Grant Aids Indiana Trolley Restoration Project

Volunteers rebuild and re-wire interurban 429’s group switch, which controls the direction and acceleration of the car. Citizens Street Railways mule car no. 69 (built in 1868 – left) and interurban 429 (right) can be seen in the background. Courtesy Photo.

Grant Aids Indiana Trolley Restoration Project

By Eric Berger

INDIANAPOLIS — It has been more than 80 years since Union Traction Company of Indianapolis 429 moved under its own power, but the folks at the non-profit Hoosier Heartland Trolley Company believe the car will begin moving again in 2023, thanks to a matching grant from the Indiana Historical Society.  The Electrify 429 project was awarded a $40,000 Heritage Support Grant by the society and will raise $6,000 through its own efforts.

The group was founded in 2018 with the mission of preserving remaining relics of Indiana’s once extensive electric railway network and eventually operating restored equipment so Hoosiers can again experience the means by which their forebears traveled.

HHTC is grateful to once again partner with the Indiana Historical Society. This grant is especially exciting since it will enable an original interurban car to operate within Indiana – something most people today have neither experienced nor seen,” said Jakob Stage, chief mechanical officer of HHTC.

Union Traction interurban 427, then part of the Indiana Railroad, passes through the small town of Amo, Ind. west of Indianapolis in 1938. Courtesy Photo. 

The organization was created as the Indiana Transportation Museum in Noblesville was facing eviction and the seizure of its collection by city authorities, with the danger that priceless artifacts might be scrapped. Traction fans considered UTC 429 “the gem” of the ITM roster. It was the first piece of equipment acquired by the museum. The 429, sister car 427 and 1902 Jewitt car Terre Haute Indianapolis & Eastern 81 were all purchased and moved to its facility near Indianapolis. In addition, the group rescued Indianapolis Railways 153, the last example of the city’s urban streetcar system, which ceased operations in 1953. That car was built by Brill in 1932 as a Master Unit, the final incarnation of the popular Peter Witt-style car that preceded the PCC design.

The Electrify 429 project aims to complete its restoration to operation in time to celebrate its centennial in 2025. Electrical and mechanical components of its propulsion and braking systems were overhauled and replaced in 2021 using an earlier grant from the HIS, maintaining the original 1920s-vintage equipment as closely as possible. The grant project will conclude phase two of a four-phase restoration plan, the longest, most expensive and most-technical phase of the project.

“This new project requires heavy, resource-intensive work to components that operate along the railroad track, such as motors, wheels, suspension and brakes, in addition to structural, piping and electrical work. This monumental project would not be possible without the support of our partners at the Indiana Historical Society and the generosity of Lilly Endowment, Inc.,” said Cameron Nichols, president of HHTC.

This article was posted on: August 23, 2022