ITM Lease Within Forest Park


The Indiana Transportation Museum’s lease within Forest Park is due to expire on March 1, 2018. The Noblesville Parks and Recreation Board, with full support of the City of Noblesville administration, has decided to not renew ITM’s lease based on several factors:

  • The environmental contamination caused by ITM has tarnished Forest Park. After more than six months of investigation by the city and by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, ITM’s leadership has failed to take public responsibility for its actions and have dragged out the process for clean-up – referring to the investigation as “trumped up” despite reports from IDEM that confirm the city’s concerns.
  • ITM has squandered its opportunity as the sole operator of the Nickel Plate Railroad in Noblesville for several decades through questionable management, failure to complete locomotive restoration projects that were funded by federal grants, empty promises and frivolous lawsuits that have been thrown out of federal court.
  • By removing ITM from Forest Park, the newly formed Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad can formalize its plans to bring the Nickel Plate Express excursion trains to Noblesville starting in 2019. As the only rail operator chosen by the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority, this group will begin operations between Atlanta and Arcadia starting in 2018. They are backed by Hamilton County Tourism and Thomas Hoback who brings a long, storied career as a quality railroad operator, including ownership of the Indiana Railroad.

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 – the Nickel Plate Express.

    Environmental Document Links

5/30/2017           Notice of default of lease terms, demand removal, remediation

07/20/2017         IDEM violation letter from 06/09/2017 inspection

07/29/2017         ITM 60-day short-term response update with waste disposal inventory

08/08/2017         EPA PCB inspection report

08/23/2017         ITM 30-day response violation letter to IDEM

09/15/2017         Official materials inventory for 1,064 items submitted to IDEM

09/27/2017         IDEM review of ITM’s initial site investigation work plan

11/22/2017         ITM initial site investigation work plan, revised

For more information regarding the environmental clean-up of Forest Park, click here.

    Questions & Answers
    • A) The Noblesville Parks and Recreation Board and Indiana Transportation Museum entered into the most recent lease agreement on February 4, 2015 and ending on March 1, 2016. The lease is automatically renewed as four additional one-year terms unless either party elects not to renew the agreement by giving written notice to the other party not less than sixty (60) days prior to the end of each term.

      As part of the agreement, ITM pays the city $10 per year to lease the space. ITM agrees to keep and maintain the leased property in a clean, sightly and healthful condition, and in good repair at its own expense and shall yield the same back to the city upon termination of the lease. ITM’s use of the premises shall not violate any governmental rule, regulation or statute and at all times comply with the rules and regulations of the landlord.
    • A) The City of Noblesville has always provided taxpayer support of the Nickel Plate through the necessary improvements made at all railway intersections, as well as road work on 8th Street where the train tracks sit within the roadway from Logan Street to Division Street.

      The City also procured two separate funding awards from the Indiana Department of Transportation for use by the ITM – totaling $454,343. In January 2004, $289,426 was awarded for passenger car rehabilitation. However, INDOT ended funding in December 2015 as ITM never began work on the project. In 2005, $164,917 was awarded for steam locomotive rehabilitation. INDOT again ended funding in December 2015 as the project was by that time four years behind schedule.

      In 1998, ITM received a $220,000 loan from the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority and an additional $50,000 loan for operating expenses.

