Group of people in front of a historic trolley car with the front light on

Hoosier Heartland Trolley Company Preserving History

If you drive down a certain rural Hamilton County road during specific times each week, you may find the glow of barn lights and volunteers working to restore pieces of Indiana history.

Men working on trolley car restoration
Trolley Company workers completing restoration work

Hoosier Heartland Trolley Co. (HHTC) was founded in 2018 to preserve some of Indiana’s historic electric trolley cars. The team has more than a century of combined experience in museums, education and antique restoration.

“Most folks are not even aware of this unique part of Indiana’s history,” HHTC Vice President Austin Mace said. “I think it’s such an important story that is still relevant today. Noblesville was once a really important stop on the interurban and ran right through one of the streets downtown.”

“The interurban was really the automobile of its time; it was cheap, fast, frequent, and you could pay a small fare and go almost anywhere in the state of Indiana,” HHTC President Cameron Nichols said. “Many of the traces of it are gone now, so we had this opportunity to preserve some of the last ones and put them back together.”

In 2023, Interurban 429, one of Indiana’s original urban trolley cars, operated under its own power for the first time in more than 80 years. It originally ran from 1925 to 1940.

Historic photo of trolley car
Interurban 429 Trolley Car

“We’re going to have an interactive history experience here pretty soon that’s open to the general public,” Mace said. “Folks can ride the interurban and we can tell the story in a way that a static museum simply can’t. While our focus has been on the actual restoration of the car, we’re really excited to have a facility that enables the people of Indiana and beyond to come and experience this history for themselves.”

This year the organization plans to announce where that railroad and permanent home for Interurban 429 will be. HHTC will also continue to work on 429’s interior.

“We take great care to make everything look exactly how it did so when people experience the train ride, it’s exactly like stepping back in time to the 1920s,” Nichols said. “We think it’s important not only to bring it back, but tell all of these incredible stories about Hoosiers and how this electric railway system changed their lives.”

As projects continue, volunteer opportunities are available in a variety of areas. No prior experience is necessary.

“It’s more than just trains; it’s about a really important piece of our state’s history and a story that played out in a lot of rural and urban communities,” Mace said. “We have a ton of different ways to get involved and support our mission. Whether you love to get caught up in the details or you’re more interested in the cultural and historical significance, there’s so many stories to tell.”

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