If you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking about visiting Fort Wayne. And maybe, just maybe, urban railways are an interest of yours. If so, close your eyes and picture this: the time is circa 1927, and the place is the main transfer station for a bustling city’s electric railway system. Dapper gents in fedoras and ties and classy ladies in cloches and pearls are entering and exiting the shiny metal cars either coming from or going to a myriad of destinations in or out of the city.
So where was this embodiment of the modern age? Certainly it would describe a thriving metropolis such as Detroit, Chicago, or, of course, New York. But would you believe Fort Wayne could once have been described in this manner? Established in 1903 by the Toledo and Chicago Interurban Railway, during its life this rail line shuttled enumerable passengers north to the towns of Auburn and Garrett before returning to the Fort. Although those were the first cities to receive regular service, they would not be the last. Between 1903 and 1907, stops at Kendallville and Waterloo would be added to the circuit. As for Fort Wayne, it actually followed Garrett when it was added in 1906.
And as for that previously mentioned main transfer station, where was Fort Wayne’s? You wouldn’t know looking at it today, but most passengers came from or went to at the corner of Main and Calhoun just in front of what is now Salin Bank and a few doors down from modern day Riegel’s Pipe and Tobacco and the B&B Loan Company. It was known as “The Transfer Corner.” Of note, though, despite Fort Wayne being the third city added, the entire network was officially known as the Fort Wayne Division.
As for its fate, after being sold several times to various other interurban railway companies, passenger service was gradually phased out on all lines until it was ended entirely in 1937. Freight service, though, would continue until 1945. What was the cause of its ultimate demise? Quite simply, it was the decision to switch to the gasoline-powered bus.
According to Craig J. Berndt’s The Toledo and Chicago Interurban Railway Company: Its Predecessor and Successors (the source material for this writing) not much of the old Toledo and Chicago has survived. Of its 42 miles of track and associated structures, all that remains are a few buildings and bridges and one underpass. The cars themselves were unfortunately not preserved.
So, when you’re exploring the downtown area and looking for that bargain at the B&B Loan Company, or enjoying the best hot dogs in the city at the famous Coney Island, you're only about a block west of the profiled location. So close your eyes and picture those dapper gents in their ties and fedoras and those classy ladies in their pearls and cloches. Just don’t do it in the middle of the street.