“We used to get on the Interurban Bus and go to Nashville to the movies, alone, when we were kids,” said Mike Huff. “No one thought anything about it. But the line closed down once they opened I-65 in 1969.”
The Interurban was a bus line that ran between Nashville and Franklin with a stop in Brentwood at the intersection of Old Hickory and Franklin Road. It began as a railway line in 1908.
Just after streetcars became popular, Henry Hunter Mayberry decided that the residents of Franklin needed a reliable way to get to Nashville in place of the unpaved toll road known as Franklin Pike. On Christmas Eve in 1908, the first train arrived at Franklin Square.
When the train arrived at 2:30 p.m., crowds cheered and whistles blew as a brass band played “Dixie”. Franklin mayor E.M. Perkins drove the golden spike.
The train had a number of stations on the route from Franklin to Brentwood, including one of which still stands near the Meadowlake subdivision, and one of the former power sources was located where the Shell Station now stands on Franklin Road. The line ended in Nashville at Bransford and 8th Avenue South where passengers could connect to streetcars.
Height of the Interurban
When the interurban peaked in the 1920s, ridership averaged 30,000 per month. It was used by everyone, from businesspeople to college students to shoppers. It also carried freight, including bootlegged liquor.
From Train to Bus
The train was replaced by buses in 1941. The last passenger rail car ran on November 9, and the last freight in 1943. This allowed the metal rails to be removed and donated to the war effort during World War II.
Buses allowed for more flexibility. Now there were two routes, one up Hillsboro Road through Grassland and one up Franklin Pike through Brentwood. The buses continued their operation until 1969.
While I-65 brought the Interurban Bus to an end, causing the echoes of metal wheels squealing to a halt on the metal rails to fade into history, the idea is rising again. The need for good public transportation between Nashville, Brentwood, and Franklin is once again a conversation on the table.
Explosive growth is making the need for discussion of public transportation to come to the table once again, not because of rocky roads and toll booths, but because of congested freeways with nowhere left to widen. Perhaps urban transportation planners can learn from the Interurban of days gone by.