ITM Being Evicted from Noblesville Home

The Indiana Transportation Museum is being evicted by the City of Noblesville from its site in Forest Park after its lease expires next March.

The city has cited its discontent with the manner in which the museum has maintained the property, which the city says needs to undergo an environmental cleanup.

In response Museum Chairman John McNichols said the eviction is a ploy by the city to bankrupt the museum, seize its equipment and then give it to a new operator of an excursion service that is expected to begin next year.

Saying that conditions at the museum are no worse than at an auto garage, McNichols claims the city is banking on the fact that moving the railroad equipment at the museum will be too expensive to do by truck.

City spokesman Robert Harrington disputed McNichols claims, saying the city wants the site cleared out as soon as possible so environmental cleanup can begin.

“We don’t want anything. We want remediation to begin so we can see what is safe to go there,” Herrington said.

ITM has been housed in Forest Park since 1965 and until 2016 operated excursion trains on a former Nickel Plate Branch line through Noblesville that once extended between Indianapolis and Michigan, City, Indiana.

Much of that branch has since been abandoned, but the tracks between Indianapolis and Atlanta, Indiana, are now owned by the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority.

The Authority, which is controlled in part by the cities of Noblesville and Fishers, refused to allow ITM to operate over the tracks in 2016, citing safety concerns.

Earlier this year, city officials in Fishers announced plans to remove the track between Noblesville and Indianapolis and convert it into a hiking and biking trail.

The Port Authority later selected the Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad to operate excursion trains between Noblesville and Arcadia.

Noblesville officials also requested an inspection of the museum grounds by state environmental officials in response to complaints about leaking oil drums.

That inspection, conducted by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Environmental Protection Agency, found a host of environmental and health hazards, including PCBs and several rail cars believed to contain asbestos.

The city contends that museum officials have listed 1,064 items for waste containment and disposal.

“The ITM has not shown good stewardship with the resources entrusted to them for more than 50 years,” said Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear said in a statement. “The City of Noblesville is taking these proactive measures now to protect our residents and our heritage, to ensure Forest Park is cleaned up and to bring the trains back to our community with a new operator.”

ITM earlier this year signed an agreement to house at least some of its collection in Logansport, Indiana

Logansport Mayor David Kitchell wants ITM to make the Cass County city its permanent home.

“I talked to Mayor Ditslear about giving the ITM some extra time to move their assets if they need it,” Kitchell said. “We have about three sites that [the museum] could move into here.”

ITM has about $3 million in equipment, including eight locomotives, box cars and historical artifacts. About 30,000 people visit the museum each year.

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