Electric Interurban connected
area to Fort Wayne, beyond
By DAVE KNOPP
- Talk of futuristic transportation often involves electricity,
but in Noble County electrically-powered travel is also part
of the past.
From 1907 to 1937 electric railroad cars traveled between Avilla
and Kendallville as part of a network of interurban railways
out of Fort Wayne, carrying passengers and some freight.
Passengers who boarded at the Kendallville terminal, near where
Max Platt Ford Lincoln Mercury is today, were able to connect
as far as Louisville, Ky., in what was considered a convenient,
comfortable, modern way to travel.
Local history buff Russell Frehse rode the Interurban many times,
including visits to see his parents in Kendallville while he
was working in Muncie.
When asked if it was a pleasant ride, Frehse said, "You
didn't know anything different at that age; it was the best and
the worst because there was no other comparison. It beat the
automobiles, because most automobiles in those days had to be
Frehse described old three- and four-sentence newspaper reports
of groups having "an 'Interurban party' last Thursday night
or whatever it was, riding over to Garrett or Auburn, spending
an hour there and then coming back on the Interurban, just the
same as people today go out to the golf course or play cards
for a couple hours."
The Avilla-to-Kendallville link had a station and siding in Avilla,
a siding in Lisbon and a station, power house and car barn in
The link was the top left part of a Y-shaped route extending
north from Fort Wayne and then splitting at Garrett, where the
top right part of the Y extended to Waterloo.
The route was built as the Toledo & Chicago Interurban Railway,
since the promoters planned to connect it with other proposed
routes to ultimately link Fort Wayne with a Toledo-Chicago main
line, although that plan never materialized.
Construction of the Noble County portion began in 1906 and was
completed in the fall of 1907.
About 1913 the company was reorganized as the Fort Wayne and
Northwestern Railway, and later came under the control of the
Indiana Service Corporation.
The Indiana Service Corporation itself evolved in 1920 from a
consolidation of lines built by an assortment of companies and
first called the Fort Wayne & Wabash Valley Traction Company,
then reorganized in 1911 as the Fort Wayne & Northern Indiana
In 1937 the Indiana Service Corporation ended its passenger business
north of Fort Wayne, for reasons specified in that year's Feb.
15 issue of The News-Sun.
"A quarter century ago the company enjoyed a splendid business,
but the automobile and truck brought about a change in transportation
which eventually resulted in the suspension of the business,"
stated the newspaper, adding the Interurban could not be maintained
"except at a heavy loss."
Once World War II was under way "it was a regret of many
people that the (Interurban) service had been discontinued, because
of the gasoline shortage during the war," said Frehse.