Posts Tagged ‘Indiana Transportation Museum’

ITM Being Evicted from Noblesville Home

December 28, 2017

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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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

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.