Tooting Their Own Horn: Fort Wayne and Northern Indiana Traction Company

Looking through newspapers for information about transportation items can come up with some interesting results. Today, I want to look at a full page advertisement that was taken out in the 18 December 1915 issue of the Fort Wayne Daily News. The headline asks the question: “What Has The Traction Company Done For Fort Wayne?” The first sentence basically reads “let us see what the real facts are and then everyone judge for himself.” Then facts start pouring out.

The history of the company comes first. “The Fort Wayne & Wabash Valley Traction Company was organized under the laws of Indiana in 1903 for the purpose of acquiring, building and operating street and interurban street railroads and electric light and power plants. In 1911 it was reorganized under the laws of the state of Indiana, with practically the same stockholders and officers, under the name of Fort Wayne & Northern Indiana Traction Company. These two companies, for the purpose of this article, are properly treated as one and will be designated the ‘Traction Company.'”

The difference between it being called, by me, an advertisement and by the author as an article comes from my training, many years ago, as a journalist. Articles in newspapers usually come in the form of columns. One of the lessons that was beat into our heads as journalism students is that space is a premium. Basically, anything the newspaper is “paying the freight for,” i.e. paying staff members to write, has to be as informative and as short as possible. The subject “article” is a full page, large type entry.

More history follows, with a list of properties that the FtW&NITC acquired through the years, starting in 1904. The first list was from that year, mostly properties that had been in receivership (at least once). List of those those assets are: 1) the Fort Wayne street railroad company; 2) the interurban line (built by the Fort Wayne & Southwestern Traction Company) from Fort Wayne to Wabash; 3) the Fort Wayne Electric Light & Power Company (built by the Fort Wayne & Southwestern Traction Company); 4) the Wabash River Traction Company, owner of the line from Peru to Logansport; 5) Logansport Street Railways, then owned by the Logansport Railway Company and the Logansport, Rochester & Northern Traction Company; and 6) the Lafayette Street Railroad Company, owners of the street cars in Lafayette and West Lafayette.

From this paragraph alone we learn that the street cars in Fort Wayne, Logansport, Lafayette and West Lafayette all belong to a company based in Fort Wayne. Also, interurban connections from Fort Wayne to Logansport fall under this company’s umbrella.

The company in question, according to the article, built two more lines to help facilitate access to more Indiana towns. The first line the company built connected Fort Wayne to Bluffton. At Bluffton, the line connected to the Union Traction Company, which gave Fort Wayne, via electric traction lines, access to Montpelier, Hartford City, Marion, Muncie, Anderson and Indianapolis.

The second line built by the Fort Wayne & Northern Indiana Traction Company connected the street railways of Logansport to the street railways of Lafayette, thus creating a link from West Lafayette to Fort Wayne. This, according to the writer, allowed connections with other interurban lines “running North and South at Wabash, Peru, Logansport and Lafayette.”

With these two additions, with connecting routes owned by other companies, it was possible to ride the interurban from Fort Wayne to Chicago, Indianapolis, Louisville, and Dayton, Ohio, in addition to numerous other small Indiana and Ohio towns along the way.

The next part of the article goes on to describe some of the advantages of the traction company to the city of Fort Wayne. The first mentioned is that the company is based in Fort Wayne, with the jobs staying in that city. Second, the building of a million dollar electric plant is heralded. Third is the expansion of services from that plant to all of the residents of the city of Fort Wayne, with “electric light and power service not surpassed in any city in the country.”

The article then mentions the rebuilding of the entire system of railroads, including street car tracks, to the equal of steam railroad properties.

The financial expenditures of the company, and the beneficiaries thereof, were also mentioned. The company sank $333,583 into the paving of the streets in just the city of Fort Wayne. This kept the taxpayers of the city from having to pay that amount. This also allowed, according to the writer, “jitneys” to use, and abuse, that work for which they pay nothing in usage or taxes. Those same “jitneys” also have the ability, and apparently the desire, to block street cars in the performance of those duties.

