Indianapolis and the Interurban

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a new transportation system was appearing across the United States. This system, officially “electric traction railroads,” but mostly known as Interurbans, caught on especially in Indiana…with a major focus on Indianapolis. The Hoosier capitol glommed onto the interurban so much that the city was the home to the largest Traction Terminal in the United States. One could think of the Traction Terminal as the Union Station of the Interurban.

But what is not well known is that, unlike most of the towns in Indiana, the Interurbans only had one stop in the city of Indianapolis itself…the Traction Terminal. Transportation wise, Indianapolis has always been somewhat a lone wolf. Most transportation facilities, technically, had always stopped at the city limits. When the state took over city streets as part of the state highway system, Indianapolis was specifically left out of the plan, by law. The same applied to the Interurbans.

When entering the city, the electric traction railroads had to not only negotiate with the City Council for the right to enter the city, they had to also work with the Indianapolis Street Railway company for trackage rights to downtown. A quick glance at any Interurban time table would show this very strange situation. It was made even stranger when the Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Eastern (THI&E) became the actual owner of the Indianapolis Street Railway Company…and the Traction Terminal.

Let’s look at the “Stop 1” locations of the different Interurban routes into Indianapolis.

THI&E – Indianapolis to Terre Haute: This line had two stops at city limits: Stop 1 was at Harris Avenue (milepost 2.9); and Stop 2 was at Tibbs Avenue (milepost 3.4). Both of these locations were on the city limits. (Indianapolis, until Unigov in 1969, tended to annex county territory in a very strange pattern. It never really gobbled up territory in any kind of straight forward fashion. I describe it as “well this looks good, you are in the city now” type of expansion.)

THI&E – Indianapolis to Richmond: Stop 1 along this line was at Sheridan Avenue, milepost 5.7, three blocks east of Arlington Avenue. This location was just outside the former town of Irvington. There was branch from this line at Dunreith that connected to New Castle. Another interesting fact (at least to me) about this line is the fact that it had an effect on Indianapolis street names (like the Interstate Public Service line and the “Stop” roads mentioned seven paragraphs later). Most stops along the Interurban lines were named after the road where it was located. Stop 16 on this line, at milepost 10.5, was at Franke Road. In an effort to not have confusion between the names Franke Road and Franklin Road (originally the Franklin-Noblesville State Road, mentioned here), the road at Stop 16 was changed to the Interurban stop name. It was named after the landmark at that location: German Church.

THI&E – Indianapolis to Lafayette: This one actually had two Stop 1’s, one at 34th Street (milepost 3.7) and one at 38th Street (milepost 4.3). It should be noted that the line ran in a northwesterly direction, hence the 1/2 mile between 34th and 38th Streets, on the railroad, was 6/10 of a mile. It should also be noted that this line had a branch leaving Lebanon headed to Crawfordsville.

THI&E – Indianapolis to Martinsville: The official Stop 1 along the Martinsville line was at Milepost 3.8, which was .8 miles from the city limits at Eagle Creek.

THI&E – Indianapolis to Danville: There were two control points on this line before the official Stop 1. They were at Mount Jackson, milepost 3.0, and at Salem Park, milepost 3.3. The official Stop 1 was at milepost 4.2.

THI&E – Indianapolis to Crawfordsville (Originally the Indianapolis, Crawfordsville & Eastern): This line was a bit strange. The first numbered stop along this track was Stop 5, at Speedway. The city limits, at the time, was at Olen Avenue, officially known as Stop 4.

Union Traction Company (UTC) – Indianapolis to Logansport: This line left Indianapolis via Broad Ripple, connecting to Nora and Carmel on its way to Logansport. No stop numbers were used on time tables, but the first stop listed was at 34th Street, milepost 4.3.

It should be noted that the UTC had a line connecting Muncie and Indianapolis, and was labeled as such. Due to this, the first stop out of Indianapolis was at the end of the city street car trackage at 25th Street, milepost 53.4. This line served Fort Benjamin Harrison, and the station there (at milepost 45.0) still exists. It is now “La Hacienda” Mexican restaurant. (Good food, by the way.)

Interstate Public Service – Indianapolis to Greenwood (Franklin, Columbus, Seymour, Louisville): Known to the very end as the “Greenwood Line,” the Stop 1 was at Perry Street, milepost 4, located three blocks south of the city limits (and Center-Perry Township line) at Troy Avenue. This line has four points that I have found interesting. First, this was both the first and last active interurban line into Indianapolis (more information here). Second, some of the stops along this route are still named as such. Indianapolis has Stop 10, Stop 11, Stop 12 and Stop 13 Roads. Greenwood has a Stop 18 Road. Third, remnants of this company still exist as part of Duke Energy. When the Federal Government ordered the separation of the electric traction roads and their electrical supplier (part of what kept these lines solvent was selling power to customers along the line), the electric company Public Service Indiana was created. And fourth, Stop 13 is the county line separating Marion and Johnson Counties. In newspapers of the time, a large picnic grounds and recreational area existed between Stops 13 and 14. Stop 14 is now called Frye Road. The recreational area was called “Greenwood Park.” (For those keeping track at home, the IPS line ran along Madison Avenue. The area between Stops 13 and 14 is STILL called Greenwood Park. It just has the word “Mall” after it.)

Indianapolis & Southeastern (ISE) – Indianapolis to Connersville: The first stop listed in the time tables was at milepost 4.3, otherwise known as Junction. The second stop was at Hawthorne (the PRR Yards on the eastside of Indianapolis), milepost 7.

ISE – Indianapolis to Greensburg: Just like the Connersville route, the first stop was at Junction. However, the second stop was just east of Emerson Avenue. The stop was called “Heads,” at milepost 5.5. (After that, at milepost 7.8, was Five Points.)

At the height of the Interurban era, there were 55 different lines in Indiana. I plan to cover them in more detail at a later date.

3 thoughts on “Indianapolis and the Interurban

  1. When we moved from Brooklyn to Indy southside Thompson Rd. there was still rail ties on the interurban ROW along Madison Ave. between Morgan Dr. and Thompson Rd.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s