Covered wagons center on Indiana for Christmas

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The Polar Bear Express, using leased Iowa Pacific Holdings Co. equipment, departs North-bound from Kokomo, Ind., on Sunday, Dec. 16.
Steve Smedley
KOKOMO, Ind. — If you need a Christmas-time covered wagon fix, central Indiana is the place to go.

Two holiday passenger operations there are featuring classic Electro-Motive Division cab units as power.

The first is the Polar Bear Express, operating over Winamac Southern Railway trackage rights from Kokomo to Lincoln, Ind.

The train is being staffed and operated by volunteers from the Indiana Transportation Museum, using a leased trainset from Iowa Pacific Holdings and features Illinois Central Railroad E9 No. 101, pulling Pullman built car Ponchartrain Club, trailed by former NJ Transit commuter cars in an Illinois Central-inspired paint scheme.

After a North-bound run from Kokomo to Lincoln, Ind., the train makes a back-up move to return to Kokomo. The last car has been equipped with lights and an air horn, but staff also uses hi-rail trucks to safely flag the train over crossings on the return to Kokomo.

More information on this train is available online.

Further South at Atlanta, Ind., the Nickel Plate Express is operating the Reindeer Ride Express with a leased former Erie Mining Railroad F9, No. 4214, one of two restored to service by Indiana Boxcar’s Olin Locomotive Shops.

The F9 is coupled to a silver boxcar holding a head-end power generator and features four restored former Santa Fe El Capitan hi-level passenger cars built in 1956. The train operates between Atlanta and Cicero, Ind. The train operates in pull-pull fashion with a GE center cab pulling the train back North to Atlanta.

Bret Davis, operations manager for Atlanta Pacific Rail, the group contracted to run the train for the Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad is a non-profit, with main creditors through Hancock County Tourism, along with Tom Hoback, a lead investor in the group. Hoback is the founder of Indiana Railroad and owns Atlanta Pacific Rail.

The locomotive and cars had to be trucked from Lapel, Ind., to Atlanta, due to the railroad being without an outside connection.

More information on this train is available online.

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