There were other things mentioned…mostly the amount of taxes and payroll the company pays to especially the governments of Allen County and the City of Fort Wayne. Since the words “render hazardous the lives of people using the streets” were used in this advertisement, one would assume that there were citizens in Fort Wayne questioning the desire to keep the Fort Wayne & Northern Indiana Traction Company in business. The rebuttal, in the form of this full page of the Fort Wayne Daily News, makes it clear that the benefits of the company outweigh the cons of it. And, it goes to lay part of the blame on the company’s reputation on the other users of the streets that, according to the writer, the company paid out of its own pocket to provide to the city.

The article, which also appeared in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette the next day, was signed by James M. Barrett, President of the Fort Wayne & Northern Indiana Traction Company.

I am not here to make a judgement on the merits of the arguments. It was an interesting article that I found while searching for something else. But I am doing what I do best, sharing the information and letting my readers make their own call. If you have access to, the link directly to the article is: 18 Dec 1915, Page 3 – The Fort Wayne News at Since it is such a large article, I won’t be posting it here. I may, at a later point, make it available.

Indianapolis Track Elevation, Revisited

In the early 1910’s, the City of Indianapolis and the several railroad companies that entered downtown came to an agreement to elevate the tracks connecting to Union Station. But, technically, it was one railroad that was responsible for dealing with doing the work. The tracks leading to the Union Station all belonged to the Indianapolis Union Railway (IU).

The original contracts that were let for the work, as reported in the Indianapolis Star of 28 January 1913, also included a determined elevation level for the tracks and the grade to be put in place.

The story in the Star reported that there were problems in the City Council about the contract, and delays involved with it. The Law Subcommittee, consisting of R. W. McBride, Caleb S. Denny, Ralph Bamberger, Reginald H. Sullivan and Frank E. Gavin, “reported adversely on the contract.” The main concern was that the city would be on the hook for helping to pay for “increasing the facilities of the railroads.” The Council announced that they want to talk to lawyers about this situation.

Now to the specifics of what is to be done. Article Two of the contract laid out grades and elevation levels of the tracks through downtown. The tracks were to be elevated to the level of the railroad bridges over the White River, rising at a grade of 4/10 of a foot per 100 feet eastward to Illinois Street. From Illinois to Pennsylvania Streets, the tracks were to be level. After Pennsylvania Street, the downgrade would be .256 feet per 100 feet to Virginia Avenue. It would go back up .335 feet per 100 feet until the center of Washington Street. The Panhandle (PRR) and Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton (B&O) tracks were to descend .7 feet per 100 from East Street to Noble Street (College Avenue). The grade of the wye to connect the Madison line, also part of the Panhandle at that point, would ascend at a rate of .76 feet per 100 from Meridian Street to South Street. From Delaware Street to South Street, the wye would ascend .88 feet per 100.

The street clearances were also laid out in Article two of the contract. The following is what was decided, from the newspaper itself:

Indianapolis Star, 28 June 1913, Elevations for Indianapolis Union Railway tracks through downtown Indianapolis.

Of all the streets that would be affected by the elevation, only one was to be removed from the map of the city of Indianapolis. That street was then called Liberty Avenue. Today, it is called Park Avenue.

What caused part of the problem with the City Council is the idea that the ordinance basically ordering the railroad to perform this work (passed in 1905) stated that the city and county would contribute to the elevation of the tracks. But the city refused to pay for any expansion of railroad facilities during this time. Any expansion of the yard facilities that would occur while the elevation was taking place would be borne by the railroad.

The cost was broken up in the contract as follows: Indianapolis Union Railway pays 75%; the remaining 25% would be shared by the City of Indianapolis, the County of Marion, the Town of Woodruff Place and the Indianapolis Street Railway Company/Indianapolis Traction and Terminal Company (both at this point are owned by the Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Eastern Traction Company).

“It is provided, however, that the railway company alone shall bear the cost of laying the tracks after the elevation is completed.”

The history of the track elevation in Indianapolis was covered in the Indiana Transportation History entry of 7 October 2019 called “Indianapolis Track Elevation.”

Richmond, 1907: Interurban Accident with City Street Car

I have mentioned several times that when interurban cars entered most of the bigger cities in Indiana, they would not run on tracks that were owned by the traction company, but owned by the city street railway. In cities like Indianapolis and Terre Haute, this really wasn’t a problem, since the street railways in both cities were owned by the Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Eastern Traction Company. (That also meant that the THI&E paid a ton of money in franchise fees, but that is a story for a different day.)

