Today we focus our attention on the Indiana Railroad, in the first of two posts. The Wikipedia entry on IRR sums it up pretty nicely:
The Indiana Railroad (IR) was the last of the typical Midwestern United States interurban lines. It was formed in 1930-31 by combining the operations of the five major interurban systems in central Indiana into one entity. The predecessor companies came under the control of Midland Utilities, owned by Samuel Insull. It was Insull’s plan to transform the Indiana interurban network into a new Indiana Railroad by 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 growing competition of the automobile for passenger business and the truck for freight business. The IR faced bankruptcy in 1933, and receiver Bowman Elder was designated to run the company. Payments on bonded debt were suspended. Elder was able to keep the system virtually intact for four years, and IR operated about 600 miles (970 km) of interurban lines throughout Indiana during this period. During the late 1930s, the routes were abandoned one by one until a 1941 wreck with fatalities south of Indianapolis put an abrupt end to the last operation of interurbans in Indiana.
The early history of Central Electric Railfans’ Association is tied in with Indiana Railroad. The late George Krambles, CERA Member #1, worked for IR early in his career, and some of the first CERA fantrips were run on that fabled interurban prior to the final abandonment in 1941. A complete list of CERA fantrips appears in our recent publication Trolley Sparks Special #1.
Indiana Railroad was famous for its fleet of lightweight high-speed interurbans, cars 50-84, built by ACF and Pullman in 1931. These in turn were improved versions of similar cars built for the Cincinnati & Lake Erie shortly before. The IR cars, unlike the C&LE’s, could be operated in multiple units with up to three cars coupled at one time.
Unfortunately, only two of the 35 high-speeds were preserved. Car 55 went to Lehigh Valley Transit, where it was transformed into 1030, the so-called “Golden Calf” of the fleet. After LVT abandoned the Liberty Bell Limited interurban service in 1951, this car was purchased by the Seashore Trolley Museum, where it is today.
After the IR abandoned in 1941, car 65 was purchased by the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City (CRANDIC), where it ran until the end of passenger service on May 30, 1953. The fledgling Illinois Electric Railway Museum bought it, as its first piece of equipment. It remains at IRM today in operating condition.
Unfortunately, there were no takers for the remainder of the high-speeds. They sat in storage during most of 1941 waiting for buyers that never came, and were unceremoniously junked. Then, shortly thereafter, Pearl Harbor was bombed.
Street railways around the country carried record numbers of passengers during WWII, and there were any number of properties that could have benefited from the Indiana Railroad lightweight interurbans. In particular, they would have been a godsend to LVT, where they could have been used in MU service on the Liberty Bell Limited. Instead, LVT ran cars in multiple sections, resulting in fatal crashes that signaled the beginning of the end of that fabled line between Philadelphia and Allentown.
CERA featured the Indiana Railroad in Bulletin 91, first published in 1950. It was reprinted in a slightly revised and expanded form in 1975. A fuller book-length treatment arrived in 1991, in the form of Indiana Railroad- The Magic Interurban by George K. Bradley, CERA Bulletin 128. These bulletins are out of print, but can be found on the secondary market.
While you search for those, we hope you will enjoy the photos we are posting today, and those in the second part of our IR series, which will appear in a couple of days. We have included an article from the September 12, 1931 issue of Railway Age, profiling the then-new cars. Timetable information is reproduced from October 1, 1939, by which time the Hoosier interurban network was already being dismantled.