Posts Tagged ‘Noblesville Indiana’

These Used to be Quite Common

July 25, 2020

When I was a child one of the highlights of car travel was watching for bridges carrying railroad tracks over the highways.

Back in those days it was common for railroads to affix their herald to the side of the bridge or, in some instances, paint their name on the concrete arches of the bridge.

The Pennsylvania Railroad seemed to do a lot of painting of its name on concrete or so it seemed at the time.

A few railroads would spell out their names in other ways on the bridges.

But the most common method of identification was putting the herald on the bridge, typically fastened to the plate girders.

Maybe its my imagination, but it seemed like back the early 1960s nearly every bridge carrying rails over a highway had identification on it.

By the end of the decade, though, the practice seemed to be vanishing.

There probably were a number of factors to explain that including how railroads had lost interest in promoting themselves as they increasingly got out of the passenger business.

Cost was probably another reason. But as much as anything, there probably was a change in thinking by railroads and state highway departments in regards to identifying railroads on their bridges.

Some of these identification signs still exist although some of the heralds have been painted over.

It is rare to see a herald or name of a modern day Class 1 railroad on a bridge, although the CSX herald was placed over that of the Baltimore & Ohio on a bridge west of Lodi, Ohio.

Earlier this year I made it a point to photograph two bridges in Dayton that still had B&O capitol dome heralds on them.

I also made sure to get the Norfolk & Western herald shown above on a bridge in Noblesville, Indiana.

This herald is pretty much hidden by a bridge carrying a hike and bike trail over the White River in downtown Noblesville.

In fact I walked past it a few times before I saw it. Photographing it was a challenge because it was obscured by metal work on the trail bridge. That’s why the photo is angled as it is.

This also is the closest I’ve been to one of these heralds, which used to be quite common in N&W territory.

It has been decades since the N&W owned the rails carrying this bridge over a Noblesville street.

The track now ends a short distance away to the left and is used only by a tourist train, the Nickel Plate Express.

This used to be NKP branch line that ran from Indianapolis to Michigan City, Indiana.

Because it was a branch no one thought it was worth the time or money to remove it.

That was a good thing from my perspective because it gave me a chance to relive those days when we’ve be traveling and I’d see a railroad bridge and I would wonder where those tracks led.

Coming Out Party for NKP Geep

July 6, 2020

A former Nickel Plate Road GP7L returned to service on Independence Day on former NKP rails.

No. 426 was one of two locomotives that pulled 30-minute holiday excursion trains from downtown Noblesville, Indiana, for Nickel Plate Express, a tourist train operator.

The geep was on the north end of the train. Saturday’s runs were the first for the locomotives this year and the opening of the season for the Nickel Plate Express.

The tourist train uses 12 miles of a former NKP branch that once extended from Indianapolis to Michigan City, Indiana.

Most of the line, whose heritage includes the Lake Erie & Western, has been abandoned including the segment from Noblesville to Indianapolis.

The 426 was built by EMD in July 1953 and retired by the Norfolk & Western in 1977. It then served a number of other owners, including the Peabody Company.

It was donated to the Indiana Transportation Museum in 2001, where it received a NKP livery. The locomotive is now owned by the City of Noblesville, which took possession of it after evicting ITM from its longtime home in the city’s Forest Park.

ITM used the 426 to pull its Indiana State Fair trains and other excursions and I photographed it pulling a Fair Train in Fishers in August 2011.

Because it was on the north end of the train the light made getting good images of the 426 a tough assignment. But it was a historic moment and I did what I could.

In the top image, No. 426 is shown trailing as the excursion train comes into downtown Noblesville during a ferry move.

In the middle image, a railfan photographer races down a trail over the White River to get into position to photograph the second excursion of the day leaving Noblesville.

In the bottom photograph, No. 426 and a former Santa Fe Hi-Level car sit on the bridge over the White River.

Nickel Plate Express to Resume Operations

June 30, 2020

An Indiana tourist railroad plans to return to operations on July 4 and 5 with a series of excursions out of Noblesville, Indiana.

The Nickel Plate Express will operate six trips lasting for 30 minutes within Noblesville on July 4.

Tickets are $10 per passenger and trips will depart from Bolden’s cleaners near the town square at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

On July 6 two trains dubbed the Independence Express will depart from Forest Park in Noblesville for a ride of one hour, 15 minutes.

Trains depart at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for children and $22 for adults.

Passengers will receive a glass of lemonade and slice of apple pie. All trains are limited to 50 percent capacity to enable social distancing.

Train equipment will be cleaned between trips and passengers are encouraged to wear masks.

The Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad uses a 1956 F9 diesel locomotive originally built for the Erie Mining Company.

Passengers ride in former Santa Fe Hi-Level cars build by the Budd Company. All seating in these cars is on the upper level.

Nickel Plate Express operates on 12 miles of a former Nickel Plate Road branch line between Atlanta and Noblesville.

Indiana Tourist Railroad to Restore NKP GP7

November 20, 2019

Nickel Plate Road GP7 No. 426 pulls the Indiana Fair Train out of the station in Fishers in August 2011.