Now, we go to 4 November 1907. A collision, involving a Richmond street car, a THI&E passenger car, and a THI&E freight car created such a stink in and around Richmond that it was thought that the city street cars were going to undergo a massive change in operations. The accident, according to the Richmond Palladium, occurred in “the western limits of the city.” This was located near the country club. Due to the accident, officials of the Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Eastern were holding a “court martial” and an investigation of the circumstances in their eastern division offices at Greenfield.

The purpose of the meeting in Greenfield was bluntly stated, in the newspaper, that the company was “fully realizing that the street car wreck of Monday….was the direct result of carelessness on the part of some of the operators.” And that carelessness was considered to be on the part of the street car operators, not the interurban ones. The people involved in the accident were “Motorman Elmer Rhodes of the city car, Raydo Flower of No. 68, the interurban, and Riley Cook, of the freight car.” Additionally, Conductors J. C. Beldsoe (sic…listed as Bledsoe later) and Oliver Hill were asked to go to Greenfield to attend.

The property loss to the interurban company was considered to be “great than at first thought.” The braking system of THI&E car #68 was completely destroyed. Car #68 was crashed into by the Richmond city car. The car also happened to be relatively new, only being in service between Richmond and Indianapolis for “a short time.” The freight car was considered to be a total loss, to the tune of $3,500.

“When asked to roughly estimate the property loss, Superintendent A. Gordon of the city lines, said he had not the slightest idea, but it would be heavy. When asked if $6,000 would cover it, he said it might, but he would not say.” In addition, the THI&E “will undoubtedly be defendant in several damage suits which will call for large amounts. Claim Agent Kitchner was on the spot immediately on his arrival in the city and secured the names of the injured and set about making settlements.”

One person was commended for his actions during the situation. Conductor J. C. Bledsoe gave a warning to the 28 passengers of the danger, and his quick actions getting the passengers off of the wrecked car. “Many men would have stood on the rear platform with head in a whirl,” stated Superintendent Gordon. “Had the passengers remained in the passenger coach longer than they did, it is very probable the list of injured would have been larger, as a panic would have ensued had the passengers known of the great danger.”

The newspaper went on to point out that street car officials have been under a microscope for the past week. Street cars were known to follow the interurban cars to closely, thought to have been due to a change in the interurban schedule. The change was made to shorten the time waiting in Richmond for transfers from the THI&E and the Dayton & Western, the interurban line connecting Richmond to Dayton, Ohio.

The major cause of the accident was thought to be in the hands of city street car motormen following the interurban too closely, and the interurbans stopping to pick up city passengers, something that is not done in other cities along the line where street cars and interurbans use the same lines.

Google Map of the location of the street car/
interurban crash.

All of the cars involved in the incident were heading west, which, according to the sub-headline of the Richmond Palladium of 4 November 1907, made “the accident one of the most peculiar on record.” This issue of the newspaper also mentions that the accident was “the third and most serious street car wreck that has occurred on the Richmond city street car lines within the past ten days.”

The accident occurred when Rhodes, operating the Easthaven street car, heard the cars of a man wanting to catch the street car. He brought his car to a halt a few feet east of the Clear Creek bridge, awaiting the arrival of Wilson Langley, the man who called for the street car. As Langley was boarding, the crash occurred. There was no scheduled stop at that spot on the line. Langley would suffer a broken left leg, badly cut face, and internal injuries. His condition was considered serious.

The crash occurred at the bottom of a small hill going westbound along the National Road. Tests were done with traction and street cars when it came to stopping while coming down that hill. The interurban operators had, during the test, turned on reverse power so high that, according to sources, “the wheels were spinning backward.” Slippery conditions of the rails, the stopped street car in a place where it should not have stopped, and the hill were thought to all be contributing factors.

Information after the wreck was limited in the newspapers…other than the people that were hurt recovering from their injuries.

1975: Interurban in Tipton County, 40 Years Later

On 27 April, 1975, the Kokomo Tribune ran a full page story about with the headline “Clues to old interurban road still traceable in Tipton County.” The first paragraph was: “TIPTON – Nearly 40 years after the last of Tipton County’s interurbans was abandoned, it is still possible to retrace their rights-of-ways.” Many are the stories that were included in that article. I want to share some of it here today.

