FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Before busses and cars became the primary way of transportation, streetcars were the way to get around downtown Fort Wayne.
Streetcars came to Fort Wayne in 1871 as a way to easily get around town after the Civil War. They ran on tracks in the ground and were pulled by horses.
“It’s interesting how people didn’t really need cars for a long period of time they ran on the streetcars. It was a convenient way to get around for a huge part of the early 20th century,” said John Beatty, a Librarian at the Allen County Public Library.
Relying on horses came with a few problems, such as disease that would shut the whole system down. In 1890, there was a fire that killed several dozen horses in one of the stables. As a result of these issues it was determined that a better system was needed, so they went electric.
“In 1892, they came up with an electrified system, they strung wires all around and ran on the same tracks. That really helped the system go, it ran from 1892 up until the 1940s”, explained Beatty.
On May 16, 1939 streetcar service on West Jefferson was replaced by bus service, one of the first spots to start phasing from streetcars to busses in Fort Wayne. The process would take nearly a decade.
“In 1947, the last what was called a street railway, stopped,” said Beatty, “They still ran what were called trolley coaches, which were buses that were electrified, but they were they ran on wheels rather than on tracks and those continued until 1959.”
Once the buses took over and gasoline was more accessible after World War 2, the Fort Wayne public transportation system gradually evolved into what we know today. However, it’s possible that remnants of the past could remain.
“You wonder what’s behind them underneath the asphalt on there, whether some of those same tracks are still there I suspect they are,” added Beatty, “If you dug down, some of those tracks would still be around.”
Streetcars used transfer corners much like a bus depot, to get from line to line. That transfer corner was set up near the courthouse.