Boone County / Hamilton County / Regional News

Nickel Plate Express hosts nearly 10,000 passengers during first season

January 17, 2019

The tourism train operating on the Nickel Plate Railroad in northern Hamilton County hosted 9,700 passengers in its inaugural season.

Not-for-profit rail-excursion group Nickel Plate Express reported its passenger numbers this week.

The train began operating in September and ran through December, when its holiday excursion, Reindeer Ride, ended. Reindeer Ride had an average occupancy rate of 90 percent, the nonprofit reported. Nickel Plate Express also hosted several other themed rides, including trips to a pumpkin patch during the Halloween season.

Nickel Plate Express Executive Director Deanna Holt said she is pleased with the occupancy and passenger numbers for the first season.

“Our team worked hard this first year to provide exceptional customer service and fresh programming to keep passengers and community members engaged,” she said in written comments. “I think our passenger numbers show that we achieved this goal. Our wide array of programming themes and strong customer service will help us build on this initial success and grow both revenue and passenger numbers for 2019.”

Ticket prices varied based on the excursion, starting at $19 for adults and $10 for children.

The Nickel Plate Express was created in 2018 to run a tourism train on the Nickel Plate Railroad from Atlanta to Noblesville.  

The Hoosier Heritage Port Authority, which manages the 37 miles of rail track from Tipton to 10th Street in Indianapolis, signed a 15-year operating agreement with Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad Inc.—which operates the Nickel Plate Express—last spring. Nickel Plate Express spent $485,000 restoring the tracks for the 12-mile stretch of the Nickel Plate Railroad.

The railroad’s owners—Fishers, Noblesville and Hamilton County—chose the organization as the new operator in 2017 after ending a longtime agreement with the Indiana Transportation Museum.

The Indiana Transportation Museum operated the State Fair Train and the Polar Bear Express.

Nickel Plate Express will host Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s Day excursions this winter. Regular weekend excursions will return in April.

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