An Indiana tourist railroad is conducting a fundraising campaign to pay for restoration to operating condition of former Nickel Plate Road GP7 locomotive No. 426.

The Nickel Plate Express, which operates on 12 miles of a former NKP branch that once extended from Indianapolis to Michigan City, Indiana, is seeking to raise $12,000 to buy parts and pay for repairs to the geep, which was once part of the collection of the Indiana Transportation Museum but is now owned by the city of Noblesville, Indiana.

The city came to possess No. 426 after it evicted ITM from its longtime home in Forest Park in Noblesville. The museum left the locomotive behind.

The city took ownership of the locomotive after it failed to sell at an auction held last summer to sell the rolling stock ITM did not move off the property.

The work that needs to be done to restore the engine to operating condition includes resealing 16 head gaskets and repairing a crack in the air compressor.

Parts to make these repairs were ordered in mid October and work will begin after they arrive.

Nickel Plate Express director Dagny Zupin hopes to make the repairs in time for No. 426 to pull the line’s Reindeer Express excursions between Nov. 23 and Dec. 22 between Atlanta and Noblesville.

The tourist line will lease the locomotive, which was built in 1953, from the city of Noblesville.

“If for some reason the parts don’t arrive in time, work will begin as soon as parts are secured,” Zupin said.

No. 426 pulled ITM excursion trains through 2015 when it was forced to stop operating on the former NKP branch that the Nickel Plate Express uses in part.

Most of the branch south of Noblesville has been abandoned and the tracks removed as part of a project to convert the right of way into a hiking and biking trail.

Tracks Being Removed from Street in Indiana City

October 15, 2019

The Nickel Plate Road ran down the middle of Noblesville, the county seat of Hamilton County, Indiana. These tracks are in the process of being removed.

Cross off another section of street running from a dwindling list of such places in the United States.

Workers on Monday began removing the tracks from Eighth Street on the square in downtown Noblesville, Indiana.

For decades a former Nickel Plate Road line from Indianapolis to Michigan City, Indiana, ran through Noblesville in the street between Conner and Division streets.

However, except for the occasional excursion train hosted by the Indiana Transportation Museum the tracks have gone unused.

Noblesville was the home of the ITM until June 2018 when the museum was evicted from its longtime Forest Park home.

Workers had earlier this year removed the ex-NKP rails between the southern edge of Noblesville and 96th Street in Fishers in preparation for transforming the right of way into a hiking and biking trail. The track being removed had opened in March 1851.

Most ex-ITM Equipment Went Unsold at Auction

September 14, 2019

Most of the equipment up for auction this week that once belonged to the Indiana Transportation Museum failed to find a buyer.

Conducted by Ozark Mountain Railcar, the auction resulted in the sale of five of the 17 locomotives and rail cars.

Although the announcement of the auction had said any unsold equipment would be scrapped, a deputy mayor for Noblesville, Indiana, which instigated the auction, said some of the equipment, could get a second chance to be saved.

Steve Cook said some equipment might remain on the site of the museum’s former home in Forest Park on static display while other pieces might be leased to the Nickel Plate Express, a tourist railroad that operates between Atlanta, Indiana, and Noblesville.

Cooke said the city plans to clean up the museum site and transform it into a tourist attraction and southern terminal for the non-profit Nickel Plate Express.

The Nickel Plate Express began operating in 2018 over a former Nickel Plate branch line that once ran between Indianapolis and Michigan City, Indiana.

It used a former Erie Mining Company F9 locomotive and former Santa Fe Hi-Level cars once used by Amtrak.

The portion of the branch between Noblesville and Indianapolis was in previous years used by ITM for its annual Indiana Fairtrain and other excursions.

That right of way is in the process of being dismantled for the establishment of a hiking and biking trail.

Sold this week during the auction were U.S. Navy boxcar No. 4828; Pennsylvania Railroad boxcar No. 497329; Milwaukee Road refrigerator car No. 37191; wooden outside-braced boxcar No. 2, which is believed to be of Wabash Railroad heritage; and PRR Railway Post Office Car No. 6523.

Going unsold were former Amtrak (Great Northern), steam generator car no. 661; Milwaukee Road EMD FP7A no. 96C, which currently wears a Monon Railroad livery; Milwaukee Road EMD F7B No. 68B; PRR Pullman sleeper No. 8007, Philadelphia County; and Santa Fe stainless steel coaches Nos. 3083 and 2400.

Cook said the city has not established when it will scrap the equipment it doesn’t plan to display or provide to Nickel Plate Express.

The museum was evicted from Forest Park in July 2018 by the city and dozens of locomotives and rail cars from its collection were moved elsewhere.

ITM retained possession of some equipment that it moved to Logansport, Indiana, where it hopes to establish a new museum site.

The collection also included Nickel Plate Road 2-8-2 No. 587, which was moved to a museum in Kentucky.

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.

