Posts Tagged ‘Indiana Transportation Museum’

ITM Raising Money to Restore NKP 587

November 4, 2017

The Indiana Transportation Museum has launched a fund-raising drive to restore Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive to operating condition.

The locomotive is due for a federally required overhaul. Those who donate to the cause will receive a tee shirt bearing a drawing of the Baldwin-built locomotive.

Built in August 1918 for the Lake Erie & Western, the NKP 587 was based in Frankfort, Indiana, for much of its life and sometimes saw service on the branch between Indianapolis and Michigan City, Indiana.

On the LE&W, the USRA light 2-8-2 locomotive carried roster number 5541. It received its current roster number in 1924.

After its retirement in March 1955, the 587 was donated to the City of Indianapolis, which put it on static display in Broad Ripple Park.

It was removed in 1983 and taken to Amtrak’s Beech Grove shops where it was restored to operating condition. It made its first excursion in September 1988 between Indianapolis and Logansport, Indiana.

Donations can be made at https://www.customink.com/fundraising/nickelplateroad587

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ITM has OK to Use Indiana Rail Line for Polar Express

October 11, 2017

The Indiana Transportation Museum has an agreement to use the Central Railroad of Indiana for its Polar Express trains this year.

The trains will operate between Kokomo and Logansport, Indiana. A railfan publication in the Hoosier State said ITM is negotiating for cars, locomotives to use on the trains.

Coach attendants and presentation staff will be volunteers. The report said ITM is also talking with a group in Logansport for space to be able to run on some city-owned track.

ITM to Operate Polar Express Trains

October 2, 2017

The Indiana Transportation Museum has announced that it will operate Polar Bear Express trips this year from Kokomo, Indiana.

No dates were specified in the announcement, which noted that the excursions are part of a cooperative arrangement that ITM has reached with the cities of Kokomo and Logansport.

The announcement said ticket sales will begin on Oct. 7 and further information will be announced on the museum’s website. As of today, no information had been posted on the site.

ITM Pursues Legal Action against HHPA

September 22, 2017

In a an email message sent to members and supporters, the Indiana Transportation Museum said it continues to pursue legal against the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority and other entities in regards to their not allowing ITM to use a rail line northeast of Indianapolis.

ITM contends that its rights to due process were denied by the HHPA when it declared the former Nickel Plate Road branch line as unsafe and it would not allow the ITM to operate its Fair Train and Polar Bear Express excursions.

The museum said it also has filed an amended request for a temporary restraining order in federal court asking the court prohibit HHPA and government entities from removing the rails of the line, awarding a contract to another operator, evicting ITM from Forest Park in Noblesville, and allowing ITM to operate the line under the original policy of use based upon satisfactory Federal Railroad Administration audits without violation.

If that motion is successful, it trigger 15 days of testimony and investigation resulting in either a preliminary or permanent restraining order.

ITM also announced that it is seeking an agreement to operate its Polar Bear Express trains between Logansport and Kokomo, Indiana, this winter.

The museum had announced earlier that it will have a presence in Logansport this fall and winter.

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.”

ITM Plans to Move to Logansport

July 16, 2017

The Indiana Transportation Museum is moving to another city. The museum said last week that it has reached an agreement with the mayor of Logansport to set up shop there.

ITM is currently located in Noblesville in the far reaches of suburban Indianapolis.

No date was set for the move, which appears to be have been prompted in part by the museum’s on-going battle to be able to use a former Nickel Plate Road branch line that some want to convert into a hiking and biking trail.

Logansport was a hub city for the Pennsylvania Railroad with several lines radiating from it.

“Our mission preserves the great legacy of railroading tracks perfectly with Logansport’s history as an early Hoosier rail center,” ITM Board Chair John McNichols said in a statement. “Together we can not only preserve our shared history, but find ways to expand the vision of historic railroads in Indiana. The Logansport museum will be an expansion of our state-wide vision.”

For several years ITM has hosted excursion train service on the former NKP line, which at one time ran from Indianapolis to Michigan City.

The remnants of the line between Indianapolis and Tipton, Indiana, are owned by the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority, which has refused to allow ITM to use the line, citing safety concerns and the lack of adequate maintenance.

ITM Plans to Sue over Denial to Use Rail Line

June 29, 2017

The Indiana Transportation Museum plans to file suit against Hamilton County and the cities of Noblesville and Fishers, seeking damages for losses sustained from being unable to use a former Nickel Plate Road branch line for excursion service last year.

The museum sent the notice to leaders of the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority, which oversees the tracks, the mayors and deputy mayors of Noblesville and Fishers, all three Hamilton County commissioners and several other county officials. The notice of intent to file suit in federal court was also sent to Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and Attorney General Curtis Hill.

“We have tried to find ways to work with these entities and our efforts have not been successful,” said John McNichols, the museum’s board chairman. “Our efforts have been met with indifference and opposition.”

The museum in past years has used the tracks for excursion trains and the popular Indiana State Fair Train.

But last year the Port Authority refused to allow ITM to use the tracks, citing concerns about the museum’s financial condition and its failure to adequately maintain the tracks for safe operation.

