Chesterton Tribune

Photo: NICTD board splits to donate historic line car to Indiana preservation group

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(Photo Below)

By PAULENE POPARAD

Directors of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District that owns and operates the South Shore passenger service voted 7-4 Friday to donate the railroad’s historic maintenance line car to a local public/private coalition rather than to the Illinois museum recommended by NICTD’s own committee.

NICTD member Sam Melnick of LaPorte County said his three-member committee assigned numerical scores to rate the two proposals objectively. The Illinois Railroad Museum in Union, IL scored 255 of 300 possible points and the Indiana-based Line Car Preservation Group scored 214 points.

Based on those results, Melnick said he, NICTD purchasing manager Randy Welch and electrical engineer Victor Babin decided the museum’s proposal was in the best interest of the line car, even though disposing of it was an emotional issue. NICTD board members thanked the committee for its efforts but some said the 41-point ranking spread was not that far apart.

The winning coalition to receive the line car, built in 1926, consists of the following members:

• The Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum, a working railroad museum in North Judson, IN which will take physical possession of and title to Line Car 1100, and where it will be restored.

• The National New York Central Railroad Museum in and owned by the city of Elkhart, IN where Line Car 1100 and its companion reel car eventually will be exhibited until a permanent home is provided. According to the Preservation Group, a future museum expansion will include a 3/4-mile section of electrified trackage to permit operation of the South Shore cars on display.

• The non-profit South Shore Line Heritage Foundation, which will provide advice and expertise on the restoration, preservation and display of Line Car 1100, and work to provide a permanent location for it. The foundation is currently working with numerous groups to coordinate and administer a wide range of South Shore passenger line-related heritage initiatives and programs.

• The Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, which will administer and disburse proceeds of a fund that a donor has committed to be used by Hoosier Valley for Line Car 1100, and will assist in raising additional funds for the project. So far gifts and pledges totaling $160,000 have been received; a campaign to raise the balance of the estimated $321,500 budget will be led by the Director of Major Gifts for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation of Virginia.

• The National Park Service, whose specialists will assist with historic documentation, the National Register nomination process, and overall preservation, restoration and public display including the staff of Steamtown National Historic site, which operates an active railroad restoration shop.

• The Calumet Regional Archives of Indiana University Northwest, which will provide advice and expertise regarding the history of the South Shore and Line Car 1100’s place in it.

The Preservation Group’s three-part proposal clearly states its members strongly believe the line car should be preserved, restored and displayed in northwest Indiana. Some NICTD board members apparently wanted a firmer commitment before awarding the line car to the group.

“Is there any chance this car will leave northwest Indiana?” asked NICTD Chairman David Niezgodski, a St. Joseph County Commissioner. He suggested if it does leave, ownership reverts back to NICTD.

Preservation Group spokesperson Speros Batistatos said, “I cannot speak for all six (partners) but we wouldn’t ask for this if the goal were not to keep the line car here.”

NICTD member and Porter County Commissioner John Evans said it would be only fair to ask the Illinois Railroad Museum if it also would be willing to keep the line car in Indiana, a stipulation not contained in NICTD’s original solicitation. Amending those terms now would be like allowing a bid to be changed, he added.

Lake County Commissioner Frances DuPey of NICTD said her heart is with keeping the line car here, and that receiving it could be the springboard for a local railroad museum. She suggested approving the Preservation Group’s proposal subject to additional requirements to be approved at NICTD’s November meeting.

Said Evans, “You’re putting the caboose before the engine.”

LaPorte County Council member Mark Yagelski suggested the Preservation Group be given the line car and if significant progress isn’t made within 24 months, the car would be awarded to the Illinois Railroad Museum. Melnick, an attorney, said it would be difficult to draft and enforce such a contingency for what he described as “a one-of-a-kind piece of equipment.”

Added Evans, “This is too big a decision to say, ‘Go ahead and we’ll get the requirements later.’ We need something to measure against at the end of the time period.”

Batistatos said as for restoring the line car, “We’re willing to do that in 12 months, let alone 24.” Specifically, the project schedule in the Preservation Group’s proposal sets a target date of May, 2005 for opening of the exhibit featuring the restored line car.

Porter County Commissioner William Carmichael of NICTD asked if the line car would be safely secured while in the Preservation Group’s care; Batistatos said it would. The Governor’s Appointee to NICTD, transportation professor Dr. George Smerk of Indiana University, said he has visited all the major railroad museums and the Illinois Railroad Museum is among the very best.

