The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update


May 3, 2014

A look back at Anderson's public transportation through the years

From animal power to electrified street cars

The first public transportation in Anderson was animal-powered and lasted only four short years, but was the forerunner to an ingenious idea that lasted over four decades. The mule-drawn city street cars were eventually electrified, and then were absorbed into the Interurban system that became a way of life in central Indiana for over 40 years.

Public transportation had its beginnings in Anderson on August 19, 1887, when the Anderson City Council granted a 30-year franchise to Sheldon R. and Dixon C. Williams of Lebanon, Tenn., to construct and maintain a street railway in Anderson. As with many new businesses in Anderson at that time, the discovery of natural gas beneath Anderson on March 31, 1887, was the catalyst to bring people and new business here and thus the need for some form of public transportation.

Originally, it was designed to connect the Big Four Railroad depot on 15th Street with the Pan Handle Railroad depot on North Main Street utilizing the most direct route, which was the intervening 10 blocks of Meridian Street.

However, when the tracks were finally laid the following year they turned east at 10th Street one block to Main Street, then north on Main to Ninth Street where they turned west, returning to Meridian, and then proceeded north to Fifth and then east to Main. The transfer point was on Ninth between Main and Meridian where passengers would disembark or continue on after transferring to another car.

No record exists as to why the original plan was changed. One would have to assume that the presence of the three-story Perret Hotel on the northwest corner of 10th and Main exercised some influence in the change of plans. The street cars would have passed directly by the front and side entrances to the hotel as the cars rounded that corner. It was an impressive establishment complete with a large dining room at street level to attract visitors to the city arriving on either railroad.

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