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home : news : local news June 24, 2017


4/1/2017
ITM to submit bid to operate Nickel Plate
By Alex Pollock


The Indiana Transportation Museum will submit a bid to once again be the operator of the Nickel Plate rail line.

"We will absolutely put forward a proposal which will most likely be the original agreement we wanted the Port Authority to sign 11 years ago," said ITM spokesman John McNichols.

The Transportation Museum operated the railway until 2016 when the railway was deemed unsafe by the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority and was shut down.

Despite having a rocky relationship with the HHPA, ITM believes it still has what it takes to operate the railway successfully. With their proposal, ITM will be in charge of providing equipment, maintaining the track, and keeping up with the signals.

ITM tried to purchase the abandoned railway in the early 90's but were beat out by the cities of Noblesville and Fishers, who now plan to take out the railroad tracks and build the Nickel Plate Trail on 9.2 miles of the old railway, a plan the ITM and many others are unhappy with.

The trail plan comes after the railway has been inactive for over a year due to safety violations reported by the HHPA.

"The port authority has really held us down for the last 11 years," said McNichols. They deemed the railroad unsafe when the Federal Railroad Administration said it was safe."

Reports from the cities claim it would take $5 million to repair the tracks, yet ITM members have testified at community listening meetings that the cost could be as low as $55,000.

As the previous operators of the Nickel Plate railroad, ITM had a ten year contract with the port authority. An agreement which has expired.

"We tried to renegotiate, but they failed to negotiate a long-term contract," McNichols said. "That prohibited us from getting the capitol we needed to do what we wanted to do with the railway, which included maintaining the track better."

ITM will compete with other bidders, such as Hamilton County Tourism, to become the railway operator. Hamilton County Tourism has revealed plans to rework the northern portion of the tracks to make a themed excursion railroad.

The bidding process will begin this month.







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