Indianapolis Street Car Saturday – Lines Opening in 1864 and 1865

Today, I will be covering the following lines, started by the Citizens Street Rail Road Company of Indianapolis: Virginia, Prospect, West Washington, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Brookside, and College. The Citizens Street Rail Road Company of Indianapolis, the first street car company chartered in the city, starting business on 3 October 1864. Through the years, what started as Citizens now is part of IndyGo. It is important to note that when these lines were created, they were operated as mule cars. This limited the distance that some of these lines would extend until the electrification happened.

The third street car line that started service was the Virginia line. The Virginia Line, which ran only on Virginia Avenue with the exception of the connection to the Louisiana Street barn. The mule line was added to the streets of Indianapolis in 1864. The line actually used all of Virginia Avenue from Washington Street to Prospect Street. This route never was extended. Electricity was added along Virginia in 1892.

The closest thing to an extension to the Virginia line was the Prospect line. It was created in 1888, when tracks were laid along Prospect Street to State Street, where it used a turn table to head back to downtown. Four years later, the line was extended to Auburn Avenue, now called Keystone Avenue. Here it used a loop track to turn around. The Virginia line was electrified when the Prospect line was extended to Auburn (Keystone). Electric trolley cars were used on both lines until 4 August 1934. The next day, trackless trolley cars were placed into service.

1865 saw four lines open for service. The first was the West Washington. It ran from the Louisiana barn to Washington Street, turning north on West Street ending at Military Park. The next year, the end was moved to end at a turn table at White River. In 1881, the line was extended to Addison Street. The following year, it was extended to a turn table on the grounds of the Indiana Insane Hospital (later Central State Hospital). When the line was electrified in 1894, the end was moved to a loop track in the suburb of Mount Jackson, which was across the street from the hospital. The last trolley car would run on 3 January 1948, with bus service starting the next day.

The second line placed in service in 1865 ran along Pennsylvania Street. The Pennsylvania line, in the beginning, only ran as far as Ohio Street. In 1870, the line was extended to St. Joseph Street, where it turned west to Illinois Street, then ran south on the Illinois Street line. Three years later, instead of turning west at St. Joseph, the line continued on Pennsylvania Street to Seventh Street (now 16th Street). It then turned east to Alabama Street. (It should be noted that the tracks along Seventh Street didn’t run in the middle of the road, but ran along the south curb line.) The line’s route was changed again in 1891, when it was routed east from Seventh and Pennsylvania to Talbott Avenue, running north to a turn table at 10th Street (now 19th Street). When the line was electrified in 1894, it was also extended to a “Y” track at 14th Street (now 22nd Street). The line was changed over to trackless trolleys on 18 July 1934.

Next came the Massachusetts line. When it was created, The line left the Pennsylvania line track at Ohio Street, following Mass Avenue to New Jersey Street. Here, the sources get a bit confusing. I will put them in logical order, then show them as the source lists them. Extensions, in logical order, were as follows: to Noble Street (now College Avenue) [historic link: Indianapolis, Noble Street and College Avenue]; to Bellefontaine; to Cornell; and finally to Clifford Avenue (Tenth Street). According to sources that I have, the extensions were: Noble to Bellefontaine, 1879; Bellefontaine to Cornell, 1883; New Jersey to Noble, 1885; and Cornell to Clifford, 1888. A quick glance will explain the confusion on my part. How did the line get to Noble Street from New Jersey Street before the line was built between the two. This line was electrified in 1892.

The Massachusetts line would become the Brookside line in 1904, when the tracks would be extended along Brookside Avenue from Tenth Street to 18th. In 1920, the Indianapolis Street Railways purchased some track from the Union Traction Company of Indiana, extending the Brookside line to Olney Avenue. The last trolley using the tracks ran on 6 June 1934, with trackless trolleys starting the next day.

The last line I want to cover today is the College Line. This line diverted from the Massachusetts line at New Jersey, ending at St. Clair Street. Two years later, in 1867, the line was extended. The extension ran from St. Clair Street to Fort Wayne Avenue, northeast on Fort Wayne Avenue to Central Avenue, north to Christian Avenue (now 11th Street), ending just west of College Avenue. Here, it was two blocks south of the North Western Christian University (later to be called Butler University).

In 1873, an extension took the mule cars along Christian Avenue to Ash Street (later Ashland Street, now Carrollton Avenue). That lasted around four years, when the track was backed up to College Avenue, and ran north along College to Lincoln Avenue (now 15th Street). Again, around four years later, in 1883, the tracks were extended again to Ninth Street (now 19th Street). A new barn was built at Tenth (now 20th) Street and College, and the College Line would be connected to the new barn in 1886.

The line was electrified in 1891, and the next year, a change was made where instead of following New Jersey Street north from Massachusetts Avenue, it would divert from the Massachusetts line at College Avenue, connecting to the in place College line at Christian Avenue. Also, a northern extension would take the line from ending at Tenth (20th) Street to a loop track at 19th (27th) Street.

A 1906 addition to the line, which only involved every other car, ran along 27th Street to Cornell, where it ended in a “Y” at 30th Street. This Cornell line was abandoned on 10 April 1932.

The College line was extended three times with purchases from the Union Traction Company of Indiana. The first, in 1912, was to Fairgrounds Avenue (Fairfield Avenue). In 1919, the second took the line as far as 46th Street. The last was a lease in 1924 to take the College Line as far as a loop track at Broad Ripple Park. The lease became a purchase by Indianapolis Street Railways in 1926.

The very last tracked trolley car in Indianapolis ran along the College line on 9 January 1953. Busses would start running the next day. Yes, the street car era ended with the last College line running.

One thought on “Indianapolis Street Car Saturday – Lines Opening in 1864 and 1865

  1. I lived on College Avenue one house from 34th Street. I took the street car to Broad Ripple High School. Buses began during my senior year. The change of sounds would awaken me in the night when the buses began (my bedroom faced the street). Somehow I liked the street cars better, even though the buses could come all the way to the curb. That was definitely helpful in rain or snow.

    We had no car till I was 12, so I walked or took the street car everywhere. In August-September, I’d often walk to the State Fair and take the bus home. Good memories! Being a history buff, I enjoy your columns. Thank you for all the research you’ve done so thoroughly, and for the interesting way you report it!

    Blessings, Carleene Hubbard


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