From The Ash Grove: Interurban

Today, we bring you one of Sylvia Henricks’ “Remembrances.” You can read more of Sylvia’s columns weekly in The Franklin Township Informer, or in her book From The Ash Grove (available directly from the FTHS, and via the web site).


Written for my June 20, 1985, column for the Informer, “From the Ash Grove,” this glimpse of the past reminds us again of that wonderful transportation innovation, the Interurban.

Cousin Mary who lives in Acton has asked you, one of her city relations, out for the day. “Get an early car,” she said.

So you consult your Indianapolis and Cincinnati Traction Company Vest Pocket Time Table, and find you can get an interurban car at the traction terminal on Market Street at 7:30, 9:30 or 10:30 a.m. No.24, which leaves at 8:35 won’t do, for it is the Greensburg Express and stops only at Shelbyville and Greensburg.

No.4, leaving at 7:30 a.m. arrives at Five Points at 8:02, New Bethel at 8:08, and gets to Acton at 8:17. No.6 repeats that schedule two hours later. No.26, which leaves downtown at 10:30, is a Limited, which shaves seven minutes from the time by stopping on signal only at the stations, and reaches Acton at 11:10. The locals stop on signal at designated points all along their route. (Some interurban stops survive today in the names of our county roads, such as Stop 8, and Stop 11.) For after dark signals the timetable warns, “Use a Light.”

After a pleasant day with Cousin Mary, you can catch the 5:31, the 7:31, the 8:41, the 9:31, or the 11:31 car back to Indianapolis. No.19, the last car, reaches the downtown terminal at 12:10 a.m. Robert Paugh, Maze Road, gave the Historical Society a Xerox copy of the August 6, 1911 timetable, found in an old house by his daughter. A railroader himself, he worked for B.& O. for 36 years as a brakeman and conductor. His interest in railroading continues and he has “locks and keys, and a whole menagerie of stuff,” he says.

He remembers only faintly seeing the big electric cars run through Acton, “down Main Street, we called it,” he says. (It’s now Swails St.) More clearly he remembers workmen taking up the iron rails in the 1930s when the interurbans were going out of business. Five other electric railway companies provided hourly service to “200 other stations in Indiana, including Fort Wayne, South Bend, Warsaw, Winona Lake, Michigan City and Laporte.”

On Jan. 1, 1900, the first interurban line entered Franklin Township along Southeastern Avenue. At Hickory Road it turned south and making a wide turn through the corner of a field, followed the railroad tracks past the Acton Camp Ground, into Acton. Just beyond Acton it again paralleled the railroad tracks on to Brookfield, London, Fairland and Shelbyville. The end of the era came in 1941 when the last car made its final run.

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