Indiana Transportation Museum Files Federal Temporary Restraining Order Against the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority

TRO Could Prevent Take Over of Nickel Plate Railroad

and State Fair Train


INDIANAPOLIS, July 10, 2017- The Indiana Transportation Museum today filed a temporary restraining order against the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority and other parties in the United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, to prevent the Authority from committing several acts that could irreparably damage the Museum, the Nickel Plate tracks and the Museum’s historical assets and artifacts.

The Hoosier Heritage Port Authority was scheduled to meet Monday night.

The temporary restraining order is necessary, Museum Board Chair John McNichols said, because the Museum believes the Authority plans to announce the results of a request for proposal to run the rail lines a month earlier than stated in the RFP, take control of the railroad tracks and evict the Museum from its home at Forest Park in Noblesville. Forest Park is owned by the City of Noblesville. Specifically, if granted, the order restrains the Authority from:

  • Destroying rail tracks
  • Evicting the ITM from is site at Forest Park in Noblesville, and
  • Granting an operator through the Authority’s RFP issued in June.

If granted, the order would also rescind the original Authority suspension of Museum trains and allow the ITM to operate on the line immediately based on Federal Railroad Administration findings.

The request to the court includes that it be placed on an “expedited schedule” meaning the order could be implemented within 10 days. McNichols said “that is not without precedent and due to the circumstances it’s likely.”

If successful, the suit could allow the beloved State Fair Train (sm), the Polar Bear Express Train (sm) and future excursion trains to run on the Nickel Plate tracks.

“This litigation is the last thing we wanted to do, but the Authority and the owners – the cities of Noblesville, Fishers and Hamilton County– left us with no options if we want to continue and grow the legacy of historic railroads in central Indiana,” McNichols said. “If successful, we could have the State Fair Train up and running to serve the families and children who love the Fair Train by the start of the 2017 Indiana State Fair.”

The Museum in June sent the Authority and others the required initial notice of a tort claim for damages according to Indiana Code 34-13-3 through 25. “This is a civil rights case brought against government entities and named officials because our organization’s civil rights to conduct business have been violated through a lack of due process and bad faith negotiations,” McNichols said. The Museum is an IRS-designated 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization.

“Because of the order to suspend operations by the authority last year, we’ve lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. And since our museum is an all-volunteer organization and does not receive any government funding this is a serious blow.” The Museum’s trains, crews and track are reviewed and certified by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Support for the Museum and its historic and entertainment trains is growing. The independent Noblesville Preservation Alliance issued this statement Friday, July 7:

“The Noblesville Preservation Alliance supports the preservation of the Nickel Plate railroad and train as integral to the history and heritage of Noblesville and the state of Indiana. It is our hope that a viable solution to present challenges will include the continuous operation of this unique historic treasure – from Noblesville to Indianapolis and to northern Hamilton County communities.

 “We encourage careful consideration of the increasing rarity and value of such trains, potential for economic benefit to our community and vital contribution to the enjoyment and education of current and future generations. Noblesville is distinguished and admired for its singular achievement of successfully managing growth while developing into a highly desirable modern community that has preserved its unique character and historic appeal.

“Fortunately, Noblesville does not need to recreate the charm of the past – only to continue to value and preserve the meaningful things we have not lost. We are very proud of our beautiful city, and view the train as an essential component of its character and appeal. Please consider preserving this irreplaceable community asset.”


The independent “Save the Nickel Plate” volunteer group has more than 6,000 signatures to “save the train” and preserve the second oldest railroad in the state.

The Indiana Transportation Museum, headquartered in Forest Park, 825 Park Dr., Noblesville, Indiana, is a nonprofit museum and heritage railroad operation founded in 1960. The Museum mission is to engage and inspire generations regarding the rich culture and heritage of America’s and Indiana’s railroads by bringing to life the art, science and technology that defined the industry.

The institution exists as a community-centered partner for the region and Indiana for education, tourism development, economic benefit and preservation of our rich heritage. The Museum sees visitors from across Indiana, the United States and the world.