Indiana short line and town settle dispute over operations

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North Judson, Ind.
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WASHINGTON — The Surface Transportation Board has formalized a settlement that involves the Chesapeake & Indiana Railroad, its landlord, the town of North Judson, Ind.; and the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson.

The board ruled Nov. 28 that the Chesapeake & Indiana could discontinue operations on 5.45 miles of track between North Judson and English Lake, Ind. The discontinuance means the town may host museum excursion trains outside STB jurisdiction without impeding the short line's growing freight business.

North Judson in 2003 took ownership of 28 miles of CSX Transportation, formerly Chesapeake & Ohio, rail line between North Judson and Wellsboro in northwestern Indiana. The Chesapeake & Indiana, owned by Indiana Boxcar Corp., began operations in 2004.

In 2016, a long-simmering dispute between the short line, the town, and the museum over the museum's access to the railroad became public in a tangle of litigation and STB petitions. The museum charged that the Chesapeake & Indiana was barring excursion trains, contrary to its agreement with the town. The Chesapeake & Indiana said the museum violated certain Federal Railroad Administration safety rules, and that it did not want to be held liable if passengers were injured while riding museum trains.

The Chesapeake & Indiana operates primarily on the northern sections of the railroad line, providing service to two large elevators in Malden and Union Mills, Ind., owned by Co-Alliance LLP. Traffic has grown from a few hundred carloads in 2004 to more than 4,000 so far in 2017, Indiana Boxcar President Powell Felix tells Trains News Wire in an email. Felix says he expected greater growth in 2018 with gypsum deliveries to a new wallboard factory. It uses additional trackage to LaCrosse, Ind., for car storage.

In September, the town and the railroad negotiated a settlement that will allow Chesapeake & Indiana to operate for the next 10 years. Felix said the town receives “a lot” of revenue from railroad operations, but declined to give an exact figure.

It's unclear how the settlement will affect the Hoosier Valley museum. Museum officials had not responded to questions sent by email by the time this story was written.

According to its website three Santa Trains scheduled for December had sold out.
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