Uncle Luke the Motorman, Riding the Pennsy

David Luke Dunlap, motorman, and his conductor at the Canton car barn of the Northern Ohio Traction and Light Company. Luke is by the door. (Photograph provided by Dave Freitag)

I have done a great deal of genealogy and have recorded a lot of family history. My dad used to enjoy telling stories about riding with his Uncle Luke on the interurban railway that served Canton.

Luke Dunlap was a streetcar operator for the Northern Ohio Traction and Light Company and had the longest route in Stark County. It was called the limited because of the limited number of stops it would make.

He would make the run from Massillon through Canton to Alliance and back twice a day. When the car reached the end of the line, the passengers would have to get off and help push the turntable around to head the other direction.

Heavy rains often flooded Tuscarawas Street West at a low spot between Whipple and Woodlawn Avenues on the Canton – Massillon run. When the electric streetcar approached the high water, Uncle Luke would have all the passengers stand on their wooden seats so they wouldn’t be electrocuted when they went through deep water.

On Page 13 of the book Canton Area Railroads I would bet that the man in the middle of the center row is Luke Dunlap.

My grandfather used to take me walking in the Canton parks that would end on Tuscarawas at the car barn. Even then in the late 1940s, there were steam locomotives on the tracks that went alongside the park. These were the tracks that I think were used by the Canton – Akron Interurban.

I clearly remember the Pennsylvania Railroad station in Canton because my mother, brother and I would frequently take it to Chicago where my mom’s mother lived. It stopped at every little town that was near the tracks.

The trip was exciting for the first hour but soon the glamour turned to boredom. I know my brother and I started the phrase “are we there yet?”

We didn’t have a lot of money and maybe the Pennsy didn’t even serve meals in the early 1950s, but we would pack a grocery sack with sandwiches and potato chips and fruit for the eight-hour trip to grandma Young’s. The conductor would always put us in two seats that faced each other.

I have many memories, including putting pennies on the tracks, collecting coal as I walked the rails and seeing hot boxes smoking as the train went by.

Dave Freitag
Hills and Dales, Ohio
December 2, 2009

David Luke Dunlap stands in the doorway of his car of a Cleveland-Akron-Canton express run of the Northern Ohio Traction and Light Company. (Photo provided by Dave Freitag)

4 Responses to “Uncle Luke the Motorman, Riding the Pennsy”

  1. Mark Eyestone Says:

    always good to read about a time gone by,
    to learn little things like getting the
    passengers standing on the seats
    so they wouldn’t get electrocuted.

    We need trolleys now, imagine
    if there were trolley lines running
    up and down the center of all
    the interstates…

  2. Karl Simonson Says:

    Great photos and a great story to go with them. I love these kinds of memories.

  3. Bill Bender Says:

    I am trying to reserach information on my Great Grandfather, George Bender who was a motor man, killed in an acccident. I don’t know the exact date though it was during World War 1. His death occured in a head-on interurban trolly crash in Kent, Ohio near Mason Tire and Rubber Co. Any informaation would be greatly appriciated.


  4. Robert Grenus Says:

    I have two Northern Ohio Traction and Light Company lanterns for sale. Contact me at email vstevens56@sbcglobal.net

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