Along the old interurban lines, at that time, were many things that can immediately show the location of the old right-of-way. Bridge abutments are the most obvious. But there were also concrete collars, placed around electric poles for the safety of the pole. These collars were four feet high. They lined both sides of the tracks.

But the article goes on to point out other things that aren’t so obvious.

“In a goat pasture about a mile west of Hobbs, the interurban roadway appears as a flat plateau running alone the south side of Ind, 28.” Hobbs, according to Google Maps, is where SR 28 and SR 213 come together. Just south of SR 28 on SR 213, at CR 150S, “utility poles cutting through a field mark the southern edge of the interurban right-of-way.” Between the two mentions places in this paragraph, “a 20-feet-wide strip has been removed from a woods along the highway.”

The Union Traction Company of Indiana operated two interurban lines through Tipton County. The first, which would include the locations from the previous paragraph, ran from Elwood to Tipton through Hobbs. The other ran north through Tipton County, starting in Indianapolis, and connecting Atlanta, Tipton and Sharpsville before leaving the county. Another line that was planned, and construction started, but was never finished, would have connected Tipton to Frankfort.

The article states that “it is easiest today to find the old routes in rural areas. Construction and growth in cities have covered up the old tracks there. The interurbans often ran alongside highways and regular railroads, and the rural folks have not been in a hurry to obliterate the roadbeds.”

The line crossing Tipton County from the south followed the old Nickle Plate tracks across the county into Tipton. The Interurban repair yards, known as “the shops” (as related by 76 year old Dempsey Goodnight, a lineman and conductor for 10 years for the Union Traction Company), were located just north of Cicero Creek at Tipton. Work on the traction cars happened at this location. An electric substation was also contained on the yard’s property. By 1975, the old two story building was being used by a seed company.

That right of way left the Nickle Plate right-of-way to go west on Madison Street. According to Goodnight, between Independence and East Streets, there “used to be a stucco house. I remember when a street car jumped the tracks here and hit the porch.”

The ticket and dispatch offices, as well as the freight house, were located at the corner of Main and Madison Streets. By 1975, the freight depot, located on the west end of the ticket/dispatch office, had been torn down and replaced.

The route through Tipton turned north on Main Street, west on Dearborn Street, and north on Green Street. A boarding house for travelers was located at 612 Green Street, according to Goodnight. From there, the line headed northwest toward Sharpsville and Kokomo.

Jefferson Street was the entry point into Tipton for the line from Elwood, and made a loop in the downtown area. That loop was south on Independence Street, west on Madison Street, north on West Street back to Jefferson Street and its trip back towards Elwood.

“When the interurbans were built, the 75-foot utility poles were set in concrete. As the lines were abandoned, the poles were removed but many of the concrete bases were left in place, now looking like old lawn planters.”

Between Tipton and Hobbs, the old ROW was located about 20 feet south of SR 28. At Hobbs, the interurban followed CR 150S until just east of the SR 213 intersection, where it followed the old Norfolk & Western tracks, along the south side of the ROW, for four miles. Near CR 700E, the interurban veered south, just to turn back north to cross the N&W on a viaduct..

The ROW south from Tipton followed the old Nickle Plate as far as CR 500S, where it moved to the west around a cemetery. It then turned east again to cross a road, railroad and a creek. One of the abutments for that overpass still exist along CR 100 W and the Nickle Plate tracks, as seen here.

It looks like there may be a road trip in my future to see what is actually left of these two interurban lines. From what I can tell from Google Maps, there isn’t much. But, inquiring minds want to know. And If nothing else, I have an inquiring mind.

All photos in this blog entry came from the Kokomo Tribune of 27 April 1975 and were taken by Ron Sentman.

Beech Grove Traction

1906. A rural station stop on the Big Four Railroad, originally called Ingalls (or Ingallston), has just been incorporated as a shop town for the same Big Four Railroad. It’s official name at this point became Beech Grove. The new town that grew from the building of the railroad shops, covered in my blog entry “Beech Grove,” found itself barely accessible by anything other than the very railroad that built it. It wouldn’t be long until that would change.

