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A hundred years ago…

East semester I put up a small exhibit in the Lilly Library…this semester the exhibit is about Wabash in 1911. As a part of looking at college life in 1911 I was reminded of the hustling bustling downtown that was Crawfordsville in that era. Included in that hustle was the Interurban electric train system and here are a few images of that system in our town…

From the center of Main and Washington Street looking north

In this picture we see a bustling downtown full of people about their business. The courthouse on the right of the photo still has its tower, what a beauty! In the back of the picture we see the smokestacks of the electric power plant and in the middle we see the tracks and a car of the interurban system. Cheap, reliable power was the bedrock on which the Interurban was built.

Rail car for the Interurban line Ben Hur

This great image is of the Ben Hur terminal in downtown Crawfordsville. The interurban was a rail line connecting Crawfordsville to Indianapolis. The station building was torn down just a few years ago, but was located just north of the courthouse where there is now a parking lot.

The Interurban was a system of trains that connected towns like Crawfordsville to Indianapolis. As you can see from the advertisement below, there was hourly service.

Ad from Wabash Magazine of 1911

The Interurban system had a huge impact on life at Wabash College. With reliable and affordable transportation to Indianapolis, many large college events could be held in Indianapolis. Chief among the events were football matches with larger schools. Typically there would be a parade through the downtown followed by the big game with opponents like Butler, Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State), Indiana University and Notre Dame…even the Wabash – DePauw game was sometimes played in Indianapolis.

If you are interested in learning more about the Interurban here is a link to a collection at the Indiana Historical Society, the historical notes are fascinating:

http://www.indianahistory.org/library/manuscripts/collection_guides/P0392.html

Also this page has some great photos:

http://imaps.indygov.org/ed_portal/template.asp?page=history_trans

As discussion of light rail in Central Indiana increases, it is fascinating to me that one hundred years ago, we had a highly efficient, highly functional system in place…I would love to hop on a train and head to downtown Indianapolis for dinner and maybe a show and then relax on the way home by train….

Best,

Beth Swift
Archivist
Wabash College