Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad

Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad

By Dagny Zupin, Communications Director
Nickel Plate Express

Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad is the new operator of the railroad formerly operated by Indiana Transportation Museum. It is owned by the City of Fishers, the City of Noblesville and Hamilton County and managed by the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority (HHPA). The HHPA was created to provide oversight and manage the 37 miles of ex-Nickel Plate track that runs from Tipton, IN to downtown Indianapolis.

The Nickel Plate Express will operate on the 12.4 miles of track between Atlanta and Noblesville. Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad has a 10- year contract with HHPA to serve as the operator of the line with a renewable 5-year option. Locals can watch for maintenance crew as they begin track restoration in May.

Located in Arcadia, Ind., Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad, Inc. is a new iteration of the Arcadia
Heritage Depot, Inc., a charitable non-profit that manages an almost 150-year-old depot in downtown Arcadia. The depot will celebrate its 150th birthday in 2019, having been constructed
in 1869. It was moved in 1973 after volunteers worked feverishly to fundraise and save it, and has served as a community center, library and museum for decades. In 2007, it went through a restoration process and again in 2013. More recently, it has also served as an art gallery.

The Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad will partner with Atlanta Pacific Rail, LLC to provide year round
programming beginning in September 2018. The Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad will serve as the programmer for the train while the Atlanta Pacific Rail will operate and maintain the equipment, as well as the rail line, through the contractual agreement.

Nickel Plate Express

Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad, Inc. will operate trains as the Nickel Plate Express, focusing on themed excursions that include upscale dining experiences and related activities from March through December.

Operation Plans: Short Term

During the 2018 opening season— which is slated to begin September 1— the Nickel Plate Express (NPE) will operate themed excursions on Saturdays and Sundays, with some additional evening dinner and specialty trains available. Programs for 2018 will include family-friendly excursions, as well as excursions for adults. NPE plans to offer exceptional customer service and a robust programming list to entertain and educate rail fans of all ages. An official excursion schedule will be released in June announcing programming for the remainder of 2018.

Operations Plans: Long Term

In 2019 NPE will expand programming and offer fine dining in the dining and lounge car, with dining options from local caterers.

NPE is a community-led initiative that plans to bring economic development and tourism to northern Hamilton County by highlighting the county’s rich railroad history and providing exceptional excursion services. Local organizations and businesses will be involved in this new and exciting venture through programming partnerships.

“The Nickel Plate Express team is working hard this summer to provide fun, family friendly themed trains and remarkable dining car experiences for adults,” said Executive Director Deanna Holt. “Exceptional customer service aboard safe, historic, beautiful trains will be our top priority.”

Atlanta Pacific Rail, LLC.

Rail service for the Nickel Plate Express will be operated by Atlanta Pacific Rail, LLC, owned by long-time railroad operator, Tom Hoback. Known for his decades of growth and ownership of the Indiana Railroad, Hoback ran one of the most successful regional railroads in the country. He sold his company to CSX in 2015.

Funding and Support

Financial support has been imperative for the start-up. Approximately $1.5 million was needed to acquire equipment and restore the rail line between Atlanta and Noblesville. The National Bank of Indianapolis has agreed to underwrite the rail restoration and development of the storage facility for the equipment in Atlanta; the Atlanta Pacific Rail has acquired the equipment and will sell it to the Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad through a loan. Hamilton County Tourism and the Hamilton County Visitor and Convention Commission will commit community asset based development funds to support the project, as it has done for other projects in the county. Beyond the initial start-up support, Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad will rely heavily on earned revenue from ticket and program sales and sponsorships.

The Trains

Atlanta Pacific Rail and the Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad have acquired four 1950s era Santa Fe El Capitan Hi-level passenger and dining cars. Two of the Hi-levels are passenger cars, with the third car serving as lounge and dining area on the upper level.

The final car is a transition car. These unique historic passenger cars were developed by the Santa Fe in 1956 to provide exceptional comfort on the El Capitan between Chicago and Los Angeles. The cars are currently undergoing restoration in Tennessee and will be delivered to Atlanta in late summer.

Stay Up-To-Date

You can stay up-to-date on track restoration and upcoming excursions via the website: or the Facebook page: Nickel Plate Express.

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