First, the town was actually accessible by route of an old toll road that had been built to reach the farm of a local resident, a Mr. Churchman. That road, for the longest time, had been called the Churchman Pike, even after the county bought it back from the toll road company. The Churchman Pike connected to the town via what would become Albany Street, a survey section line that also acts as the separator between all of the southern townships and the central townships in Marion County. Dirt roads along the other survey lines – which would later become Troy and Emerson Avenues – also led to the area that would become Beech Grove. The old train station, Ingalls or Beech Grove, was at the survey line (Emerson Avenue) and the railroad track. Today, that would be under the Emerson Avenue bridge over the railroad.

But it wouldn’t be long before another method of transportation would make its presence known, and try to work its way into the railroad city. Electric Traction, also known as the interurban, had made its way into Indianapolis, officially, with the opening of the Greenwood line on 1 January 1900. After that, companies started popping up all over the United States. And Indianapolis became a hub for the new transportation form.

But this would create a problem. Steam railroads, which all standard railroads were called at the time, saw the new Traction companies as direct competition. Even though the gauge (width between the tracks) was the same on both, traffic interchange was one of those things that the steam roads were going to keep to an absolute minimum. And since the Traction companies specialized in moving people, this was even more reason for the steam roads to dislike the interurbans.

And now someone wants to add an interurban route to a town BUILT by the railroad? The short answer…yes. The reason for this was actually based in the nature of the steam railroad itself. Passenger trains, taking people from Beech Grove to downtown Indianapolis, weren’t scheduled at very convenient times for citizens of the new town. While the company that had invested in, and created, the town, the Beech Grove Improvement Company, tried running its own special trains to downtown Indianapolis, it was at the whim of the very busy Big Four line from Indianapolis to Cincinnati. In comes the planners of the electric traction.

It started in 1909. A company called the Shore Line Traction Company applied for a franchise to run a traction line from the Indianapolis city limits (point unknown) to Beech Grove. Louis McMains, a real estate agent, put in the petition to the County Commissioners. In October 1909, the petition asked that the Shore Line Traction Company be allowed to use the Churchman Pike from the city limits near Keystone and Churchman Avenues to the corporation limit of Beech Grove. It also asked for some straightening work along the road, and the right of way be widened by 27 feet (adding 13.5 feet on each side). “The petition signifies that the property owners on each side of the pike are willing to part with the necessary land to widen the road.” (Source: Indianapolis News, 14 October 1909)

The county had problems with the widening…especially when it came to the Churchman Pike bridge over Bean Creek (between Walker and Southern Avenues today). The bridge had been in disrepair for years, listed as such as early as 1891. Whether the bridge had been repaired or replaced at this point is unknown. Suffice it to say, the county wasn’t really likely to spend money to replace the bridge.

The petition mentioned that the plan for the Churchman Pike is to widen it to 66 feet, allowing two tracks to be built in the center, with only one track being built to start the company. The new company already had a franchise in hand for the route inside Beech Grove itself.

The Shore Line Traction Company found itself trying to come up with a new route to Beech Grove when the county balked at the Bean Creek bridge. With that, the company was not heard from again.

But shortly after the above petition was filed, a new company would be incorporated – the Beech Grove Traction Company. This company was officially started on 30 December 1909. It had the same goal as the Shore Line Transit Company – connect Beech Grove and downtown Indianapolis.

There was more progress with the Beech Grove Traction than there was with Shore Line. The Indianapolis News of 2 April 1910 reported that the Beech Grove company had elected its corporate officers and announced that grading work would begin soon on the line. Rails, ties and cars had already been ordered. Work on the new Churchman Pike bridge over Bean Creek had begun on 28 March 1910. Officials of the traction company were negotiating with the Indianapolis Traction and Terminal Company “for use of the tracks of the latter company in Shelby Street and Virginia Avenue for entrance to the business district.”

The franchise rights had been awarded by Marion County and the town of Beech Grove. When construction was to begin in April, the company had no agreement with the city of Indianapolis about using the city street railway tracks to enter the downtown area. This agreement would not have been reached until September 1910. This caused construction to be delayed until November 1910.

