Moment of Indiana History

Interurbans

Made up of one or two cars and powered by electricity, “interurbans”—also called electric railways—were once the cause of a wild but short-lived mania all over America, and Indiana was the heart of the industry. Indiana Congressman Charles L. Henry—whose Union Traction Company ran one of the first electric cars in the state—coined the term interurban. Indiana’s 1,825 miles of interurban track was second in the country only to Ohio.

With names like Marion Flyer, Kokomo Traveler, Muncie Meteor, Hoosierland, and Ben Hur, the little trains carried mail, school children, sports teams, honeymooners, and even funeral parties.

Financially unsound business plans and the arrival of both the city bus and the automobile stopped the interurban in its tracks by the mid 1930s. Only one electric line is still in operation today, the Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad.

(Photo Credit: Bass Photo Co. Collection, Indiana Historical Society)

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