New operators of State Fair Train sought

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Notch 8
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New operators of State Fair Train sought

Post by Notch 8 » Sun Jan 22, 2017 5:42 pm

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New operators of fair train sought

John Tuohy , john.tuohy@indystar.com 6:01 a.m. ET Jan. 21, 2017

Track owner says $5 million in repairs needed to make 37-mile Nickel Plate rail safe


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(Photo: Joe Vitti, Indianapolis Star)

The rail buffs who operated the Indiana State Fair Train for 30 years and the government agency that owns the tracks on which it ran are decoupling.

The Hoosier Heritage Port Authority is dropping the Indiana Transportation Museum as train operators on the 37-mile Nickel Plate route that runs between Tipton and Indianapolis.

The authority is seeking a new manager because it failed to reach an agreement with the museum on an estimated $5 million in track repairs and maintenance. The port authority wanted the museum to fix and clean sections of track it said were so dangerous that the fair train and Polar Bear Express were cancelled last year.

“Because of inaction on a number of track issues that we asked them to address, we are putting out a request for new operators,” said Michael Obergfell, president of the port authority.

The change means the fair train likely will be canceled again this year because selecting a new rail company will take several months. Obergfell said the transportation museum can put in a bid to operate the trains, but the port authority is unlikely to choose it unless the museum straightened out several organizational problems.

“They have always done a great job, but there was some serious infighting in the last couple of years, and things started slipping,” Obergefell said. “We would want a reorganization.”

An museum's internal dispute boiled over last year, with a group of employees accusing the board of directors of financial malfeasance and neglect of rail equipment. The Indiana attorney general’s office reviewed the complaints, and the Federal Railroad Administration inspected the tracks last spring. Since then, an independent inspector found the tracks needed $5 million in repairs. Many of the fixes are for rotted or missing rail ties. The authority also demanded that vegetation be cleared from crossings and that some bridges and culverts be cleared or fortified.

Last summer the fair train, which had taken as many as 16,000 people each day from Noblesville and Fishers to the Indiana State Fair, was cancelled. The museum also nixed its Polar Bear Express, the Christmas line that ferried 11,000 riders on trips with Santa Claus between the Fishers Train Station and Noblesville.

The transportation museum is a nonprofit run mostly by volunteers who restore and maintain trains and educate the public on rail history. The two trains were it's biggest money makers, providing more than $240,000 in ticket sales each per year.

The museum also runs special trains for dinner cruises, school excursions and a pumpkin train in the fall.

The new operator and the port authority will have to reach an agreement on how to pay for the millions of dollars in repairs. Not all the repairs would have to be done before the fair train could roll again; most of them are needed between Noblesville and Tipton, not the stretch to the fairgrounds.

Obergfell said several organizations have expressed interest in running trains on the Nickel Plate line, including the Indiana Rail Road Co., which operates in Indiana and Illinois.

“Rail is booming for these types of services now,” Obegfell said of recreational and tourist excursions.

The port authority was established in 1995 to take ownership of the track from Norfolk Southern, oversee train operations and represent Hamilton County and the cities of Fishers and Noblesville.

The attorney general's office did not respond to a request for comment nor did museum chairman George Kehler. An attorney who represented the disgruntled employees did not respond to phone calls.

Hamilton County Commissioner Steve Dillinger said the port authority was doing the correct thing by seeking a new operator.

“It comes down to a safety issue,” he said. "The trains have not been well run lately. The museum has not been able to maintain intersections and crossings.”

Call IndyStar reporter John Tuohy at 317 444-6418. Follow him on Twitter: @john_tuohy.

Link to original story

http://www.indystar.com/story/news/2017 ... /96839360/

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rrnut282
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Re: New operators of State Fair Train sought

Post by rrnut282 » Thu Jan 26, 2017 9:49 pm

Hard to make a valid business case for a property with no customers and needing $5MM with only $240k in revenue. A volunteer organization is just about the only way to make that work.
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D.L.
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Re: New operators of State Fair Train sought

Post by D.L. » Fri Jan 27, 2017 10:26 am

:?: Indiana board suggests that INRD should take over its functions. Sounds good to me.

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Notch 8
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Re: New operators of State Fair Train sought

Post by Notch 8 » Fri Jan 27, 2017 4:34 pm

D.L. wrote::?: Indiana board suggests that INRD should take over its functions. Sounds good to me.
Sounds good but why would they. A) NO Customers on the line B) The business model doesn't float.. Not disagreeing with you but this doesn't make cents...

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Re: New operators of State Fair Train sought

Post by Hotbox » Sun Jan 29, 2017 4:03 pm

"zero customers"

I don't believe that the line in question even has any remaining connections with the outside world, does it?

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Notch 8
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Re: New operators of State Fair Train sought

Post by Notch 8 » Mon Jan 30, 2017 6:33 am

Hotbox wrote:"zero customers"

I don't believe that the line in question even has any remaining connections with the outside world, does it?


Nope !

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Re: New operators of State Fair Train sought

Post by Hotbox » Wed Feb 01, 2017 5:51 pm

Notch 8 wrote:

Nope !
[/quote]

If one looks at the old Sanborns along that old LE&W line, it's remarkable how much line side business existed back in the day. Virtually all of it gone now. At one time the LE&W, Monon, and Big Four paralleled each other all the way down to the PRR Main.

One could reconnect with what is now CSX without too much effort utilizing the old Indy Belt right of way. Appears to be intact. But there really isn't much business in place that would justify even the switch maintenance fee I'm sure CSX would insist upon if said switch were re-installed.

Image

I guess there used to be an old connection with the Midland right about the center of Noblesville (Near Vine st) But so much of that has been torn up it would be virtually impossible to restore.

Anybody here familiar with Arbuckles? http://www.arbuckles-rrp.com/

or Nickel Plate Arts? http://nickelplatearts.org/

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