Earlier this year, Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness spoke about pulling up the rails and putting in a hike and bike trail. The mayor rejected a proposal by ITM to construct a trail alongside the tracks.

The track in question extends for 37 miles between Indianapolis and Noblesville, where the ITM is based.

In its notice to sue, ITM said it lost more than $350,000 in revenue because it couldn’t operate its Polar Bear Express trains and another $150,000 from being unable to run the Fair Train.

The notice said the museum was “current on all terms and conditions” of the operating agreement with the port authority at the time it was prevented from using the tracks.

Being prohibited from using the rail line, ITM said, violated its rights under the Fourteenth and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

Further, ITM alleges, some public officials defamed the museum, interfered with an established business, breached an agreement, failed to engage in fair dealing, failed to comply with the Indiana Open Meetings and Records Act, and engaged in abuse of process.

In the meantime, four groups have responded to a port authority call for proposals to be the new operators of the rail line.

They include ITM, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Railway of Indianapolis, Hoosier Heritage Railroad of Fishers and Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad of Arcadia.

McNichols said he hoped the parties involved could reach an agreement before the Indiana State Fair begins on Aug. 4.

The port authority had earlier ruled out making a decision in time for an operator to offer the fair train this year.

Operator Sought for Indiana Rail Line

May 3, 2017

The Indiana Fairtrain may not be dead just yet, but it won’t be operating in 2017.

The Hoosier Heritage Port Authority last month approved a request for proposals for an operator of the former Nickel Plate Road branch that was used by the Fairtrain, which last ran in 2015.

The port authority owns the tracks and has appointed a five-member review committee to review the proposals, which must be submitted by June 13.

The review process will begin on July 1 and executives of the top proposals will be interviewed by the committee.

The Port Authority hopes to name an operator for the line by its July meeting but may have to call a special meeting in August to do that.

The Fairtrain has in past years been operated by the Indiana Transportation Museum, but the Port Authority refused in 2016 to renew its operating rights over the tracks in part because the line needs extensive repairs.

“I think we’ve left it pretty open for the proposers to describe what they would do to our line, how they would maintain it,” Port Authority President Mike Obergfrell said. “The other option in there is they would make lease payments in lieu of maintenance.”

Preserving Heritage Rail Lines May Involve Overcoming ‘More Beneficial Use’ Arguments

April 11, 2017

Scott Fadness is not a popular person these days among railroad advocates in Indiana.

The mayor of Fishers, Indiana, favors ripping out a former Nickel Plate Road branch line that runs through his city to Indianapolis that until 2015 hosted excursions operated by the Indiana Transportation Museum, including its popular Fairtrain to the Indiana State Fair.

In place of the now dormant rail line, which is owned by a public entity, would be a hiking and biking trail.

ITM and other rail supporters have proposed building the trail alongside the rail line.

But Fadness has rejected that due to safety concerns, saying he didn’t think it would be wise for trail users to be within several feet of a locomotive.

It is easy for railroad advocates to dismiss Fadness as ignorant or to proclaim his position as ludicrous as an ITM spokesman did.

Indeed, those accusations probably are true. But overcoming the beliefs of officials such as Mayor Fadness will not be easy.

He may not be a friend of rail preservation, but it could be a mistake to consider him an adversary. He is someone who needs to be won over.

If anything, railroad advocates need to listen carefully to public officials such as Mayor Fadness. You can’t overcome opposition if you don’t understand it.

Rails and trails can and do co-exist. The Rails to Trails Conservancy says there are 1,600 trails in 41 states that are located next to a railroad line.

Yet the Conservancy said there are 10 times more trails that have been built on a former railroad right of way.

As a result more people think trail without rails than they do trail with rails because the former is most likely to be what they have seen and experienced.

One of those trails without rails is a couple miles west of the ex-NKP line on the right of way of the former Monon Railroad line to Indianapolis.

Fadness wants to emulate that trail and has adopted the type of “more beneficial uses of the property” worldview that worries Jim Porterfield, the director of the Center for Railway Tourism at Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia.

Porterfield was quoted in the May 2017 issue of Trains magazine as warning that heritage railroads are at risk when a community views them as entertainment rather than historical venues.

Porterfield told Trains that the typical arguments for displacing heritage rail lines include, “year round versus seasonal use, a greater distribution of income to local businesses, more people present, and higher property values along a trail versus a rail line.”

By one estimate, the ex-NKP line in Indianapolis needs $9 million in repairs to bring rail service back. A trail can be built for much less than that.

Mayor Fadness sees the situation as a simple cost-benefit analysis that weights heavily in favor of a trail.

Every rails to trail dispute has its own circumstances. In the case of the ex-NKP rail line, there has been internal turmoil within the past year at ITM that has harmed its credibility.

The location of the line in an affluent area of suburban Indianapolis also works against it. Such areas are a fertile ground for NIMBY opponents who know how to work the political system.

Some at ITM have also spoken about extending the ex-NKP to downtown Indianapolis and offering passenger trains there.

There may be some merit to that vision, but it would cost millions if not billions, to replace track that was removed years ago.

