The Porter County Parks and Recreation Board voted 5-0 Thursday on a
location for Illiana Garden Railroad Society’s model railway and village
display that will be on display for park visitors to enjoy at Sunset Hill
It took nearly half a year for a spot to be chosen that could accommodate
the railroad without disrupting other activities in the park, including some
long discussions at several park board meetings, but agreement was reached
on a recent search by members of the park board, park staff, the Northern
Indiana Historical Power Association (NIHPA) and the IGRS.
Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos said a site was found on the grassy area
west of the old bathrooms along the road that leads to the amphitheater,
between Redbud Trail and the pond.
“It appears to fit all the criteria the Society has asked for yet still
works with the constraints with what we have in the plans of developing
Sunset Hill Farm County Park,” Lenckos said.
Board member David Canright said the location looks down on where the new
pier is on the pond but its sits far enough back that there would not be a
“The biggest success is that it’s kid friendly and doesn’t have a big
footprint,” said Canright, who thinks the railroad will complement the
playground and farm animals near the front entrance of the park. “It’s not
too crammed of an area and they can all feed off each other.”
From the IGRS, President David Ransom and Treasurer Owen Todd said the
footprint that the display will require is about 40’ x 80’. They have the
railroad and town scene currently at Samuelson’s Nursery on Ind. 2 near
Washington Twp. School, but with the nursery closing, a new location is
The Society requested that the Park Board consider giving them a space at
Sunset Hill Farm at the board’s meeting last November. There is about 1,100
feet of track that circulate around the model town called Franville with a
mill, baseball diamond, a lake, engine supply yard, a farm and an oil
An outbuilding will be required to store the equipment during the
off-season, they said.
The Society and the park board began looking at possible areas for the
display around the parking lot and barns. Todd said he was reluctant about
putting it farther away from the main parking area as people wouldn’t be
able to see it, but his concerns were eased when Lenckos said signage could
be used to guide visitors and it would be visible to trail users and others
attending activities at the park.
“I don’t see any disadvantage at all. It’s a very nice spot. It’s a
beautiful view and close enough to the bathrooms so we can get power very
quickly,” said Todd.
Parks Communications Director Darlene Cohn said she would help promote the
railroad as families are looking for recreation that their children can
Park Board President Rich Hudson said “it’s very exciting” to have IGRS’
railroad added to the parks list of attractions. “This is a new kind of
partner for us,” he said.
Board member Craig Kenworthy asked if the IGRS will put any fencing around
the display. Todd said eventually they will to protect it from deer.
The board voted 5-0 to accept the location. Absent from the meeting was
member Tom Schnabel.
Ransom said the railroad will be open this season at Samuelson’s Nursery
from May 6 to Sept. 16 and then volunteers will move it to Sunset Hill Farm.
Anyone interested in volunteering can call 219-242-2372, Ransom said, or
visit the Friends of the Illiana Garden Railroad Society’s Facebook page.