Chesterton Tribune



Proposal would use historic South Shore cars for trolley system

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The Porter County Visitors Commission board is reviving conversations with the Town of Chesterton and the Town of Porter to create an operational trolley system using vintage South Shore passenger cars by pushing for a feasibility study.

The concept was introduced to both the commission and to the Porter Town Council in October 2012 by Porter resident Sherill Newman who told of a local collector who has procured several old cars circa 1908-1929, two miles of railroad tracks, catenary bridges and ties and was willing to donate them if local agencies wanted to use them for railway extensions.

Newman said then that the service would carry riders from the Indiana Dunes Visitors Center to parts of the Indiana Dunes State Park and the National Lakeshore.

The Porter Town Council had embraced the concept when it was first proposed to them but did not feel it could make the financial commitments required to move the project along.

PCCRVC Executive Director Lorelei Weimer told her board Tuesday that the collector is looking to sell the inventory on the market unless there is action from the tourism bureau and/or the municipalities to continue with the so-called South Shore Train Heritage Line project. The proposal is to include stops for the line within the Town of Porter and the Town of Chesterton, Weimer added.

Other possibilities include having the antique cars and tracks as a moveable or stationary attraction. Weimer insisted that a feasibility study is needed to assess the options in determining how the attraction could be maintained.

A study like this one would cost $19,500, Weimer said. PCCRVC board member Chuck Williams had suggested the cost be split evenly three ways among the visitors commission and the two towns for $6,500 each.

Williams said he thinks the project will be a major tourist draw for Northwest Indiana.

“It could put this area on the map,” he said. “Part of the joy of coming to the park would be to take the train, especially for the little kids.”

Board member and railroad enthusiast Richard Riley, owner of Riley’s Railhouse in Chesterton, said the municipalities have to ask themselves if they want to run the risk of losing these pieces of local history. There have been other South Shore cars that have been sold to collectors in different states, he said.

“Once this is gone, it’s gone. This is our last opportunity to hang on to the heritage (the collector) has,” Riley said.

Board president Mitch Peters favored the project but advised it will take lots of work between the parks and the towns for it to come together, including getting an action from Congress to extend it into the National Lakeshore. “It’s not going to be easy,” he said.

All board members present voted in favor of approving $6,500 toward its share of the feasibility study, which will come from the commission’s budget for contractual services.

Weimer said she was to appear before the Chesterton Town Council this past week to talk about the study but was unable to attend the meeting.

In other business:

-- The board voted unanimously to institute a ten percent late fee in agreements with local businesses to advertise in the PCCRVC’s yearly activities guide with an additional one percent increment for each month payment is delinquent. The action was prompted by two businesses that had yet to settle their invoices for appearing in this year’s guide. Part of the vote was to not allow those two businesses to be included in any of the commission’s promotional material until they pay their balances.

-- PCCRVC Niche Marketing Director Angela Pasyk told the board about “Burger Wars” on social media sites to find the finest burger in Northern Indiana. The event is an effort among the counties in the Northern Indiana Tourism Development Commission to have the public vote on what they believe to be the best burger.

-- Weimer said the south route of the Dunes-Kankakee Trail from Division Rd. down to Ind. 8 in Kouts is being finalized although work has been difficult.

-- Assistant Director Christine Livingston reported good progress has been made in collaboration with the National Park Service in the redesign of the visitor center. A meeting took place this past week discussing different themes.

-- Riley said the March collection of the innkeepers tax was $73,960, which is a 25.7 percent increase on a cash basis from last year.



Posted 4/18/2014




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