Even before the track was complete, the first train run over part of the line happened on 20 March 1911. Seven days later, regular service began. The Beech Grove end of the line was on what became Garstang Avenue east of First (Emerson) Avenue. The track then ran north on First Avenue to Main Street. Following Main Street west, it turned north on 17th Avenue (Sherman Drive) for one block, to turn northwest on Churchman Pike (Avenue). The route then turned west on LeGrande Avenue to connect to the city street railway system at Shelby Street.

1917 Map of the route of the Beech Grove Traction Company.

At first, the company found itself very popular. The Beech Grove Traction only owned, at the start, four cars to travel between the two ends. But there were so many people that wanted to use the new train that the company found itself running trains every 40 minutes from daybreak to midnight. The time table showed that first car left for Indianapolis at 0530, with the first car from Indianapolis arriving at 0610. A nickel would get a rider from Beech Grove to Shelby Street and LeGrande. A dime would get you all the way to the Traction Terminal.

Now, one might ask about why someone would get off the interurban at Shelby Street. Rightly so. But a trip to Garfield Park would require a change to a city street car. Or, one could catch the interurban to Greenwood, Franklin, Columbus and even Louisville at the end of the city Shelby Street line…which was at the Greenwood Line Stop 1 at Perry Street, south of Troy Avenue, on Shelby Street.

But business along the Beech Grove Traction line would start falling off rather quickly. The Big Four, with the completion of the traction line, stopped issuing passes to employees and families to ride the steam train. This made the interurban the best way to get to downtown Indianapolis. In the early days, most traffic was Big Four shop employees coming to and from work from their homes in Indianapolis. Due to the success of the town of Beech Grove, these employees were moving to the town. This caused a drop in traffic on the traction line. And due to shops being built along Main Street, the traffic drop wasn’t made up for in shopping trips to the stores of downtown Indianapolis.

By 1914, an average of 24 round trips ran each day along the line, with a schedule of 1 hour 10 minutes between trains. That had slowed down to 16 round trips a day by March 1916. And, as is typical of Indiana railroads of the time, the Beech Grove Traction Company found itself falling into receivership in December 1917, caused by increased costs without the subsequent increase in revenue.

Lawsuits were filed. Newspapers reported that the traction line wouldn’t be necessary for much longer, since with the improvement of city streets, bus service between Beech Grove and Indianapolis would replace the electric traction line. In a strange twist of fate, the operator of the bus competition to the Beech Grove Traction ceased his bus company and took over the traction line as railway superintendent. Fortunes improved…for the time being.

One of the things that the line started was carrying mail from the Fountain Square post office to the post office in Beech Grove. This started shortly after completion of the line until it was discontinued in the late 1920s.

The little line lumbered on for almost two decades after receivership…barely. It was recommended in November 1923 that the line be closed and sold. Revenues increased with the permission given to raise fares. But the company found itself sold to make up $30,000 in debt due to maintenance and new rolling stock in 1925. The new buyer made a condition – if a bus line was approved, the sale would be null and void, and the line would be junked. Again, lawsuits were filed, and a bus line was granted an injunction to operate. And the bus company was purchased by the traction line…and both were operated at the same time. It found itself teetering financially, yet still managing to survive.

The Great Depression hurt the line, just like it did almost everything else at the time. But it managed to survive…for a while. The Public Service Commission of Indiana, on 7 January 1937, officially told the company that it was to close the line. Indianapolis Railways, the power provider for the line, complained to the PSCI that Beech Grove Traction owed in the neighborhood of $20,000 for power…which Indianapolis Railways turned off at 0100 on 8 January 1937. And hence, the end of the Beech Grove Traction line. Some people hadn’t seen the notices about the end of service, and were waiting at stops on a cold 8 January morning.

The last vestiges of the traction company would last until 21 August 1973. The company’s car barn, at First and Garstang, would last until demolition started that day.

Bicycling the National Road West from Indianapolis

Route map from the Indianapolis News, 11 April 1896, showing bicycling routes.

Today’s Bicycling Thursday I want to go back to the Indianapolis News of 11 April 1896, which covered routes west of Indianapolis, starting with the National Road. While the article mentions shorter routes that use other roads back to the city, I want to stick to what is now Washington Street.