Parked Rail Car Became Talk of Indiana Town

August 31, 2018

It seemed like a good idea at the time. An Indiana tourist railroad placed a vintage passenger car on an unused track in downtown Noblesville, Indiana, in part to publicize the launch of an excursion service.

But the city refused to allow them to place a banner on the car, so it sat on the rails for three weeks without anyone knowing why it was there.

“Everybody who comes in here asks about it, and I don’t know what to tell them except ‘It’s there, and it hasn’t moved,” said Rhonda Epp, 43, a bartender for 15 years at Syd’s Fine Foods and Spirits. “Last time I had so many questions about something was when some murderers were on trial across the street.”

The 1929 open window car will be used by the Nickel Plate Express, but the railroad didn’t have a place to put it so it wound up on the courthouse square  in Noblesville where the Nickel Plate Road’s Indianapolis-Michigan City branch ran in the street.

The car is not blocking vehicular traffic, said Dagny Zupin of the NKP Express.

“It’s a very high visibility area, so we are pretty confident nothing will happen to it there,” Zupin said.

The car was used by NKP executives as a business car at one time. It seats 16 passengers and has a kitchen, dining room and lounge room for business meetings, as well as private quarters for a porter and a cook.

Nickel Plate Express expects to start operating on Sept. 15 and the business car will eventually operate on its trains. It will be used for private parties, dinners and corporate meetings as the train shuttles between Atlanta and Cicero.

The car is owned by Indiana Boxcar Corporation.

ITM Plight Draws Widespread Attention

July 7, 2018

The forced two-week removal of the collection of the Indiana Transportation Museum from its 50-year home in Noblesville, Indiana, has triggered a torrent of comments in the online railfan community.

It can be difficult to sort among fact, fiction and exaggeration because the shutdown of the museum is occurring amid a grave sense of urgency after an Indiana judge gave the museum just two weeks to vacate its current location.

The legal battle between ITM and the City of Noblesville, though, goes back to last year when the city signaled it planned to refuse to renew the museum’s lease.

The museum two years ago became embroiled in a dispute with a public agency that oversee the tracks that ITM used for years to operate excursions and its popular shuttle trains to and from the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis.

Some of the ITM collection is being sold or donated to other museums, some of it is being moved to a new ITM site in Logansport while other pieces are reported to have been scrapped on site.

Still other artifacts are expected to remain at the current location once the July 12 deadline passes and will then be considered to have been abandoned.

The judge who ordered ITM to vacate Forest Park in Noblesville also directed that the Hamilton County sheriff oversee disposition of the “abandoned property.”

Much of the discussion the past week on the Railway Preservation News website focused on how that will be undertaken.

ITM had a collection of more than 100 items. Preservation group Ahead of the Torch said among the items that have been lost are:

• Milwaukee Road SW1 No. 1613, built by Electro-Motive Corporation in 1939 as No. 867. It had recently been repainted in Milwaukee Road orange and maroon.

• Five Chicago Transit Authority 4000-series cars, built in the 1920s by Cincinnati Car Company.

• Evansville & Ohio Valley steeple-cab No. 154, a standard interurban motor built by General Electric in 1912 for a railroad in Portsmouth, Ohio, and later was acquired by the E&OV.

• Indianapolis & Cincinnati Traction Co. interurban car 606, body only. The Cincinnati Car Company built the car in 1923 and it was later used by the Indiana Railroad.

• Nickel Plate wooden coach No. 45, built by ACF in 1907.

Writing on the Trains magazine website on Friday, the publication’s former editor Kevin Keefe said that a lot of soul searching can be expected in the railroad preservation community in the aftermath of the ITM debacle.

“One lesson already underscored: the wider world with direct connections to railroad museums and tourist lines has little interest in the nobility of the cause. What it does expect, and will increasingly demand, is competent museum management with a credible strategic plan,” Keefe wrote.

Current Trains editor Jim Wrinn also weighed in by offering a number of observations, including the need for railway preservation advocates to maintain control of their facilities, including stations and tracks.

Wrinn also called for keeping healthy relations with Class 1 railroad partners because “you may need a friend there one day.”

“Know your local community. That includes the government, the chamber of commerce, the visitor’s bureau, and any other organization that might be a help or hindrance.

“Make sure your local community knows you, what you stand for, the good that you do, and the impact you make. Invite them in for a visit, a chat, and listen to them.”

Wrinn also advocated for networking within the preservation community.

He also noted that museums are not immune to issues stemming from egos, human foible and misunderstanding. Likewise, he said museums should also remember that they are there for their visitors.

“Manage your collection,” Wrinn wrote. “A balance between ambitious and realistic is desirable. Have a plan A, B, C, D, E, F, and G.

Perhaps most importantly, he said that a non-profit must always remember that its top priority is that as a business it must stay in business.

Wrinn said he didn’t want to point fingers at ITM officials or say they didn’t do what is necessarily to remain in Noblesville or to make an orderly transition to another location.

But he said it is undeniable that something went horribly wrong with ITM.

“We’ll find out more in the days and weeks ahead just what happened and hopefully lessons on how to prevent it from happening again.”

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.