As Indianapolis rolls out its new bus rapid transit system, many commuters are looking forward to a reliable transportation alternative that will let them leave cars behind. More than a century ago, the same advantages fueled the city’s electric streetcar system and stimulated construction of homes and businesses convenient to its rail lines. The newly formed Hoosier Heartland Trolley Company (HHTC) is working to preserve one of the last rolling remnants of that heritage and inspire people to consider the potential of rail transportation in central Indiana.
At one time, Indianapolis’s streetcar system was one of the largest of its type in the United States. Originally powered by mules, the streetcars were electrified in 1890. As personal automobiles and the city’s new bus system rose in popularity, ridership dwindled, and in 1953 streetcars ceased operation.
Last fall, Indiana Landmarks and the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF) awarded a $3,500 grant from the Marion County Historic Preservation Fund to HHTC to relocate and restore Streetcar No. 153, the last surviving streetcar from the Indianapolis Railways electric streetcar system.
Manufactured in 1934 by the J.G. Brill Company, Streetcar No. 153 was slated to be scrapped for parts before HTHC acquired it. The group bought No. 153 and three early interurban cars from the Indiana Transportation Museum in Noblesville when the museum closed in 2018.
Rather than having visitors explore the trolleys in a fixed location, HHTC envisions an interactive experience where people can ride on them. The group moved the rolling landmarks to temporary storage, where it will work on restoring them while looking for a final site for its new museum, expected to open by 2023.
Learn more about the Hoosier Heartland Trolley Company or make a donation. To learn more about the Marion County Historic Preservation Fund, contact Mark Dollase, Vice President of Preservation Services, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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