An Adventure in Saving Hoosier History

Members of the Hoosier Heartland Trolley Company Board of Directors stand next to the recently relocated Indiana Union Traction Company Interurban No. 429 “Noblesville” - a vintage electric train car built in 1925 in St. Louis.

Members of the Hoosier Heartland Trolley Company Board of Directors stand next to the recently relocated Indiana Union Traction Company Interurban No. 429 “Noblesville” - a vintage electric train car built in 1925 in St. Louis.

-Long days, late nights, conference calls, precision logistics, all while balancing full-time careers, family obligations, etc.

This is what occurs day-in and day-out within preservation groups across the country. For our new nonprofit organization near Indianapolis, it has been no exception.

The month of October has been an exciting, motivating, and yet exhausting time for the Hoosier Heartland Trolley Company. At the beginning of July, a group of young preservationists stepped up to the plate in order to save four streetcars and interurbans (electric railway cars), which are the majority of the only known survivors from Indiana’s world-renowned electric railway network.

Since that time, Hoosier Heartland Trolley Co. has incorporated as an Indiana nonprofit seeking 501 (c) 3 status, established a board of directors comprised of professionals from diverse business and education fields, implemented day-to-day operations policies, and has set out with a plan to preserve and share the Indiana electric railway story for generations to come. Read more about our plan; to rescue, restore, run and revive these artifacts, their stories, and the legacy of the people they served.

To date, we are pleased to announce that our organization has raised nearly $30,000 from private donors and crowdfunding for the relocation and stabilization of this priceless collection. We are incredibly humbled and inspired, and welcome your support to keep the momentum going.

The first project post-relocation will involve the assessment and restoration of Indiana Union Traction Interurban No. 429 “Noblesville” - a 1925 electric car which is one of two remaining from Indian Union Traction, which at one time was Indiana’s largest and premier electric railway. The goal is to have No. 429 operational by 2025 for its 100th birthday, which will ultimately commence the “run” component of our long-range plan.

So, how do you move four antique trolley cars? You invest the professional, top-notch services of Schlatter Boys Transport. This dynamic duo of brothers utilizes a custom-built rig that allows the cars to move over the road like a railroad car, but on rubber tires instead of steel wheels. A separate truck hauls the steel wheel sets behind the car en route.

So, what does that even look like and how on earth do you do it? Let’s review the adventure.

Saving Indiana’s last trolleys - Timeline

Over the course of four consecutive days, three of the four trolleys in our collection were relocated to a private, sheltered site for interim storage and restoration. This occurred the week of October 14, 2018.

Tuesday - The move of Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Eastern No. 81

This 1902 interurban was constructed of wood by Jewett, an electric car manufacturer in Ohio that went out of business in 1930, for the Indianapolis & Martinsville Electric Railway. This car would later become THI&E, then to become part of the Indiana Railroad. No. 81 hauled people and milk cans from rural suburbs southwest of Indianapolis to the heart of the city, and is unique for its ornate, pressed glass, wooden frame, and varnished wood interior.

This car rested in a barn at Forest Park in Noblesville for several years, and had not seen daylight in more than a decade. Before its previous home, it was part of a house in Indianapolis at 56th St. and Guion Rd.

Wednesday - The move of Indiana Union Traction No. 437 “Marion”

This car, built in 1925, rested in the rail yard at Noblesville for more than 30 years - outside. Previously by a lakeside southwest of Indianapolis, this car had not been indoors since 1940. As of Wednesday, the car was under roof and protected from the elements for the first time in almost 80 years. This car is one of two surviving cars from Indiana Union Traction, which was at one time the state’s largest electric railway.

Thursday - The extraction of Indiana Union Traction No. 429 “Noblesville”

Acquired in the 1970s as a former gravel pit office for a museum in Noblesville itself, this 1925-vintage car is in remarkably amazing condition. As one of two cars left from Indiana Union Traction along with its sister No. 437, “Marion”, 429 was sandblasted, repainted, and stored inside the middle of a barn, not seeing daylight for more than 30 years.

The removal of No. 429 from its long-term slumber required the construction of a short piece of railroad track, known as panel track, and dragging the car onto an existing track in order to go outside. Once outside, the car was readied for truck transportation to its new home. This effort required careful planning, safety precautions, and teamwork, of which Schlatter Boys Transport is known for as a top-notch, professional entity.

Friday - The move of Indiana Union Traction No. 429 “Noblesville”

Once loaded onto the truck rig, No. 429 was taken to its new home, again under shelter. Here, the car will begin immediate assessment and be the focus of a new capital campaign as our first operating car. Our goal is to have it operating for public enjoyment by 2025, which will be its 100th birthday.

Watch for more updates and exciting news as we relocate the last piece - our extremely rare, lone-surviving Indianapolis Railways streetcar! Consider a donation to keep the momentum going as we work tirelessly to spark imagination regarding our electric railway heritage within Hoosiers for years to come.

A big thank you goes to the City of Noblesville, our donors, and Schlatter Boys Transport for their cooperation and support.

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