Chesterton Tribune



Chesterton Town Council hears pitch for historic South Shore train line to run to the Downtown

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How cool would it be to ride a vintage South Shore electric train--complete with original cars--from Dune Park Station to Porter to Chesterton and back?

It would be--there’s no denying it--totally retro-rad.

How expensive would it be to build the line itself?

Pretty darn salty, probably.

But to find out just how salty will cost the towns of Chesterton and Porter a minimum of $6,500.

At the Chesterton Town Council’s meeting Monday night, Lorelei Weimer, executive director of the Porter County Recreation, Convention, and Visitors Commission, made a pitch to promote the construction of such a line, which would be operated with vintage South Shore cars collected some 30 years ago by Bob Harris.

Back then the idea was to run a line from Mt. Baldy to the Lighthouse Place. Nothing came of it but Harris still has a collection of South Shore rolling stock valued at over $2 million, which he’s now looking to sell. Or--otherwise--to gift to the right people, if they can bring to fruition a tourist-oriented specialty line.

Richard Riley, owner of the railroad-themed bed-and-breakfast, Riley’s Roadhouse, in Downtown Chesterton, told the council that a line of the type envisioned by Harris and Weimer “would be huge for Chesterton.”

“It’s a real tragedy” that tourists come all the way to Duneland from Chicago, via the South Shore, but have absolutely no way to get themselves from Dune Park Station. There is no real cab service, no bus service, no train service from the station, he said.

Harris, for his part, said that there are nearly 50 communities in the U.S. which use “historic transportation” to attract tourists and to move them from one site to another.

Whether the building of a historic line here in Duneland is even possible, however, is the question. For that reason, Riley said, Stone Consulting would conduct a “physical feasibility” study for $19,500, the whole point of which would be to identify as much as possible the cost and right-of-way issues.

Split three ways--between the PCCRVC, Chesterton, and Porter--the cost of the study would be $6,500. But, Weimer added, she’s currently trying to persuade the Porter County Commissioners to make it a four-way partnership, which would reduce the cost to $4,300 each for Chesterton, Porter and the county.

So far the County Commissioners have not made a commitment.

How would the line actually get across I-94 and Ind. 49? asked Member Jeff Trout, R-2nd.

“The hope” is to use the existing Amtrak line, Riley said.

“It certainly is a treasure trove of equipment and historic artifacts,” noted Member Jim Ton, R-1st.

The council voted 5-0 to take the matter under advisement.



Posted 5/16/2014




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