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THI&E Interurban Depot and Substation
The Terre Haute, Indianapolis and Eastern Traction Company (THI&E) Interurban Depot and Substation stands today as a reminder of the bygone era of electric interurban passenger rail systems. Electric rail systems were first developed in 1888, and by the 1920s, almost every major U.S. city had such an electric line. Indiana was one of the leaders in interurban systems and Indianapolis was known as the “Interurban Capital of the U.S.”
Interurban service from Indianapolis to Plainfield started in 1902 via the Indianapolis and Plainfield Electric Railroad Company. Local officials were excited about the new transportation method, as they hoped it would lead to an increase in the modest town’s population. THI&E, which started in 1907 and became the second largest interurban in Indiana, laid 402 miles of track in central Indiana and merged several smaller lines. In addition to passenger service, the company also offered limited freight and cattle transportation.
The Plainfield THI&E structure was typical of interurban stations of the time. It combined the functions of a depot—including a passenger waiting area, freight storage area, and central ticket area—with the functions of a substation. The two-story “blockhouse” section housed the converters needed to convert AC to DC power. The building’s brick construction helped to safeguard against fires, as did the use of steel beams in the substation. (Wood rafters were used in the other areas of the structure.) Twin buildings were constructed in nearby Almo and Reelsville.
The Italianate building retains many of its original features, including an articulated string course, round arch openings, a corbelled brick cornice, and terra-cotta coping. The interior originally included exposed concrete floors and stenciling on the brick walls. The full-width front porch, clay tile roof, and wood doors and windows were replaced in a restoration during the early 2000s.
THI&E was sold to Midland United Corporation in 1931, with the last interurban passing through Plainfield in 1940. After interurban service to Plainfield ceased, the local American Legion post used the building for its clubhouse. The group donated the building to the Town of Plainfield in 2001, which has since restored the depot and now uses it for special events.
Parker, Francis H. Indiana Railroad Depots: A Threatened Heritage. Muncie, IN: Ball State University, 1989.
Zent, Julie, “THI&E Interurban Depot/Substation,” Hendricks County, Indiana. National Register of Historic Places Inventory–Nomination Form, 2002. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
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