Indiana Railroad

Indiana Railroad

Infobox SG rail
railroad_name=Indiana Railroad
hq_city=Indianapolis, Indiana

The Indiana Railroad (IR) was the last of the typical Midwestern United States interurban lines. It was formed in 1930 by combining the operations of the five major interurban systems in central Indiana into one entity. The predecessor companies had all previously come under the control of Midland Utilities, owned by Samuel Insull. It was Insull's plan to consolidate the Indiana interurban network, modernizing the profitable routes and abandoning the unprofitable ones. With the onset of the Great Depression, the Insull empire collapsed and the Indiana Railroad was left with a decaying infrastructure and little hope for overcoming the competition of the automobile. During the 1930s the Indiana Railroad's lines were all abandoned one by one until a wreck in 1941 put an end to the last operation of typical interurban lines in Indiana.

Predecessor companies

Union Traction Company

The Indiana Railroad was created on July 2, 1930 when Midland Utilities purchased the Union Traction Company of Indiana and transferred ownership to IR. Union Traction (UTC) was the largest interurban system in Indiana with convert|410|mi|km of interurban trackage and convert|44|mi|km of streetcar lines in Anderson, Elwood, Marion and Muncie. UTC was created in 1897 to operate an initial line between Anderson and Alexandria, and in 1902 came under the control of the Schoepf-McGowan Syndicate. UTC purchased or leased several neighboring interurban lines in short order: the Elwood and Alexandria was bought in 1903, the Indiana Northern in 1905, the Indiana Muncie Hartford and Fort Wayne was leased in 1906, and also in 1906 UTC purchased all of the Dayton and Muncie's trackage in Indiana. UTC absorbed the Indianapolis New Castle and Toledo in 1912 and extended its trackage from New Castle to Muncie. UTC went into decline in the 1920s along with the other Indiana interurban systems and in 1925 entered bankruptcy. It survived its bankruptcy whole, though, and passed into IR control in 1930 intact.

Interstate Public Service

At the same time as UTC was acquired, three other systems already owned by Midland Utilities were put under the control of IR. The largest was the Interstate Public Service Company (IPS), which was reorganized as an independent company known as Public Service Company of Indiana but was operated under the auspices of IR. The IPS operated the line from Indianapolis to Louisville, which had been built between 1896 and 1907 under a variety of small independent lines. Through service between Indianapolis and Louisville was inaugurated over these separate lines in 1908, but it was not until 1912 that ownership of the different segments was consolidated and IPS was created. During the 1920s IPS modernized its fleet of cars extensively and operated suburban service out of Louisville; by 1930 it was one of the strongest of the Indiana interurban lines.

Indiana Service Corporation

At the same time IPS became part of IR, the Indiana Service Corporation (ISC) did as well. ISC was the successor to the Fort Wayne and Wabash Valley Traction Company, a system that had been assembled from smaller predecessors around 1902. The FW&WV had gone into bankruptcy following the terrible Kingsland wreck of 1910, the worst interurban disaster ever, which killed 41 people. It had been reorganized as the Fort Wayne and Northern Indiana, and it was this company that failed in 1919 and was purchased by ISC. ISC had also acquired two other lines, the Fort Wayne and Northwestern and the Marion and Bluffton Traction Company, in 1924 and 1926 respectively. The ISC was absorbed into IR essentially intact, with only the Battle Ground branch having been previously abandoned.

Northern Indiana Power

Absorbed into IR along with ISC and IPS was the Northern Indiana Power Company, which was a successor to the old Kokomo Marion and Western Traction Company. This line was the smallest and weakest of the companies that were folded into IR.

Terre Haute Indianapolis and Eastern

It was not until a year later, on June 23, 1931, that the final piece of the IR system was added when the Terre Haute Indianapolis and Eastern (THI&E) was purchased at auction. The THI&E was the second largest interurban system in Indiana, operating just over convert|400|mi|km of interurban lines as well as streetcar service in several western Indiana cities. It operated branches out of Indianapolis to Terre Haute, Lafayette, Richmond and Brazil, and stretched nearly from the eastern to the western boundary of the state. It had never really modernized and was financially among the weakest of the large interurban lines. It had been losing money for a decade when it fell into receivership in 1930, and several major branches, including lines to Danville, Martinsville, Lafayette, Crawfordsville, Sullivan and Clinton were abandoned prior to absorption by IR.

Inherited rolling stock

IR inherited a very large fleet of interurban cars from its various predecessor companies, totalling perhaps 100-150 interurban cars (of which about 60 were retained), probably 200 or so streetcars (of which about 150 were retained), around 50 pieces of freight equipment and about 55 work cars of various types.

The interurban cars varied considerably in age and design. A number of pre-1910 wooden combines that had survived in service on ISC and THI&E were disposed of within the first couple of years of IR's existence, leaving a fleet predominantly comprised of heavy steel single-ended combines. There were about half a dozen ISC combines, 30 UTC steel combines including 15 modern cars only five years old, and nine of IPS's handsome heavyweight combines, parlor and sleeping cars.

The city cars, excluding earlier wooden types that were scrapped, mainly consisted of single-truck Birney cars inherited from UTC and THI&E. The only exceptions were a handful of double-truck cars left over from UTC and from IPS's suburban Louisville operations.