At one point during the discussion it was suggested the line car title not transfer to the Preservation Group until NICTD is satisfied it has complied with its proposal. Said Batistatos, “You want us to put $300,000 into a car we don’t own?”

Those voting yes on Lake County Council member Will Smith’s amended motion to award the Preservation Group the line car if it is kept in Indiana were members Paul Pobereyko representing commuters, Yagelski, Smith, Niezgodski, DuPey, Carmichael and labor representative Dennis Burke. Voting no were Melnick, Evans, Smerk and St. Joseph County Councilman Mark Catanzarite.

After the vote, Batistatos said the Preservation Group can live with the conditions set by NICTD. “It’s important to realize these aren’t new conditions. These are conditions we clearly set forth in writing in our proposal. Had all the board read it I’m confident the discussion today wouldn’t have taken place.”

Overall, “We’re pleased with the show of support from the elected officials from northwest Indiana who are sensitive to the stories this line car can tell,” said Batistatos.

In other business Friday, the NICTD board unanimously approved a new contract with the union representing 80 carmen, one of six unions representing South Shore passenger-service employees. The pact is subject to ratification by the carmen’s union.

NICTD general manager Gerald Hanas said the terms are in line with national rail contracts.

Major terms include some work rule changes and a 2.5 percent wage increase effective Oct. 1 and 3 percent annual increases effective Jan. 1, 2004 through Jan. 1, 2007.

At the request of the Gary/Chicago Airport, the name of NICTD’s Clark Road stop, very near the airport, was unanimously changed to Gary/Chicago Airport.

The change will be reflected on the next printing of NICTD schedules; signage changes will be minimal.

The low $114,780 bid of McCann Industries of Schererville was accepted for a Case 3.25-yard loader. Three other bids were submitted. The estimated cost was $125,000.

The public was reminded that additional cars will be added on Train 600 arriving in Chicago at 7 a.m. Oct. 12 for the Chicago Marathon.

Historic line car to be saved: A coalition of six area preservation groups Friday were awarded possession of the South Shore passenger service’s line car, built in 1926 as a passenger coach and modified in 1947 for catenary maintenance and repairs. The South Shore used the line car until now, when a new $1.7 million modern replacement has arrived. Among the known historic photographs of the line car, like the one above, is a photo of the electric-powered car being pulled by a mule. (Photo provided by Line Car Preservation Group)

 

Line Car is living history

What’s so special about the South Shore’s now-retired Line Car 1100? According to railroad officials and railroading buffs, plenty.

The Line Car Preservation Group, which Friday was awarded possession of the line car within 30 days, considers it “a significant artifact of Indiana history.” Operating through the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression and every decade since, the group believes Car 1100 to be a valuable teaching tool to describe the region’s industrialization and resulting cultural changes.

Three railroads operating between Louisville and Chicago/South Bend used the car for a total of 77 years, almost exclusively in Indiana. “The car served in four distinct types of electric railway service. We are aware of no other single interurban railway vehicle for which that is true,” according to the Preservation Group’s proposal to NICTD.

Built in St. Louis in 1926, the rail car (originally No. 376) carried first-class passengers as an electric parlor on one of the Indiana Service Corporation’s Wabash Valley Flyers. Samuel Insull’s Indiana Railroad used it as a passenger coach/baggage car. In 1935 it became a combination passenger/railway post office car where mail was sorted and delivered along the train routes.

According to the South Shore, the Indiana Railroad operated the train car on interurban lines throughout Indiana until 1941 when it was purchased by the Chicago, South Shore and South Bend Railroad, which in 1947 renumbered and rebuilt it as Line Car 1100 used for maintenance and repairs.

The South Shore passenger service, the nation’s last operating interurban electric railroad, was acquired by the publicly owned Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District in 1990. NICTD has continued to use Car 1100 as its primary vehicle for maintaining and repairing the fragile overhead electric catenary system that powers the railroad’s cars. Initial work has begun to upgrade the catenary system.

In 2002 NICTD ordered a $1.7 million new line car and trailer car with modern equipment and conveniences to facilitate the catenary upgrade and make emergency repairs. The vehicle recently was delivered and was at the Dune Park train station in Westchester Township on Friday for inspection.

The Preservation Group’s proposal notes that it believes interpreting Car 1100’s significance is equal in importance to restoring and exhibiting it.

As an example, when first built as Car 376 it helped win the railroading public’s confidence that they wouldn’t be electrocuted even though the steel-body train cars were powered by electricity.

 

Posted 9/29/2003