In light of #GivingTuesday, this is the fist installment of a multi-part series regarding how our nonprofit organization came to be, how far we’ve come, and where we are headed. We hope it sparks your imagination as much as it has ours.
-The Hoosier Heartland Trolley Company Team
Contributed by HHTC Cofounder, Jakob Stage
In May of 2018, I began the journey that evolved into the Hoosier Heartland Trolley Company. It started with a mission to save Terre Haute Indianapolis and Eastern No. 81 - a rare and irreplaceable wooden interurban (electric railway car) from 1902 that moved people and milk from Martinsville to Indianapolis, Ind.
At this point, the Indiana Transportation museum was moving from its long-time home in Noblesville. The museum had more equipment than they could move, so naturally, some equipment had to be sold. ITM decided as an organization that electric equipment would no longer be a part of the collection - creating an opportunity to preserve vital artifacts of which are some of the last remaining gateways to an industry that built our state..
As a one-person effort, I felt that acquiring and moving one car was not too ambitious of a project. This undertaking was shared with some friends who were far more interested in saving Interurbans than I would have ever imagined. Together, a group of young professionals, mostly under the age of 30, collaboratively brainstormed alongside me regarding fundraising and just what could be done with No. 81, once the car was relocated.
Unfortunately, it became apparent to us that all remaining electric railroad equipment at the Forest Park site was in real danger of destruction. We watched as several pieces of rare, electric railway equipment that could have potentially been restored - end up being destroyed at the clutches of an excavator and a scrap dumpster.
At this point-in-time, our team rolled up our sleeves and entered the scene in crisis mode as part of a serious effort to acquire as many of the remaining electric railway cars as possible. Although beaten and battered, these cars were the last glimpses into an industry that built Indiana into what it is today - a cultural phenomenon that employed thousands, moved millions, and opened Indiana up to economic possibilities never before seen nor contemplated.
-And this is where the story truly begins.
To be continued.