Reflections on 2018: An open letter to Hamilton County

To the residents of Hamilton County,

It seems like ages ago that the Nickel Plate Express was starting its maiden voyage on a scorching hot day in late September. Our team was overwhelmed by the support of the community on our big day…400 people came out to ride and celebrate with us. That support from the community has followed us through the rest of this inaugural season. Without a doubt, Hamilton County has been a wonderful place for our train to call home.

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This past year we worked with some amazing local businesses who didn’t mind fulfilling massive orders from the new kids on the track. Sun King and Field Brewing served hundreds of sample-sized brews and pints aboard Ales & Rails while local musicians John Gilmore, Zack Schuyler and Macy Berglund filled the cars with song. The Hamilton Heights High School FFA club spent every Saturday and Sunday in October tending to the pumpkin patch. Gaylor Electric came out on a chilly Saturday in November with spouses and children in tow to attach over 2,000 donated holiday lights to our train. Caravan Classes, a charming art studio located on the Noblesville square and run by a two-woman team, prepared 3,000 crafts for kids (and adults!) to complete aboard the Reindeer Ride Express. Taylor’s Bakery of Fishers didn’t bat an eye when we placed an order for 8,000 reindeer sugar cookies during the month of December. Every step of the way we found businesses in Hamilton County who were willing to rise to the challenge and try something new—often on a tight deadline. For that, we are extremely grateful.

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And it’s not just the businesses we have to thank, but the citizens of Hamilton County as well. The residents of Millersburg all decorated their backyards with holiday lights and inflatables for the Reindeer Ride Express. Children aboard the train seemed thrilled to look out the windows and see all the decorations. And our neighbors on the track didn’t just decorate— they were there dutifully, every Saturday and Sunday, waving at our passengers from their backyards—often in Santa hats! Whenever there was a storm or a heavy gust of wind, our email was flooded with citizens helpfully warning us that a branch or tree was down on the tracks. During one Ghost Express ride a tree had fallen on the tracks, threatening to cut the trip short. As our team of engineers struggled to drag the tree from the tracks a man emerged from his house, chainsaw in his hand, ready to help. Thanks to our heroic neighbor and his chainsaw the train completed its full trip. Hoosier hospitality is second to none.

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 It was an incredible inaugural season and we feel thankful for everyone who made it possible: the businesses who worked with us, sponsors who supported us, the passengers whose smiles made the work worthwhile and the engineers who kept our equipment running during the cold weather.

I’ve picked up a little bit of railroad jargon from the engineers the past several months, my favorite by far being ‘highball.’ Before each excursion departed this year, their voices would cut through the static of the walkie-talkies saying confidently “Let’s Highball!” The phrase, I learned, means “We’re good to go, safe travels.”

We look forward to another great season when operations resume in March. I am confident that the upcoming season will include more of these same people and businesses that make Hamilton County a wonderful place to call home.

In the words of our engineers—and train enthusiasts everywhere— “Let’s Highball!”

- Dagny

Nickel Plate Express team member