920 to East 34th St., then in 1930 to the new Terminal Tower (the present-day Tower City), which the Vans built as Cleveland's main railroad station.

The Vans' financial empire (which included the Nickel Plate Railroad, along whose right of way much of the Red Line was later built) collapsed in the wake of the crash of 1929. From 1944 to 1975, the Shaker Heights lines were owned and operated by the City of Shaker Heights, as the "Shaker Heights Rapid Transit." Since 1975 they have been operated as part of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

Between 1947 and 1959, the "Shaker Rapid" replaced its older cars with new and second-hand PCC cars, painted in yellow with a gray roof and narrow green horizontal stripes.

I rode these cars often when I was growing up in Northeast Ohio in the 1960s. When my parents and I visited Cleveland, we always parked in Shaker Heights and rode the "Rapid" into town. This was probably what made me a transit buff!

A good book about the Shaker Heights lines is James Toman's The Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, published in 1990 by Interurban Press.


The following pictures were taken in December 1971 and scanned from slides in July 2007. They all show PCCs from the first batch listed in the table below.

[picture] Outbound car 89 leaves Shaker Square and turns onto the Van Aken branch (now the Blue Line).

[picture] Inbound car 90 turns onto Shaker Boulevard from Van Aken, at almost the same location as the previous picture (but viewed from a different direction). Note the unused left-hand doors, the distinguishing feature of this batch of cars.

[picture] Outbound car 92 speeds down the broad median strip of Van Aken Boulevard, between Avalon and Lynnfield.

[picture] Inbound car 90 stops at the Lynnfield station on the Van Aken line, shortly after beginning its trip downtown.

Other Stuff

A map of Cleveland's rail transit system

A March-April 1975 timetable, issued by the Shaker Heights Department of Transportation, shortly before the RTA took over:

Related Pages

Origins of the Shaker Heights PCCs

Quantity Purchased Built Notes
Year From Year By
25 1947 (new) 1947 Pullman-Standard Doors on the left side were intended for a downtown subway that was never built.
20 1953 Minneapolis, Minnesota 1947 St. Louis Car Co. Minneapolis sold other cars from the same batch to Newark, NJ, where they ran until 2001. In the 1980s, Cleveland sold 12 of its cars to Buffalo, which planned to use them for a new line connecting to the Metro Rail. Those plans fell through, and Buffalo sold the cars to the Brooklyn [NY] Historic Railway Association, which planned to use them in a heritage streetcar operation. However, the BHRA lost support from New York City, its tracks were torn up in 2003, and the cars were scrapped in late May 2005.
10 1959 St. Louis, Missouri 1947 St. Louis Car Co.  
2 1976 Ohio Railway Museum and Connecticut Electric Railway Association 1948 St. Louis Car Co. These double-ended cars were built for the Illinois Terminal Railroad, which used them in St. Louis suburban service until 1959. The museums leased them to Cleveland RTA, which returned them in 1979.
9 1978 Toronto, Ontario 1946 Pullman-Standard These were originally built for Cleveland, which sold them to Toronto in 1952.
2 1978 Newark, New Jersey 1947 St. Louis Car Co. These were ex-Minneapolis "sisters" of the second batch above.

This page was last updated on 23 March 2008.

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