The greatest early impetus to the Interurban industry came in 1895 when Henry A. Everett and Edward W. Moore built the Akron, Bedford and Cleveland, OH, A.B.C. line. It served a large populous area and became instantly profitable.
In 1896 the line netted $16,030, and even though this dropped to $8,987 the following year, it nevertheless looked like a gold mine. By 1900 the Everett-Moore properties were capitalized at $47 million and during that same year they netted $5.5 million. With a return of close to 12% at a time when money cost less than 3%, is it any wonder that everyone wanted to get into the act? And that’s exactly what happened. Interurban lines started sprouting like mushrooms after a warm spring rain. With typical American impulsiveness, a mad rush was made by every progressive community in the country to interconnect with the burgeoning transportation network. Perhaps that tremendously rapid growth should have been a harbinger of the Interurban’s relatively short life expectancy. The 1902 Street Railway Journal even carried a warning noting: “…the very fact that the greater part of the Interurban roads which have been built have shown an excellent profit has led investors and stockholders to the impression, more or less widely diffused, that all railroads of this kind are Golconda’s (diamond mine; India), which need only be built in order to line the pockets of their promoters and stockholders with inexhaustible streams of wealth. But because of high maintenance and eventual replacement costs, nothing is further from the truth.”
Nevertheless, the frantic construction race continued. The building boom did stutter a little after the financial panic of 1903, and the second building boom slowed down considerably following the bank panic of 1907 but the industry kept growing into the teens.
Indiana, like Illinois, Michigan and Ohio, was one of the leading contenders in this race of promoting electric rail-roads.
On the first day of this century, the first Interurban electric motor car click-clacked into Indianapolis; it was on the Greenwood & Franklin R.R. This historic occasion initiated regular service between Indianapolis and the town of Greenwood, IN. By the end of the year, 671 electric motor cars with 308 trailer cars were operating over 678 miles of track, with Indianapolis developed as its hub. It became obvious that Indy would become a key city in Midwest Interurban travel because of the number of Interurban rail lines radiating from it.
Hugh J, McGowan, president of the Indianapolis Street Railway, joined with W. Kelsey Schoepf, president of the Cincinnati Street Railway, thereby attracting backing from several Philadelphia financiers. These men brought to the industry financial resources far beyond those available to earlier promoters.
In 1904 McGowan built the famous million dollar Indianapolis Traction Terminal, which included an elaborate nine-story office building on the corner of Illinois and Market Streets and the adjacent gigantic steel pavilion accommodating nine through-tracks. Skylights made the pavilion bright by day and by night it was lighted with 15 huge arc lights.
Four years later the Indiana network had spread over 1,900 miles with connections possible to Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky. Indianapolis was well on its way to becoming the Interurban capital of the world. Interurban lines in Indiana by 1914 totaled over 2,318 miles; this total was second only to that of Ohio. As a matter of fact, Indiana boasted almost 13 percent of the total miles of train tracks in the United States. This is even more impressive when considering that Indiana is the smallest in area of any state west of the Appalachians.
To be continued…