People who do not “love” railroads will laugh off such proposals as unrealistic given the existing available resources.

Mayor Fadness may have his mind made up and time is not working in favor of those who want to keep the ex-NKP branch intact.

If you are going to persuade public officials such as Mayor Fadness, you need to show him that rails and trails can co-exist. And you need to convince him on his terms, not those of a railfan who tends to believe that every foot of rail should be preserved.

The question is whether the railroad advocates have the skills and willingness needed to make the case for rail and trail.

Indiana Rail Advocates Want Rails and Trail on Former Nickel Plate Branch Line in Indianapolis

March 24, 2017

Hamilton County (Indiana) officials are rejecting a proposal to retain a former Nickel Plate Road branch line that has been used in recent years by the Indiana Fairtrain.

Instead, they want to move forward with their plans to remove the rails and make the right of way a 9.2-mile paved hiking and biking trail.

The Indiana Transportation Museum, which operated the Fairtrain through 2015, had proposed building the trail next to the tracks.

However, Fisher Mayor Scott Fadness rejected that idea, saying that the right of way is not wide enough for rails and a trail to co-exist.

Fadness said the right of way is 50 feet and to have both rails and a trail would require 120 feet.

The mayor also cited safety concerns.

“I do not believe from what my engineers have told me that within our current right of way bounds it would be safe to put a trail next to a rail line,” Fadness said. “As a father of 2-year-old, the idea of putting a trail within several feet of a locomotive doesn’t sound like a logical solution from my perspective.”

Some rail proponents left a recent public meeting a Fishers City Hall that was devoted to the trail idea feeling disappointed.

“I thought it was presented as an open discussion between a rail and trail and the whole purpose of the meeting is strictly trail,” said Wilbur Sutton, who wants the tracks retained.

An online petition seeking to preserve the rail line has thus far generated more than 4,300 signatures.

ITM official John McNichols disagrees with the mayor’s safety concerns and believes the right of way is large enough to support a trail and the tracks.

“It’s ludicrous,” McNichols said. “We don’t know where they got that. No trail in the county needs that kind of right away unless it’s a park.”

However, on the day of the public hearing, Fadness said the tracks and trail idea will not be considered.

Fishers, Noblesville and the Hamilton County Commissioners said in February they planned to launch a $9.3 million project to convert the rail line to a trail that they said would be similar to a nearby trail built on the former right of way of the Monon Railroad.

Supporters of the proposed Nickel Plate Trail say that rehabilitating the railroad tracks for passenger service would cost up to $5 million.

Last year the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority, which oversees the rail line, would not allow ITM to provide excursion service on the route, saying that it had safety concerns.

In 2015, the last year that the Fairtrain operated, it generated $700,000 in revenue and was ridden by more than 10,000 passengers.

ITM would like to see the rail line extended beyond 10th Street in Indianapolis, where it now ends, to Union Station.

That would enable service such as the Fairtrain to serve Bankers Life Fieldhouse – home of the Indiana Pacers NBA team – and Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts NFL team.

McNichols estimates it would cost $1.5 million for that extension. At one time the NKP line did extend to Union Station, but those tracks were removed many years ago.

ITM and the Port Authority have been in conflict since last year over the condition of the rail line.

The Port Authority commissioned an inspection of the tracks that found they needed at least $3.7 million, but potentially up to $5 million, in repairs. Repairing the tracks between Fishers and the fairgrounds would cost more than $2 million, it said.

But ITM counters that as recently as June 2016 the Federal Railroad Administration said the line was safe for passenger service, although it would be limited to slow speeds.

“We’re certainly hopeful that enough community support can actually sway the officials,” McNichols said about his group’s proposal to retain the rails next to the trail.

He noted that there are trails next to the rail line in some places in Hamilton County, including at the Riverwalk Depot in Noblesville.

Following this week’s meetings, Fishers, Noblesville, and Hamilton County officials will decide whether to pursue funding for the Nickel Plate Trail.

If the rails are removed, ITM said it might move its railroad rolling stock and locomotives to another location within Indiana for excursion service.

At one point, some Hamilton County officials had raised the prospect that ITM could continue to use the former NKP line for excursion service between Noblesville and Tipton.

ITM has operated excursions on that segment of the route in past years.

Fishers Mayor Fadness sees the issue as a cost-benefit matter. A trail would get more use than a set of railroad tracks.

“It’s going to be $9 million for a trail that you [could] use 365 days a year,” he said. “Far more than 40,000 people would be able to utilize that. From a cost-benefit perspective, it’s very clear to me what the right policy decision is.”

The Rails to Trails Conservancy said there are more than 1,660 rails-with-trails in 41 states, but 10 times as many trail-only corridors on former rail right of ways.

In the meantime, ITM posted a statement on its website saying that it has prepared a master plan that calls for increased excursions and events “to maximize economic and cultural benefit.”

“With downtown developments carrying the Nickel Plate theme, the railroad as a historical, tourism-oriented entity has the capacity to continually enrich the area’s market appeal and economic footprint. Studies have shown ITM is one of the top attractions in Hamilton County,” the statement said.