The first part of the journey was pretty much straight forward: “starting from Meridian and Washington streets, the run is out Washington street, which is paved some distance west of White River.” Before this point, the crossing of the White River could be done using one of two bridges, with more information available at “Indianapolis: Washington Street & National Road Bridges.” “Beyond the pavement, to the point where the National Road proper begins, the street is badly cut up.” This would be the section from roughly the Belt Railway to Mount Jackson, mentioned later. It was also mentioned that, while the road was in bad shape, the “going is good in the center of the car track.” Keep in mind that the “car track” mentioned here is that of the street cars.

1889 map of Mount Jackson and Haughville along Washington St.

“The National road starts from Mount Jackson, three miles out, and runs off a little southwest.” The town of Mount Jackson stretched from what is now Belmont to Tibbs Avenues, south of Washington Street. (Haughville proper was along the same stretch, north of Washington Street.) At what is now Warman, the “Indiana Insane Hospital” property was located. This property would be later named Central State Hospital.

At the edge of the hospital property, “a dirt road running northwest, skirting Haughville and crossing the Osterman (10 Street from White River to the Danville State Road), Crawfordsville and Lafayette roads.” This is now Tibbs Avenue.

1889 map of the National Road from the Eagle Creek crossing west, also showing the original connection of the National and Rockville Roads.

After passing the hospital, the old road passes over Eagle Creek “on a good iron bridge, the approaches to which are easy.” It then crosses the Big Four railway, which at the time was an at-grade crossing. The road then turns more to the southwest. Here “there has been a liberal supply of fresh gravel distributed over the road for about one mile, but there is a hard path at the side.” Also, there are two dirt roads branching from the main road in this section. One goes to Maywood, which is now Tibbs Avenue south of Washington Street. The other is between Tibbs and the place where the original Rockville Road turned northwest from the National Road (that intersection is now where Holt Road meets Washington Street).

About a mile from Rockville Road, the old road crosses a toll road that is a continuation of Morris Street from Indianapolis (and has that name today), the Emma Hanck turnpike. “Six miles from the city is a grocery and blacksmith shop, which may be used to good advantage by unfortunates.” This is between Morris Street and High School Road, which was called the Forsha Turnpike, which connected the National Road to Ben Davis Post Office. At seven miles from the city, a “pleasant resting place for the first riders” at a big saw mill. A dirt road near this point, running north and south, could allow a rider wanting a short ride to connect back to the city via “half a dozen turnpikes running east and west.”

At a point 9.5 miles from the city, where the road passes through a small, well shaded village called Bridgeport. The road then continues over White Lick Creek and rumbles toward Plainfield over what was a recent installment of fresh gravel. Finally, before leaving Marion County, the rider will come across a “large nursery, with green and white buildings and storehouses, situated on the side of a hill” just at the edge of the county line.

Indianapolis and the Interurban

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a new transportation system was appearing across the United States. This system, officially “electric traction railroads,” but mostly known as Interurbans, caught on especially in Indiana…with a major focus on Indianapolis. The Hoosier capitol glommed onto the interurban so much that the city was the home to the largest Traction Terminal in the United States. One could think of the Traction Terminal as the Union Station of the Interurban.

But what is not well known is that, unlike most of the towns in Indiana, the Interurbans only had one stop in the city of Indianapolis itself…the Traction Terminal. Transportation wise, Indianapolis has always been somewhat a lone wolf. Most transportation facilities, technically, had always stopped at the city limits. When the state took over city streets as part of the state highway system, Indianapolis was specifically left out of the plan, by law. The same applied to the Interurbans.

When entering the city, the electric traction railroads had to not only negotiate with the City Council for the right to enter the city, they had to also work with the Indianapolis Street Railway company for trackage rights to downtown. A quick glance at any Interurban time table would show this very strange situation. It was made even stranger when the Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Eastern (THI&E) became the actual owner of the Indianapolis Street Railway Company…and the Traction Terminal.

Let’s look at the “Stop 1” locations of the different Interurban routes into Indianapolis.

THI&E – Indianapolis to Terre Haute: This line had two stops at city limits: Stop 1 was at Harris Avenue (milepost 2.9); and Stop 2 was at Tibbs Avenue (milepost 3.4). Both of these locations were on the city limits. (Indianapolis, until Unigov in 1969, tended to annex county territory in a very strange pattern. It never really gobbled up territory in any kind of straight forward fashion. I describe it as “well this looks good, you are in the city now” type of expansion.)

