Marion County Interurbans, and Their Remaining Property Lines

When the final interurban was abandoned in 1941, one would have thought that, with the removal of all the rails and other facilities, any real traces of the old traction lines would have disappeared from the face of Marion County. But there are traces of these old routes. They exist in property lines that, for some reason, didn’t completely disappear. Today, I want to focus on some of these. In addition, there is at least one place in Marion County where, while it may not be directly related to the interurban, it does give a clue of what might have been.

1937 MapIndy aerial image of Acton, Indiana, in southeastern Marion County. Running from upper left corner to lower right corner is the New York Central (Big Four) Railroad through the town. Branching off to the east in the upper left, and then curving to the southeast in the lower right, is the line of the interurban through the town, which ran along Swails Street.

Acton. The interurban that ran from Indianapolis toward Shelbyville and Greensburg connected to this small village in the southeast corner of the county. The above 1937 photo shows the right-of-way still in place. It is clearly visible running through Acton after it left the right-of-way of the New York Central trackage that ran through the town. Once in town, it ran through the middle of Swails Street, which is typical of interurban lines at the time. The companies would get permission to actually run through town, instead of the possibility of bypassing it by following the steam railroad right-of-way. The two below Google Maps images show the property lines that are still in tact of that route.

Google Maps image of Acton, Indiana, at the west end of the old interurban cutoff into town. Image snipped 16 September 2019.
Google Maps image of Acton, Indiana, at the east end of the old interurban cutoff into town. Image snipped 16 September 2019.

While the property had been sold to private parties after abandonment, for some reason, those property lines continued. Some of the adjacent properties were too small to do anything with. But once the right-of-way was disposed of, it didn’t take long for people to use two, or more, lots to build homes and other buildings that a few years earlier would have had interurban railroad tracks running through them.

Another old interurban right-of-way, not marked with property lines today, that was on the way to Acton was at Hickory Road. The interurban ran down the west side of Hickory Road. Before reaching the Big Four line, it crossed over Hickory Road in an arc to connect to the Big Four right-of-way. One thing that makes this site interesting is the fact that the property along the old traction line is now owned by the Indianapolis Power and Light Company, the local electric utility, as a substation. It makes one wonder if there was a power substation at that location providing power for the interurban line. Given the resolution of the 1937 image, it is hard to tell if there is a power generation station or just a house in that area at the time.

1937 MapIndy aerial image showing the interurban turn to the southeast at Hickory Road and the Big Four Railway. The red area shows the current property lines of the parcel, as well as the Indianapolis-Marion County property information available for that property.

On the west side of Indianapolis, around the area that the current Rockville Road separates from Washington Street, was the Danville line of the Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Eastern Traction Company. As shown in the below images, one from 1937, and two current Google Maps, the line is clearly visible in both the right-of-way, and the property lines. 1937 would have been right around the time of abandonment of this money losing line for the Indiana Railroad, the purchaser of the THI&E in 1930.

1937 MapIndy image of the Danville line of the Indiana Railroad, branching from (new) Rockville Road on the west and Washington Street on the east. This image also shows the new Washington Street bridge over Little Eagle Creek arcing away from the original structure, creating, as well, a new junction with (new) Rockville Road.
Google Map image of the west end of the Indiana Railroad property lines from (new) Rockville Road east. Image snipped 16 September 2019.
Google Map image of the west end of the Indiana Railroad property lines from Washington Street west. Image snipped 16 September 2019.
1937 MayIndy aerial photo of the Indiana Railroad traction line through what is now the grounds of both the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the International School near White River and Michigan Road.

The last area of the city that shows current property lines of old interurban routes, that I want to cover today, is the area of the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the International School on both sides of White River near Michigan Road. This line connected Indianapolis to Lebanon, and from there to Crawfordsville, Frankfort and Lafayette. A glance of Google Maps, in close up view, anywhere along Michigan Road from this point north shows multiple property lines that show the route of this traction line. (Here are four links to Google Maps that show what I am writing about: Here. Here. Here. Here.) The property lines across the IMA and International School are not available on Google Maps. But they are available on the MapIndy site, as shown in the images below.

MapIndy property line map of the area occupied by the current Indianapolis Museum of Art.
MapIndy image showing property lines in the area occupied by the current International School.

These are a few of the places that still hold a place in Indianapolis interurban history that, even though the infrastructure has been removed for many decades, still show where they were located. Other areas that still kind of exist are places where the old right-of-ways were paved over to expand roads (for instance, when old SR 431 [Madison Avenue] on the southside was expanded in the mid-1950s, the southbound lanes would use the old Greenwood line ROW from Shelby Street to Southport. There, the traction line crossed over the Madison Road to the east side of the road, to be replaced with the northbound lanes.) If you are interested in seeing more of these locations, in a 1937 context, I recommend checking out MapIndy, turning on the aerial photos of 1937 and turning down the current overlay. The 1937 photo is not complete, but it is a very good resource. MapIndy also has 1941 and 1956 aerials, just to name a few.

4 thoughts on “Marion County Interurbans, and Their Remaining Property Lines

  1. And now I know why this bridge is present on the IMA/Newfields grounds: it was a grade separation with the interurban. It’s on what is labeled Woodstock Dr. on the map, just west of Michigan Road.

    On the bridge

    Liked by 1 person

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