(Part One of Two in this Story)
The first significant rival of the steam railroad in Indian was the electric railway. The use of electric power for transportation began with the street railway, one of the earliest recorded attempts at electrification was made in South Bend Indiana in 1882. The work of Frank Sprague in Richmond, Virginia, in 1887-1888 then opened the way to building a successful electrification system of American street railways. The Lafayette Railway, which began operation in 1888, was the very first fully electrified transportation system in the state of Indiana.
The next steps were to extend the tracks out into the countryside and connect with neighboring communities. The very first intercity electric road in Indiana was the Brazil Rapid Transit Street Railway, which began operation from Brazil to Knightstown and Harmony, Indiana in 1893. The first interurban to reach the state capital was the Indianapolis, Greenwood and Franklin on January 1, 1900. The company had been formed in 1894 but its line was not constructed until after Joseph and William Irwin of Columbus purchased the company in 1899. In 1902, the company reorganized as the Indianapolis, Columbus, and Southern Traction Company. The Irwin road was later extended to Seymour.
In the southern part of the state, the Louisville and Northern Railway and Lighting Company, established in October 1905, had completed a road from Louisville, Kentucky across the Ohio River to just north of Sellersburg by July 12, 1907. This left a 42-mile gap existing between Sellersburg and Seymour, Indian without a traction line. Such a line would provide a cheap and fast means of transportation that would connect these two parts of the state. In 1905 the Indianapolis and Louisville Traction Company was organized for the purpose of constructing a line to connect these two terminals. In the September 19, 1907 edition of a local paper, we read that the I & L had filed a mortgage claim in the Scott County Recorder’s office for $400,000 against all of the property owned by the lender, including the rights, franchises, and equipment so far purchased. The property to be covered was the right of way between Sellersburg and Seymour, Indiana. The line was one of the best constructed in the country a single-gauge track and ballasted (form a bed of a railroad line with gravel or coarse stone) throughout its entire length.
The residents of Scott County anxiously awaited the completion and operation of the I & L. From a local paper on April 20, 1907, we read, “Work on the interurban will have to be pushed rapidly if cars are running between here and Louisville by May 1.” The writer of this article can only assume this May 1 conversation was a result of the timing of the 33rd running of the Kentucky Derby in Louisville scheduled for Saturday, May 6, of that year.
The line was up and running between Sellersburg and Scottsburg on October 17, 1907 and three weeks later, between Scottsburg and Seymour. Connections were made at Seymour for Indianapolis via Indianapolis, Columbus, and Southern, and at Sellersburg for Louisville over the Louisville and Northern.
The first Scott Countian to pay fare on the line was William Griffith, a teacher in the Scottsburg Public Schools. Early Saturday morning, September 28, he boarded the car to go to Henryville. He paid a cash fare, taking a receipt. Seeing that he was the only passenger on the car, and the first to pay fare, he sought to give another quarter and secure the first quarter paid as a souvenir. Arthur Anderson, the General manager, informed Mr. Griffith that the quarter would be kept as a souvenir by the directors of the company. The October 24, 1907 edition of a local paper contained the following: “Passenger service on the interurban between this place and Louisville began on Thursday of last week. Cars run each way every two hours. A few northbound cars have been delayed on account of slight mishaps, but otherwise the regular schedule has been maintained. The road has been freely patronized from the start, and on Sunday most of the cars were crowded to their capacity.” On Friday, October 25, the first car from Louisville arrived in Seymour. It was charge of conductor Leroy Hanna and motorman James Pierson. It also carried Mr. Anderson, Trainmaster Dan Ward, and other officials of the road.
The Indianapolis & Louisville (I & L) was the first electric railway in the country to operate on a direct current system of 1200 volts. The other lines were using 600 volts. The powerhouse for the Indianapolis and Louisville Traction Company was located on a 32.5-acre tract of land in Scottsburg, a midway point between Sellersburg and Seymour. Setting adjacent to Lake Iola, the powerhouse was constructed of brick and steel measuring 111 feet by 108 feet. The 1200 volt were generated inside and were supplied by two 750-hp Allis-Chalmer single cylinder Curtiss engines.
A brick car barn was also located here measuring 173 feet by 69 feet, large enough to hold eight passenger cars and two express cars. Eight passenger cars were purchased from the Niles Car Company at a cost of $10,500 each. Each car was fifty feet long and eight feet, ten inches wide with the ability to carry 53 passengers. The interior of each car contained a passenger compartment, a smoker, a baggage compartment, and a toilet. The walls were mahogany, and the ceilings were painted in gold and green. The floors were covered with inlaid linoleum. Freight and baggage cars were similar in appearance. Several freight cars would eventually be manufactured at the Scottsburg car barn.
While the competition of the Seymour to Sellersburg finally allowed the interurban passengers to travel between the two large terminals cities, the two changes enroute made the interurban trip less attractive than the Pennsylvania Railroad’s single-car run. Steps were taken at once to provide a one-car service. On February 10, 1908, limited cars began operating between Seymour and Louisville, and September 15, 1908, saw the inauguration of the famous Hoosier and Dixie Flyers.
The final part to this story will be published Thursday, February 25, 2021.