How Indianapolis Streetcars Sparked The War Effort

Indianapolis Railways Streetcar War Effort Paint Schemes

Photo Credits: Central Electric Railfans' Association Bulletin No. 101

The War Effort - a time requiring the country to band together. The Indianapolis Railways streetcar system was a culture and art-filled part of that effort  - encouraging Indianapolis citizens to support in various ways from buying war bonds to donating blood to the American Red Cross.

During World War II,  Indianapolis Railways, Indianapolis’ streetcar system, painted several streetcars like Hoosier Heartland Trolley Co.’s No. 153 into patriotic schemes that were designed to promote the War Effort.  Eight cars were painted into schemes that honored the numerous men and women serving the nation.

The first car to hit the rails in one of these schemes was  No. 113 on June 15, 1944, which wore a paint scheme that honored the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve.  Car No. 148 was painted in a scheme encouraging people to donate blood to the Red Cross. Car No. 165 was painted to honor the Women’s Army Corps.  Car No. 190 was painted in a scheme for the WAVES, which was the women’s branch of the Naval Reserve. Car No. 188 was painted to encourage people to contribute towards the war fund in October of 1944.  Additionally, three more cars were painted into various, patriotic schemes in 1945.

In 1944, more than 97 million revenue passengers traveled on the Indianapolis streetcar system. As part of this government sponsored marketing campaign, It is safe to assume that some of these passengers were inspired to action by these cars and their promotional messaging / visual design.

Painting equipment into patriotic schemes wasn’t unique to just Indianapolis Railways during the war effort.  The Nickel Plate Road painted a tender, a car behind a steam locomotive for coal and water, with a “Buy War Bonds” scheme.  

The famous Pennsylvania Railroad had several pieces of equipment painted into patriotic schemes as well.  One such example was a parlor car for socializing that operated between Boston and Washington D.C. This car was lettered “Minute Men” with “Buy War Bonds” scrawled across the car’s side for the public to see at stations, crossings and within major towns and cities.

The electric railway was a critical component of American and Hoosier culture throughout the 20th century. From the Great Depression to World War II, from the Roaring 20’s to the 1950s, streetcars and interurbans within the State of Indiana moved millions.  The streetcars were part of everyday life, much like driving to the other side of Indianapolis for a cup of coffee with a friend after a long day. As such, the various paint schemes of the streetcars during the War Effort became a part of everyday life as well.

Hoosier Heartland Trolley Co. exists, in part, to preserve the art and culture of cars like streetcar No. 153 so that Hoosiers from all ages and backgrounds can appreciate and understand our rich heritage in a modern, immersive context.

This is just another way in which we’re #SparkingImagination