Interurbans, A Recap

While roaming Facebook the past few days, I have noticed an uptick in requests for information about the interurbans, especially around Indianapolis. Today, I have decided to do a recap of all the posts that I have done to cover anything interurban related.

I will admit, up front, that I didn’t know much about the interurbans when I started my journey into Indiana Transportation History. All I could tell you was that there were roads on the south side of Indianapolis named after the “trolley,” as it was told to me. More research into this led me to two things: one, the “trolley” was different than what I had always thought of as trolleys, aka street cars, and two, not just the “Stop” roads are named because of the interurban. The road I live off of on the east side of the city is also named after an interurban stop, named after the landmark on the corner…German Church.

But I did the research, and come up with (what I thought might be) interesting information about a lot of them. Below are descriptions of the 17 (!!!!) articles that I have written that cover this very fascinating, yet very short, period in history where electric locomotion existed in Indiana. Of course, this was much to the chagrin of the steam railroads, which, too, would lose in the end.

The interurban line that I ended up covering first was also the last into Indianapolis. In the article “The First and Last Interurban Out of Indianapolis,” I wrote about the first electric traction into the Hoosier capitol…and the accident that ended it 41 years later.

At one point, every interurban line in Indianapolis came under the operation of a single company, the Indiana Railroad of 1930. Most of the lines came under the ownership of one man. That didn’t last long as the Indiana Railroad started shedding lines as fast as it could.

In “Indianapolis and the Interurban,” I covered a question that comes up quite a bit when discussing electric traction: where does the interurban begin? I covered where stop 1 was on the traction lines, and a few others.

One of the first lines to be removed was the Greenfield Line, connecting Indianapolis to Richmond, and through connections at Richmond, to almost all of the state of Ohio through Dayton. “End of the (Traction) Line in Greenfield” covers the end of that line and the reroute that was planned to keep the dying service running.

And that reroute was to take place on the “Indianapolis-New Castle Traction,” or Honey Bee line. The line was part of discussions about becoming a new state road directly to the Henry County seat. But, legal issues got in the way. Today, the right of way is abandoned by both the interurban and the steam railroad with which it shared space.

Even today, almost 70 years after the last interurban ran in Indianapolis, there are still spots on maps where one can see traces of the electric traction companies and routes that are so long gone. I covered this in “Marion County Interurbans, and Their Remaining Property Lines.”

Not out of Indianapolis, but an interurban nonetheless, the Chicago, South Shore and South Bend Railroad is the last vestige of electric traction in Indiana. Although it is considered a “regular” railroad today, it started life as an electric railway in the interurban era of the early 1900’s.

I circled around to the “Interstate Public Service” company, known as the Greenwood line. This time, instead of what killed the line, I covered how it started in more detail. And the part of that line that still exists as an operating company today.

Running an interurban wasn’t as easy as laying tracks and running trains. Especially in cities like Indianapolis that wanted to ensure that the streets would remain in good shape, and the city could make a little bit of cash from the deal. “Street Car and Electric Traction Franchises” describes how that worked and why.

I wrote a series of articles that covered some of the traction lines individually: Martinsville Traction; Danville Traction; Lebanon Traction; and Beech Grove Traction.

Most everyone that has done any research at all on interurbans in Indianapolis knows about the world’s largest interurban station, the Indianapolis Traction Terminal on Market Street. But before it was built, the interurbans stopped on street corners, as covered in my article “1904: Interurbans before the Traction Terminal.”

I also spent a day writing about “Fort Wayne Electric Traction Options.” Five companies in Indiana’s second largest city, and one connected to Indianapolis.

A general history of the interurbans, especially from a Terre Haute perspective. “Interurbans, Part 1” and “Interurbans, Part 2” cover this history. You ask why Terre Haute? Technically, in the end, most of the lines in and out of Indianapolis, and the city street car company, were actually owned by the Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Eastern Traction Company.

2 thoughts on “Interurbans, A Recap

  1. I always thought that interurbans could stay alive if they were of 2 foot gauge. and people didn’t like cars so much


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