Indianapolis Street Car Saturday: Going South

The south side of the city of Indianapolis has always suffered from a sort of neglect when it came to the infrastructure of the city. It started with the very design of the town of Indianapolis. The main drag of the tow was south of the circle…therefore the south side was smaller than the north. The south side of the mile square had been swampy and almost unusable land. Railroad depots used the south side because it was cheaper to buy than “dryer” land north of Washington Street.

When it came to trains, that would also be a big damper on the expansion of the south side. With the large number of trains coming in and out of Union Station, transport to the south side was hindered by delays. Two projects, both of which were not the greatest, allowed passengers and street cars to pass the roadblock that was Union Station: the Illinois tunnel and the Virginia Viaduct. Street cars would use both of these to get to the south side in a timely manner.

Let’s start with the South East Street line. The mule car line ran from Virginia Avenue to McCarty Street along East Street when it was opened in 1892. Two years later, when it was electrified, it was extended to Morris Street. Additions in 1905 and 1906 took the route to Terrace and Lincoln, in that order. The last day of the tracked trolleys was 22 August 1934.

That was not to be confused with what would become the Garfield Park line. Started in 1879, the line would follow South Street from Illinois to Delaware, then turn south to McCarty. That was extended in 1888 along Delaware Street and Madison Avenue to Nebraska (Terrace). As the last line to be electrified, in 1896, it was extended from Madison and Terrace to Madison and Lincoln, then east to East Street, south to Raymond Street, then east to Singleton, where there was a loop to turn the streetcar towards downtown again. 13 February 1937 would see the end of the use of tracks for the Garfield Park line.

The Shelby Street line started operations in 1888, when it branched from the Prospect line at Fountain Square to the car barns on Shelby Street. When electrified in 1892, it was extended to Beecher Street. 1900 saw the line extended to Southern Avenue. Two years after that, the Southern Avenue end of the line was connected to the Garfield Park loop. The line grew to it greatest extent in 1920 when the Indianapolis Street Railway company purchased from Interstate Public Service Company the tracks that were laid in Shelby Street from Southern Avenue to the Perry Avenue loop. The Perry Avenue loop was known as Stop 1 on the Greenwood interurban line…the first location where the famous “Stop” roads south of Indianapolis get their names.

In 1915, a line was branched from the Shelby Street line to run along Minnesota Street east to Harlan. The Minnesota line was removed from tracks on 20 April 1938. That was followed almost a decade later, on 2 March 1946, by the removing of track running on the Shelby Street line.

Next week, we are going southwest when it comes to street car lines.

2 thoughts on “Indianapolis Street Car Saturday: Going South

  1. They used to use the New York central to make rounds back-and-forth between the Depot downtown out to Indianapolis 500 and Speedway. On memorial day on the race was run.


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