Nickel Plate Express offers good times and adventure
Writer / Julie Yates
Noblesville has a long-standing enthusiasm and appreciation for historic trains. After a few years’ absence, residents can again hear locomotive whistles that signal good times and adventure. The Nickel Plate Express, an excursion train that functions out of Atlanta, Indiana, has begun offering some select rides that depart from Forest Park.
When it was founded as a non-profit organization in 2017, the Nickel Plate Express benefited from the expertise of Tom Hoback, retired president of Indiana Railroad, and the foresight of Brenda Myers, president and CEO of Hamilton County Tourism. Its continual goal is to increase economic growth as well as educate riders on the rich railroad history of surrounding communities by offering a variety of outings that appeal to all ages.
“The Nickel Plate Express uses a 1956 diesel locomotive and El Capitan Hi-Level luxury cars that were built for the Santa Fe Railroad. The upper floor seating is further away from the track so it is quieter and gives passengers better views. The cars were built to compete with airline travel, which was just beginning at the time,” says Dagny Zupin, communications coordinator.
During its first season in 2018, it operated only out of Atlanta.
“We had 12,000 passengers from September through December,” Zupin says. The response was so positive because we have such a great staff. They make it really special for the customer and give them a great experience. We began offering rides which board in Forest Park this past July”
The rides have different themes and price points that are intended for couples and families. One upcoming ride that will originate from Forest Park is designed to be the perfect date night. The Spirits Express on September 7 features an hour and 15-minute sunset ride and includes a snack and cash bar. The cost is $16 and is for ages 21 and up.
The Wizard Express in October begins in Noblesville and is designated as either family-friendly or adult. Each participant receives a wand and a butter beverage or a flight of alcohol-infused potions. Dressing in costume is encouraged. Tickets are $25 for children and $27 for adults.
There are some additional excursions that Zupin is especially looking forward to.
“In October we are again having the Pumpkin Express. The train goes right to the Hamilton Heights FFA pumpkin patch. There will be an activity on the train as well as games and pumpkin picking,” Zupin says. “In November and December, the train is beautifully decorated with lights donated by Gaylord Electric for the Reindeer Ride Express. Riders are treated to hot chocolate, cookies and a commemorative craft. Both of these trips depart from Atlanta.”
Funds needed to operate the Nickel Plate Express come from loans, grants and community sponsors. Besides Gaylord Electric, other sponsors include Paddocks Heavy Equipment Transport, Duke Energy Foundation, and 10 West Restaurant and Bar. The organization also relies on in-kind donations from businesses, such as Schuck’s Welding and Fabrication, Stacy’s Excavating, and Triple N Construction.
“We were excited about the great reception we had in Noblesville in July. We plan to continue expanding our boarding options. Right now, the existing tracks run right into Forest Park, but it is possible that someday the train could go up to Noblesville Square,” Zupin says.
Nickel Plate Express is located at 105 E. Main St. For a complete list of rides and ticket purchasing information, visit NickelPlateExpress.com