THI&E – Indianapolis to Richmond: Stop 1 along this line was at Sheridan Avenue, milepost 5.7, three blocks east of Arlington Avenue. This location was just outside the former town of Irvington. There was branch from this line at Dunreith that connected to New Castle. Another interesting fact (at least to me) about this line is the fact that it had an effect on Indianapolis street names (like the Interstate Public Service line and the “Stop” roads mentioned seven paragraphs later). Most stops along the Interurban lines were named after the road where it was located. Stop 16 on this line, at milepost 10.5, was at Franke Road. In an effort to not have confusion between the names Franke Road and Franklin Road (originally the Franklin-Noblesville State Road, mentioned here), the road at Stop 16 was changed to the Interurban stop name. It was named after the landmark at that location: German Church.

THI&E – Indianapolis to Lafayette: This one actually had two Stop 1’s, one at 34th Street (milepost 3.7) and one at 38th Street (milepost 4.3). It should be noted that the line ran in a northwesterly direction, hence the 1/2 mile between 34th and 38th Streets, on the railroad, was 6/10 of a mile. It should also be noted that this line had a branch leaving Lebanon headed to Crawfordsville.

THI&E – Indianapolis to Martinsville: The official Stop 1 along the Martinsville line was at Milepost 3.8, which was .8 miles from the city limits at Eagle Creek.

THI&E – Indianapolis to Danville: There were two control points on this line before the official Stop 1. They were at Mount Jackson, milepost 3.0, and at Salem Park, milepost 3.3. The official Stop 1 was at milepost 4.2.

THI&E – Indianapolis to Crawfordsville (Originally the Indianapolis, Crawfordsville & Eastern): This line was a bit strange. The first numbered stop along this track was Stop 5, at Speedway. The city limits, at the time, was at Olen Avenue, officially known as Stop 4.

Union Traction Company (UTC) – Indianapolis to Logansport: This line left Indianapolis via Broad Ripple, connecting to Nora and Carmel on its way to Logansport. No stop numbers were used on time tables, but the first stop listed was at 34th Street, milepost 4.3.

It should be noted that the UTC had a line connecting Muncie and Indianapolis, and was labeled as such. Due to this, the first stop out of Indianapolis was at the end of the city street car trackage at 25th Street, milepost 53.4. This line served Fort Benjamin Harrison, and the station there (at milepost 45.0) still exists. It is now “La Hacienda” Mexican restaurant. (Good food, by the way.)

Interstate Public Service – Indianapolis to Greenwood (Franklin, Columbus, Seymour, Louisville): Known to the very end as the “Greenwood Line,” the Stop 1 was at Perry Street, milepost 4, located three blocks south of the city limits (and Center-Perry Township line) at Troy Avenue. This line has four points that I have found interesting. First, this was both the first and last active interurban line into Indianapolis (more information here). Second, some of the stops along this route are still named as such. Indianapolis has Stop 10, Stop 11, Stop 12 and Stop 13 Roads. Greenwood has a Stop 18 Road. Third, remnants of this company still exist as part of Duke Energy. When the Federal Government ordered the separation of the electric traction roads and their electrical supplier (part of what kept these lines solvent was selling power to customers along the line), the electric company Public Service Indiana was created. And fourth, Stop 13 is the county line separating Marion and Johnson Counties. In newspapers of the time, a large picnic grounds and recreational area existed between Stops 13 and 14. Stop 14 is now called Frye Road. The recreational area was called “Greenwood Park.” (For those keeping track at home, the IPS line ran along Madison Avenue. The area between Stops 13 and 14 is STILL called Greenwood Park. It just has the word “Mall” after it.)

Indianapolis & Southeastern (ISE) – Indianapolis to Connersville: The first stop listed in the time tables was at milepost 4.3, otherwise known as Junction. The second stop was at Hawthorne (the PRR Yards on the eastside of Indianapolis), milepost 7.

ISE – Indianapolis to Greensburg: Just like the Connersville route, the first stop was at Junction. However, the second stop was just east of Emerson Avenue. The stop was called “Heads,” at milepost 5.5. (After that, at milepost 7.8, was Five Points.)

At the height of the Interurban era, there were 55 different lines in Indiana. I plan to cover them in more detail at a later date.