The freight and work equipment was a hodgepodge of mainly homebuilt designs, outdated passenger cars converted for alternate use, and secondhand equipment. Most of this equipment was quite old, but even some equipment dating to before 1905 remained in IR's employ for years.

New rolling stock

IR purchased two series of modern interurban cars during its life, and it was the first - the famed Indiana Railroad High-Speeds - that always symbolized the railroad. When IR was created, its owners knew that they would have to modernize their fleet of interurban cars if they hoped to prevent further erosion of their ridership. In 1930 and 1931, IR designed a series of lightweight, high-speed interurban cars that could operate quickly and economically on the far-flung IR network. The new cars owed much to the Cincinnati and Lake Erie lightweight cars built a year before. They were single-ended, low-floor cars designed for operation by a single man. They were built largely out of aluminum to save weight and, therefore, require less power to operate. The biggest difference with the C&LE cars was in the trucks: whereas the C&LE cars had smaller arch-bar trucks, the IR cars were designed with heavy Commonwealth cast steel trucks designed specifically for high-speed service.

A total of 35 cars was ordered. The first 14, cars 50-63, came from American Car and Foundry and were fitted with deluxe cars with coach seating at the front and parlor car chairs at the back. The remaining 11 cars, numbered 64-84, came from Pullman and had all coach seating with a small baggage section at the rear. Delivery of the new high-speeds began in July 1931 and they were an immediate success, making it possible for IR to reduce running times on some of its routes and economize on its operations.

The second series of new cars was a group of ten Cummings-built lightweight cars that were bought in 1935. They were not brand new; they had been constructed in 1930 for the Northern Indiana Railway but had been seized by Cummings when the Northern Indiana couldn't pay for them. These cars were numbered 90-99.


The Indiana Railroad could not sustain its planned infrastructure improvements for long. Automobile competition was too strong, and the Depression weakened the entire economy terribly. On July 28, 1933, IR went into receivership and was placed in the hands of receiver Bowman Elder. Elder was able to keep the system running virtually intact for four years; IR was running about convert|600|mi|km of interurban lines all over Indiana during this period. In 1936, IR actually showed an operating profit - the only time in its history that it did so. In that year IR brought under its control a final interurban line, the Dayton and Western, which it leased for two years.

In 1937, though, the final slide into bankruptcy began. By order of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Midland Utilities was dissolved and the interurban lines it controlled were divorced from the income generated by their parent company. In March 1937 the line abandonments began. The old ISC lines from Fort Wayne to Waterloo, Garrett and Kendallville were abandoned on March 15th and on May 9th the long line between Indianapolis, New Castle, Richmond and Dayton, including the Dayton and Western, was abandoned. This severed the IR's connections with the Ohio interurban network. In September 1938 the line from Indianapolis to Fort Wayne via Peru was abandoned, and a year later the line to Louisville was cut back to Seymour. In January 1940 the line to Terre Haute was abandoned. On January 18, 1941 the line from Indianapolis to Fort Wayne via Bluffton and the branch from Muncie to New Castle were abandoned, ending practically all service on IR.

End of service

With the abandonment of its two principle remaining lines in January 1941, the IR was essentially gone. The name IR ceased to be used and the one remaining stub of serviceable trackage, between Indianapolis and Seymour along the old IPS route, continued to be operated under the Public Service Company of Indiana name. This service was operated with just two of the high-speed cars (the balance were put into storage in January 1941), running just one round-trip a day to fulfill franchise obligations.

Even this fragment of interurban service did not last long. On September 8, 1941, one of the two high-speed cars still in use met the one remaining work car in a head-on collision at speed. This proved the end to the IR system; the Indianapolis to Seymour segment was abandoned and was later torn up. It was an ignominious end to an interurban system that had been created ten years earlier to save the great Indiana interurban network.

urviving rolling stock

*55, preserved operational at the Seashore Trolley Museum as Lehigh Valley Transit 1030
*65, preserved operational at the Illinois Railway Museum
*167 "Scottsburg," preserved at the West Coast Railway Association as Pacific Great Eastern "Clinton"
*202, preserved at the Western Railway Museum as Portland Traction Company 4001
*205, preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum
*375, preserved in Scottsburg, Indiana as Chicago South Shore and South Bend 503
*376, preserved by a private owner in Indiana as Chicago South Shore and South Bend 1100
*377, preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum as Chicago South Shore and South Bend 504
*429, preserved at the Indiana Transportation Museum as Union Traction 429
*437, preserved at the Indiana Transportation Museum as Union Traction 437
*447, preserved at the Indiana Transportation Museum as Indianapolis and Cincinnati 606
*715, preserved by a private owner in Ohio
*several older interurban cars retired in the first years of IR have also been preserved


*cite book
last = Hilton
first = George W. and John F. Due
title = The Electric Interurban Railways in America
publisher = Stanford University Press
year = 1960
location = Stanford, California

*cite book
last = Krambles
first = George
title = Indiana Railroad System
publisher = Central Electric Railfans Association
year = 1975
location = Chicago, Illinois

*cite book
last = Middleton
first = William D.
title = Traction Classics - The Interurbans: Extra Fast and Extra Fare
publisher = Golden West Books
year = 1985
location = San Marino, California

*cite web
last = Hicks
first = Frank
title = Preserved North American Electric Railway Cars
date = May 14, 2006
url =
accessdate = August 12| accessyear=2006

External links

* [ Indiana Railroad photos on Dave's Rail Pix]
* [ map of Indiana]

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