Posts Tagged ‘Noblesville Indiana’

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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New Indiana Tourist Railroad Being Planned

October 27, 2017

A new Indiana tourist train operation is making plans to commence operations in spring 2018.

Known as the Nickel Plate Express, the trains will be operated by the Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad and use a former NKP branch line between Atlanta and Noblesville, Indiana.

The line once ran between Indianapolis and Michigan City, Indiana, but several portions of it have been abandoned.

The line in Hamilton and Marion counties has been inactive in the past year but had previously been used by the Indiana Transportation Museum.

The cities of Fishers and Noblesville want to abandon the tracks between the latter city and Indianapolis in order to create a hike and bike trail. That matter is now pending before the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.

Nickel Plate Express will be headquartered at the Arcadia Heritage Depot.

Although the tourist train operator has created a website, it has not listed any schedules, fare information or a service inauguration date.

However, the site said the trains will operate regular excursions Fridays through Sundays along the 12-mile track between Noblesville and Atlanta.

Departures will take place from Noblesville arriving in Cicero, Arcadia and Atlanta; to Noblesville from Atlanta; from Atlanta to Arcadia and the old spur or “Davon Y” between 216th & 221st Streets.

The website can be found at https://www.nickelplateexpress.net/

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.

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.