Posts Tagged ‘Hamilton County Indiana’

Contract Reached to Sell Ex-NKP Branch Line in Indiana

August 6, 2019

The chances of a former Nickel Plate Road branch line near Indianapolis being saved for possible rail may have suffered a fatal blow last week when the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority reached an agreement with A&K Railroad Materials to sell 22 miles of track.

The Utah-based company is expected to begin pulling up the rails in 30 days. Following that, work will begin on creating a hiking and biking path to be known as the Nickel Plate Trail.

Under the contract, A&K will pay $289,000 for ownership of the track.

Five companies submitted bids to buy the track, which is in place between Noblesville and 38th Street in Indianapolis.

The line has been idle for the past two years after the Port Authority revoked the permission of the Indiana Transportation Museum to use the line for excursion service.

ITM had operated the Indiana Fairtrain between Fishers and the fairgrounds in Indianapolis. In past years the Fairtrain originated near Noblesville. The Fairtrain last operated three years ago.

News reports indicate that A&K plans to sell the track for scrap.

The Nickel Plate Trail will be 4.5 miles in length in Fishers and Noblesville, and 13 miles in length in Indianapolis. It will connect at the fairgrounds with the Monon Trail, which is also built on an abandoned railroad right of way.

Officials have said this will create a 40-mile loop linking Indianapolis, Carmel Westfield, Noblesville and Fishers.

Although the U.S. Surface Transportation Board has allowed the ex-NKP line to be railbanked, meaning it could be rebuilt as a rail line, officials say that seldom occurs.

Advocates for rail service on the ex-NKP line sought to promote a plan of having the trail and the rails co-exist, but Hamilton County officials rejected that on safety grounds. They also contended it would be too expensive.

An Ohio-based company, U.S. Rail Holdings, unsuccessfully sought to get the STB to force the cities to sell it the tracks so it operate freight trains.

Some of the companies that bid in response to a request for proposals to buy the tracks have since suggested that A&K may have overstated the amount of recyclable materials that can be salvaged and underestimated the amount of work involved in removing it.

Three of the five bidders didn’t offer to pay the Port Authority anything for the tracks and instead sought payment of $150,000 to remove them. The fourth bidder offered the Port Authority $7,300.

A report in the Indianapolis Star indicated that A&K will not be removing the rails at road crossings and repaving the torn-up streets afterward, which some estimated could cost more than $1 million.

“I don’t see how the metal alone can bring them that much in salvage fees,” said Joe Conjerti, co-owner of bidder Ohio-based Treno Service.

Another bidder cited the volatile price of scrap metal.

“It is risky,” said James Vibbert, vice president of Indiana-based All Track. “Steel prices are down, and the tonnage they [the cities] advertised was not tonnage that’s there.”

The track in question is owned by the cities of Fishers and Noblesville along with Hamilton County.

Four other companies decided after inspecting the tracks not to bid on the project because, they said, much of it the track was not salvageable because of deterioration or because it was not a coveted steel weight. They said they would be hard-pressed to make their money back.

Indiana Tourist RR Aims for September Start

July 10, 2018

A new tourist line that plans to operate over a former Nickel Plate Road branch line in Central Indiana is looking to begin operations in early September.

The Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad is currently undertaking rehabilitation of the ex-NKP Indianapolis-Michigan City, Indiana, line between Noblesville and Atlanta.

The tracks are owned by Hamilton County and two cities in the county and overseen by the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority.

Rehab of the 12-mile line began in early May and largely consists of tie replacement and maintenance of rail joints.

The work is being overseen by Atlanta Pacific Rail. Other work to be done includes bridge inspection, railroad grade crossing improvements, and weed and brush mitigation.

Test runs are slated to operate in August using 1950s vintage equipment that includes three former Santa Fe Hi-level passenger cars.

The NKP Heritage Railroad is an outgrowth of the Arcadia Heritage Depot/Arcadia Arts & Heritage initiative, the non-profit manages a depot in Arcadia, Indiana.

That station, built in 1869, will observe its 150th anniversary next year. It was moved in 1973 and restored by volunteers.

It now serves as a community center, library and museum.

Judge Orders ITM to Leave by July 12

July 3, 2018

An Indiana judge has told the Indiana Transportation Museum to pack up and hit the road. He’s given it two more weeks to get out of town.

Earlier this year the City of Noblesville had told ITM to vacate its long-time home in Forest Park, giving it until June 1 to leave.

But the museum sought a court order extending its time there, saying having to be out by early June was unreasonable.

Hamilton Circuit Court Judge Paul A. Felix initially sided with ITM and issued an order giving the museum more time, but said he would rule by late June on the museum’s request for a preliminary injunction to delay its eviction.

Last Friday the judge decided ITM’s lease has expired, it has no valid right to continue to occupy the park property and ITM is now considered a trespasser.

Felix said that effective July 13 city officials had the right to begin cleaning up the property and disposing of how they wish any items that ITM leaves behind.

The court ruling was one of the latest setbacks for the museum. Earlier, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board had sided with the cities of Fishers and Noblesville, and Hamilton County in their desire to remove 9.2 miles of track of a former Nickel Plate Road branch line to Indianapolis that ITM once used for excursions trains, including the popular Fair Train to the Indiana State Fair.

ITM has a memorandum of understanding to set up shop in Logansport in north central Indiana and will how have to scramble to move 78 rail cars and engines, several buildings including the historic Hobbs Station, and more than three miles of track and switches.

The judge also denied ITM’s request that the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority, which oversees the former Nickel Plate branch line, grant the museum access to the rail line to move

Noblesville spokesman Robert Herrington said the city will work to return to their owners any rail cars left on the property.

In a statement the city praised the ruling, calling it in the public interest.

“The property is a mess but will be restored in a safe and efficient manner. The city will continue to hold ITM responsible for any environmental issues remaining at the site,” the statement said.

The dispute between ITM and Noblesville dates to at least May 2017 when the city claimed the museum was violating the terms of the lease by allowing chemicals to leak into the ground in the park.

The city asked the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to investigate.

Museum officials, not surprisingly, had a different take on the judge’s ruling, expressing disappoint for his failure to protect a private not-for-profit enterprise against unlawful seizure of assets.

“Today the public has witnessed a systematic government intervention into private enterprise and the destruction of an institution which has served the public for more than 50 years,” said museum chair John McNichols.

“Today the Indiana Transportation Museum is the victim. Tomorrow it could be another museum, not-for-profit or private business. The next day it could be your home taken in an eminent domain land grab to benefit developers.”

McNichols said it is uncertain what steps the ITM will take next.

A portion of the ex-Nickel Plate Road branch line is expected to continue to host excursion trains, but those will not be operated by ITM.

The Hoosier Heritage Port Authority has an agreement with the Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad to operate a tourist line between Noblesville and Atlanta, Indiana.

The tourist operator has not announced a date to begin service but has indicated online that it is hiring staff and has a locomotive being rehabilitated in a shop.

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.

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.