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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Pre-WWII Racing Topics:  Indianapolis 500


Indianapolis News
May 30, 1911

Thousands Rush to Get Places on the Speedway Trains.

With a special train leaving for the Indianapolis motor speedway every ten minutes, with fifteen special trains from various directions arriving at frequent intervals, and with the regular trains coming in behind their schedules, the union station employees had a complex problem today in handling the passenger traffic. It was believed early that a new record for the number of persons entering and leaving the station in one day was being established.

It would have been a physical impossibility for the regular union station force to handle the situation. Railroad men---men from the railroad offices, from clerks to master mechanics, gave up all thoughts of a holiday and were pressed into service at the station.

Early in the morning Jackson place, the train sheds and South Illinois street, from Jackson place to the train sheds, were filled with a surging mass of humanity. The first speedway trains, which began running at 6:30 a.m. and which ran every half hour to 8 o’clock, were well filled. After 8 o’clock the speedway trains, leaving every ten minutes, were not only filled, but were crowded to the limit.

Couldn't Sell Tickets Fast Enough.

A number of special ticket booths for the sale of tickets for the trip to the speedway were opened in South Illinois street. Several special ticket booths also were placed in the union station general waiting room. Every booth ticket agent had the time of his life, handing out tickets and making change. Some persons slipped through the gates and boarded trains, paying their fares on the trains.

Fearful of failing to get on board because of the dense throngs around the steps of every car, occasionally somebody tried to clamber into a train through an open side window. In most instances these efforts were thwarted by station employes and trainmen. One attempt which was successful attracted considerable attention.

Woman Boards Car by Window.

A woman was the central figure in this stirring little incident. Two men started to hoist her from the platform through the window. A man who had succeeded in getting inside among the first, saw the woman’s head appear at the window and went to her assistance. There was so rapid lifting and pulling, and through the window she went. Unfortunately, in the strenuous activity she lost a shoe, this article of footwear caromed from a man’s head under the car. A wail for the slipper was sent up from its owner, but her friends feared to dive under the train to get it. A trainmen “fished” the shoe from beneath the train, and as the train pulled out, a woman’s face, beside which was a hand that clasped a slipper, smiled thanks at all who had been mixed in the episode.

While thousands were boarding speedway trains, other thousands were coming into the city on regular and special trains. Many did not leave the train sheds, going from the train on which they had entered the city direct to a train bound for the speedway.

Released by Regiments

It was a problem to know just how many people to let through the gates for a speedway train. It was intended that about one thousand one hundred persons should board each train, and when it was believed that number had gone through, the gates were closed.

It was evident that many anticipated a food famine at the speedway, for hundreds carried lunch boxes. The largest crowds for the speedway were handled between 8 o’clock and 10 o’clock, but the trains were comfortably filled several hours after the big five-hundred-mile race started.

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