The Interurban Bridge of Waterville, Ohio – a beautiful, historic multi-arch concrete bridge. The bridge was built in 1908 to join Lucas and Wood counties across the Maumee River. At the time of its construction, and for some time thereafter, the structure was the world’s largest earth-filled reinforced concrete bridge. During construction of the bridge, it was decided to rest one of the supports on a historic Indian council rock known as Roche de Boeuf. Unfortunately, during this construction, the rock was partially destroyed.
Construction of the bridge was handled by the Lima-Toledo Traction company. This company ran an early 1900s interurban trolley line, which ran adjacent to the Baltimore and Ohio steam railroad, carrying cars from Toledo to Lima, and then south to Springfield. The idea of Ohio’s interurban lines was doomed from the start, as many struggled financially from their inception. There had been attempts to create operational efficiency by forming one single management, handled by the Ohio Electric Corporation. All equipment along all lines were relettered/rebranded and then continued operation as the Ohio Electric. Due to this, the bridge is also popularly known as the Ohio Electric Railroad Bridge. This consolidation didn’t work financially however, and Ohio Electric went bankrupt in 1921. Following this bankruptcy, the L-T returned to its former owners, and once again operated as the Lima-Toledo Railroad. Service was continued between Toledo and Lima using this bridge to cross the Maumee River.
In 1929, the Lima-Toledo Railroad would combine with two other Ohio interurbans – the Cincinnati Hamilton and Dayton, and the Indiana, Columbus and Eastern. This merge formed the 323-mile-long Cincinnati and Lake Erie Railroad, providing service from Toledo to distant Cincinnati. A branch also operated from Springfield, to Columbus, Ohio.
The company had a couple goals – to increase not only interurban freight business, but passenger business as well.
By the end of 1929, business was going well, primarily with freight shipments. It was at this same time that the C&LE began borrowing large amounts of money in order to rebuild track, and purchase new passenger and freight equipment in order to provide high speed operation between its major cities of Toledo, Lima, Springfield, Dayton and Cincinnati. As these areas were becoming so heavily industrialized, the interurban freight business proved to take lead ahead of what minimal passenger business there was. Into the early 1930s, passenger business was still low, and never quite caught up to their hopeful expectations. Although the freight business had initially been off to a great start, the Great Depression hit C&LE hard; this would soon bring an early end to operations. With a collapsing national and local economy throughout the 1930s, things were headed for the worst. Numerous floods causing the need for very expensive track and facility reconstruction, and competition arising from newly-paved state highways led to C&LE’s unfortunate abandonment. It was seen as far more convenient, and cost-efficient to carry cargo by way of truck and other automobile. By 1937, only 29 years after beginning operation, C&LE was no more, and the bridge has sat unused to this day.