Posts Tagged ‘Hamilton County Indiana’

STB Backs Cities in Indiana Rail to Trail Dispute

June 4, 2018

The U.S. Surface Transportation Board has given the green light to Hamilton County, Indiana, and the cities of Fishers and Noblesville to rail bank a former Nickel Plate Road branch line, thus paving the way for the rails to be removed and the right of way converted to a trail.

Consequently, the decision dealt a serious blow to efforts to reinstate the Indiana Fair Train, which used the route for several years.

The Fair Train last operated between Fishers and the fairgrounds in 2015.

In a decision reached on May 29, the STB turned aside objections from the Indiana Transportation museum, which had operated the Fair Train, and others that the STB deny the petition to allow rail banking of the line.

The line in question extends 35.5 miles between Indianapolis and Tipton.

Norfolk & Western had leased the line to the Indiana Rail Road in 1985.

N&W successor Norfolk Southern subsequently received regulatory approval in 1991 to abandon the line, but sold it in 1995 to the cities of Fishers and Noblesville. Hamilton County became a joint owner of the line in 2006.

When they purchased the line, city officials in Fishers and Noblesville considered establishing a commuter rail service to downtown Indianapolis.

Although, the commuter service was never established, ITM used the route for the Fair Train and other excursions.

The Hoosier Heritage Port Authority, which oversees the line, revoked in 2016 ITM’s permission to use the tracks, citing safety concerns.

The Port Authority later sought proposals for a tourist train operation north of Noblesville.

Earlier this spring the Port Authority signed a 15-year contract with the Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad to operate a tourist train over 12 miles of track between Noblesville and Atlanta.

Operation of the tourist railroad is expected to begin this summer.

Plans are to convert the right of way between Fishers and Noblesville into a 9-mile trail to be known as the Nickel Plate Trail.

Although city officials in Fishers have indicated that they plan to begin developing the Nickel Plate Trail soon, another hurdle may arise in the form of a lawsuit from adjacent landowners.

An attorney who represents some of those landowners told the Indianapolis Business Journal that those property owners own the land beneath the tracks and any use of the right of way other than as a railroad violates their rights.

The lawsuit, if filed, is likely to seek to force the cities and county to offer the landowners a financial settlement.

ITM expressed disappointment in the STB decision. It and a group known as Save the Nickel Plate had urged the STB to turn down the petition seeking railbanking of the line.

The groups have argued that a trail could be built next to the tracks, but officials in Fishers rejected that idea as unsafe.

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ITM Gets More Time to Move

June 4, 2018

The Indiana Transportation Museum has received a little more time before it has to vacate its home in Noblesville.

A Hamilton County Circuit Court judge recently ruled that he will decide by the end of this month how much time the museum has to move from its location in Forest Park.

The City of Noblesville had given notice to the museum that it must be out of the park by June 1, but ITM sought a preliminary injunction to delay the eviction.

When the city declined to renew its lease with ITM, museum officials had accused Noblesville of a plot to take possession of equipment left after the June 1 eviction date. City officials denied those allegations

ITM has been in Forest Park since 1960 and its collection includes 78 locomotives and rail cars. It also owns the Hobbs station and more than three miles of track.

The museum wants 18 months to vacate the park site. It plans to re-establish the museum in Logansport, Indiana, about 60 miles north of Noblesville.

In response to the request for an injunction, Hamilton Circuit Court Judge Paul A. Felix said he’ll rule by June 29 and gave the parties until June 13 to submit additional information about the dispute.

“This is a temporary relief for us,” Museum Chairman John McNichols said in a statement. “We think we demonstrated to the court immediate eviction, which could benefit the next supplier, is unreasonable.”

In the meantime, Judge Felix issued a set of conditions for the museum to follow, which includes steps for handling rail cars that might contain asbestos.

ITM is also to keep the city informed about its progress in vacating the park.

A Noblesville city spokesman said the city is willing to give the museum additional time but feels 18 months is too long.

The city has spoken with museum consultants who said it should not take two years for the museum to make its move.

Indiana Fair Train Won’t Be Returning

August 2, 2017

The Indiana Fair Train is no more. The Hamilton County Commissioners along with city officials in Fishers and Noblesville have agree to pull up the rails that the Fair train once used between Noblesville and the fairgrounds in Indianapolis and convert the right of way into a hiking and biking trail.

However, the plans including preserving the rails north of Noblesville and allowing a tourist train operator to use them.

The 37-mile former Nickel Plate Road branch line is owned by the county and the two cities.

Under the recently announced plan, nine miles of the branch will be converted to a trail with 28 miles available for rail operations.

The Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad has been chosen to be the operator of the rail line that is being preserved.

The fair train and other excursions over the NKP branch had been operated until 2016 by the Indiana Transportation Museum, which is currently based in Noblesville but has announced plans to relocate to Logansport, Indiana.

Selection of an operator was recently made by the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority, which manages the line.

The authority received five applications to operate the ex-NKP branch and gave the highest score to Iowa Pacific Holdings, which until early this year operated the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State in conjunction with Amtrak.

However, Iowa Pacific wanted to operate the line south of Noblesville and provide freight service. That was at odds with the desire of the cities to remove the rails there to create a trail.

“The proposal  . . . allows for the preservation of the train going north from Noblesville while providing a year-round recreational trail amenity for our residents,” said Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness. “The Nickel Plate Railroad played an important role in our history as a city and I believe the Nickel Plate Trail will honor that history while creating an amenity that so many of our residents have requested.”

Indiana Rail Line May Become Trail

February 15, 2017

The rail line used to host the Indiana State Fair train may be pulled up and converted into a trail.

IndianaHamilton County officials are considering abandoning the former Nickel Plate Road branch line and making the right of way a hike and bike path.

The Fair Train, operated by the Indiana Transportation Museum, last operated in 2015 when it carried more than 10,000 passengers.

However, the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority, which owns the rail line, would not allow ITM to operate the Fair Train or any other trains on the line in 2016.

The HHPA says that the line needs $5 million in safety investments before it can be used for rail service again.

The line extends from the fairgrounds along 38th Street in Indianapolis northward through Fishers and Noblesville.

The museum is based in Noblesville but in recent years the Fair Train has originated in Fishers.

If built, the trail would be similar to the Monon Trail, which uses a former Monon Railroad right of way that in the 1980s hosted the Fair Train.