      Hamilton County Tourism first began working on railroad improvements with ITM in 2006 and contributed more than $500,000 in lodging tax dollars and other resources on grants and services to help support the organization.
    • A) When the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority contracted with ITM to serve as the rail operator, ITM was charged with maintaining the rail and was permitted to run its tourism excursion trains as part of the agreement.
    • A) The city is all for saving the trains and preserving its railroad history – but responsibly and within the city’s plans for future growth of the community. The city is taking this action to end the lease with ITM in order to save the trains – giving the new operator the chance to bring a safe, clean and fun excursion train experience for visitors and residents while honoring the Nickel Plate’s rich heritage. Residents will someday soon hear the trains rumbling through Forest Park and to downtown Noblesville.
    • A) ITM claims their Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code is 8412 (museums and art galleries), which may be true for the locomotive cars that do not move. However, the north half of the property is more accurately used by ITM as an SIC code of 3743 (railroad equipment manufacturing or heavy repair). This is considered to be a very industrialized use and not one used by museums. Furthermore, some of ITM’s activities should not take place adjacent to a residential area or in a public park.
    • A) These actions regarding ITM’s lease have nothing to do with any trail proposed by the City of Noblesville. If the Nickel Plate Trail is built, it will remain south of downtown Noblesville and south of the current ITM location. The city’s action regarding ITM’s lease is based on the organization’s failure as a tenant in Forest Park, its failure to take responsibility for the environmental conditions it caused at a treasured city park and its failure as the sole operator on the Nickel Plate Railroad, which its leadership has squandered.
    • A) Despite the city’s best efforts to maintain a cooperative relationship with ITM, issues between the Parks Board and ITM over their unsightly conditions have been ongoing since the 1990s. On at least two occasions - March 7, 2005 and February 4, 2008 - the board gave ultimatums to ITM about the lack of information requested and the appearance of the grounds. Each time, the board informed the ITM to “clean it up or get off the property.” The Parks Board even provided additional dumpsters to assist with clean-up efforts. It was not until May 2017 when the city became aware of the potential contamination of the site by ITM and raised the concerns beyond mere aesthetics to one that threatens the health and safety of our treasured city park.
    • A) The city has no interest in keeping ITM’s equipment and instead will facilitate the organization removing it from the park ground. The new operator to Forest Park has its own rolling stock for future train excursions in Hamilton County.
    Nickel Plate Express
  • ITM’s contract to operate trains on the Nickel Plate in Hamilton County was suspended by the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority (HHPA) in March 2016 due to concerns about the condition of the tracks that were found to be in disrepair by independent railroad experts, and ITM’s mismanagement as reported by former volunteers that led to the Indiana Attorney General’s ongoing investigation.
  • Nickel Plate ExpressIn April 2017, HHPA released its request to solicit proposals from interested operators for the development of railroad operations on the Nickel Plate. In June, each of the five proposals submitted was independently scored by the HHPA, and in September, the new operator was announced.
  • With backing from Hamilton County Tourism and Indiana Railroad’s Thomas Hoback, the Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad was awarded the contract with plans to begin operating the Nickel Plate Express out of Atlanta, Ind. starting in 2018.
  • The City of Noblesville is in discussions with Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad to ensure the Nickel Plate Express includes Noblesville in its excursion train route starting in 2019.
  • Forest Park is expected to become a major stop on the new Nickel Plate Express. Plans include bringing the Nickel Plate Express across the White River Bridge to the edge of the downtown square – ensuring the history and heritage of the Nickel Plate Railroad remains vibrant in the Noblesville community for generations to come.
  • For more information, please visit

    Nickel Plate Trail


  • These actions regarding ITM’s lease have nothing to do with any trail or road project proposed by the City of Noblesville. If the Nickel Plate Trail is built, it will remain south of downtown Noblesville and south of the Nickel Plate Railroad.
  • The city’s action regarding ITM’s lease is based on ITM’s failure as a tenant in Forest Park, its failure to take responsibility for the environmental conditions it caused at a treasured city park and its failure as the sole operator on the Nickel Plate Railroad, which its leadership has squandered.
  • The process for railbanking, if approved by the federal government, would allow for the city to convert the southern portion of the train tracks to a multipurpose trail, which Noblesville has proposed to build from Pleasant Street south across 146th Street into Fishers.
  • The railbanking effort and any subsequent trail construction would have zero impact on the operation of the Nickel Plate Express that will run north from downtown Noblesville to Atlanta, Ind. – except that Noblesville would be home to two fantastic amenities that are linked by the Nickel Plate name, both of which can promote the cultural heritage of Noblesville’s railroad history.

    Additional Links

12.20 – News Release: City Chooses To Not Renew Lease With Indiana Transportation Museum

Parks Board Past Issues with ITM

Nickel Plate Express

ITM-Parks Board Lease Agreement

Indiana Department of Environmental Management

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