Lebanon Traction

In the interurban era, tracks radiated from Indianapolis in almost all directions. All of the county seats of towns surrounding Marion County were connected not only via steam railroads, but electric traction, as well. Today, I want to look at an interurban line that paralleled the Michigan Road, and the Big Four Lafayette line, on its way to Lebanon.

Two companies were originally chartered to accomplish this. One was the Indianapolis & Lebanon (I&L) Traction Company. This company filed articles of incorporation on 22 February 1901. The plan was to possibly extend the line to be built by this company to Frankfort and Lafayette. The other was the Indianapolis, Lebanon & Frankfort (IL&F) Traction Company. Articles of incorporation of this line would be filed on 14 February 1902. The second company actually completed their survey first, having been completed on 25 March 1902. The main difference between the two was the destination of the lines. The former would connect to Lafayette. The latter would end in Crawfordsville.

On 6 December 1900, the Boone County Commissioners approved the county’s portion of the I&L franchise. The company was to use the Frankfort Road north of Lebanon, the Lafayette Pike south of Lebanon, with the route connecting to Whitestown and Zionsville. Into Marion County, it would connect those towns to Augusta.

Building into Lebanon was unique when it came to towns along this route. In February 1902, the Lebanon city council approved a 35 year lease in the city. This lease was dependent upon the payment of a fee of $8,000. No other town along the route would require such a payment. A little over a month later, the Lebanon city council would approve the franchise rights to both companies.

The building of a bridge by the IL&F in 1903 also led to some problems for the company. An injunction by the Marion County Board of Commissioners was filed, and heard in Marion Superior Court. The injunction was issued by the Commissioners because the company started building a bridge across a deep trench on the Meyers Free Gravel Road near the intersection of the Michigan Road, without the permission of the Board. (Meyers Free Gravel Road would change its name later to Cold Spring Road.) To add insult to injury, attorney William A. Van Buren filed a suit against both Marion County and the IL&F for making his trip to his office in the city much longer due to bridge being mid-construction. He claimed $200 in damages and requested that the bridge either be finished or removed as soon as possible.

Court filings in September 1903 saw the I&L changing its name to Indianapolis & Northwestern (I&NW) Traction Company. The same month saw the completion of the line to Frankfort, with the company stating that branch lines to Crawfordsville and Lafayette would be completed by 1 December of the same year.

In addition to the other lines mentioned above, the Lebanon & Thorntown connected the two title towns. That company was started shortly after plans for the other two were in place. The Lebanon & Thorntown was authorized to abandon the line, with five days notice, with an order from the Public Service Commission, anytime between 20 August and 20 September 1926. While the line was an independent company, it owed the Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Eastern for repairs and electric power for a total of four years. In the 21 years of its existence, not a single dividend had been paid on the stock.

In 1930, the I&NW, with all of the other lines owned as the Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Eastern, would be placed in receivership. It was announced in newspapers starting after 15 December 1931, that the State of Indiana had authorized the sale of “all of the property of every kind, character and description of said Indianapolis & Northwestern Traction Company, including all property and assets (except cash) in the possession or under the control of the undersigned receiver.” Not only did it include the property, there was also the possibility of injury and damage claims, income taxes from 1922 to 1929, and bonds secured by the mortgage of the road issued 2 March 1903 to be included in the payments made by the new owner. The sale of the property was to occur even though the line itself had been abandoned.

5 thoughts on “Lebanon Traction

  1. So what traction company facilities actually got built and operated to (from Indianapolis) and through Lebanon to (where?)?


    1. Well, the line was built all the way to Lafayette, with a branch line to Thorntown. Also, a line was built from Lebanon to Crawfordsville, connecting Lebanon, Indianapolis and Crawfordsville with two lines owned by the Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Eastern.


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