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home : columnists : columnists April 30, 2017


4/3/2017 4:00:00 AM
Are these trains on right tracks?
The Times photo by Betsy ReasonThe Nickel Plate No. 426 travels the tracks in the middle of Eighth Street in downtown Noblesville.
The Times photo by Betsy Reason

The Nickel Plate No. 426 travels the tracks in the middle of Eighth Street in downtown Noblesville.

By Betsy Reason
Editor


Am I opening a can of worms when I ask, "Why can't everybody get on the same train?"

The Cities of Fishers and Noblesville in February proposed to convert 9.2 miles of the historic Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad line to a greenway trail for an estimated $9.3 million.

The Indiana Transportation Museum, a nonprofit located in Noblesville's Forest Park, and operator of the FairTrain, announced last week that it would submit a bid to once again be the operator of the rail line, which runs from Indianapolis to Tipton. Hoosier Heritage Port Authority, a nonprofit that maintains the rail lines, halted operations of the railroad in 2016 due to safety concerns, saying it would cost up to $5 million to make repairs. Port Authority board treasurer Glen Schwartz has recommended to take the railway down to a Class 1 or 2 operation, which would mean the trains could travel between 10 and 25 mph, and bring the cost down to $55,000.

While Hamilton County Tourism doesn't have an opinion on the southern end of the line as Fishers and Noblesville work through those decisions, the convention and visitors bureau announced it would advocate to save the "northern end," by supporting a plan to offer a themed excursion from Cicero to Tipton. The historic Arcadia Train Depot would be a vital piece of the "northern tracks" movement and would serve as offices and a mini museum. (More on Arcadia Train Depot in an upcoming column).

If the Nickel Plate rail line is redeveloped as a trail, from Fishers to Noblesville, and the northern section of the railroad is put back into use, where does that leave downtown Noblesville?

Wouldn't it make sense if the train tracks were saved north of Pleasant Street in Noblesville that the train could be used as part of Noblesville Street Dance and festivals on the Square, taking visitors from the Square to the ITM in Forest Park, and be part of the "northern" excursions?

So I went to Hamilton County Tourism's executive director Brenda Myers. "I don't think that's out of the question," she said. "But our budget currently only breaks even with northern operations. And that's what we would propose...."

"If the funds were available, we'd love to bring the train south or originate the train out of Noblesville, which brings its own economic advantages, north," said Myers, who has developed a draft schedule that would depart from all northern communities and about 50 percent departing from Atlanta. "People need to remember that departure cities probably benefit from visitation as much as arrival cities. Striking that right balance would be key." Myers has been looking to model the northern excursions, comparing to Strasburg Railroad in Pennsylvania, minus Thomas the Train, due to licensing being unavailable.

So what about the transportation museum in Forest Park? "What the ITM offered had much value, and their work should be celebrated. They've kept this line running for 40 years," Myers said. "This new model would build on their successes but think about programming in a very different way."

-Contact me at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.



Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, April 6, 2017
Article comment by: Alys Caviness-Gober

I honestly DO NOT understand why ANY plan involves destroying the tracks from Pleasant Street SOUTH to Fishers (or Indy). That just cuts Noblesville completely OUT of any train excursion business going to Fishers (shopping, dining, Farmers Markets, cultural arts events, etc) or Indy (shopping, dining, State Fair, sports events, cultural arts events, etc). I cannot get a good answer as to WHY the City of Noblesville and Hamilton County would EVER even consider NOT investing in the existing so-called "southern route" of the 9.2 miles of tracks between Noblesville and Fishers. Destroying that segment of the Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad is simply NOT in Noblesville's or Hamilton County's best interest. It really feels like a very SMALL handful of people have made a really AWFUL decision for residents of the entire county and City of Noblesville. As for "what the budget allows", we all know the proposed "rails to trails" trail-building will cost $9.3 million ~ so, maybe that small handful of people can come up with a NEW budget that would #SaveTheTrain between Noblesville and Fishers.



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