Six historic 1950s-era Santa Fe Railway Hi-Level passenger cars have been acquired by Tom Hoback’s Atlanta Pacific Rail, LLC, to be ready for the launch of the new Nickel Plate Express Railroad later this year, according to the railroad’s management team which acquired them in late 2017.
These ground-breaking “hi-level” luxury passenger cars were developed by the Santa Fe Railway Company in 1956 to provide exceptional comfort on the El Capitan luxury train which operated between Chicago and Los Angeles. Unlike conventional passenger cars, these hi-levels were two stories tall, with an upper and lower floor. Most seating is on the upper level which offers better views and a quieter, more comfortable ride. They were developed by the Budd Company of Philadelphia, Pa., and were so successful Santa Fe had another order of similar cars built in 1964. These were among the tallest and heaviest passenger cars ever built at the time.
The trains will have an initial seating capacity of more than 200 and include VIP seating. “The capacity of the train will support the project’s viability,” said Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad Board President Toni Dickover.
Atlanta Pacific Railroad, LLC is under the ownership of Tom Hoback, who sold his highly successful Indiana Rail Road operation in 2015 and came out of semi-retirement to help launch the new “Nickel Plate Express” railroad. Hoback, who has acquired and restored other historic Santa Fe Railway equipment, used several nationally recognized passenger car experts to locate these six historic cars, which include three coaches, two coach transition cars and a diner-lounge. They will undergo renovation before being moved to Indiana this April. Three of the cars will be used initially, while another will be ready later in 2018.
The Arcadia- and Atlanta-based Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad will contract with the Atlanta Pacific Railroad to run the trains, and the non-profit will provide programming, ticketing and customer service operations. Together, the team hopes to offer approximately 100 excursions in 2018.
The goal is to offer dinner, seasonal, thematic and other train excursions during a shortened pilot season in 2018. Additional excursions are expected to be offered to and from Noblesville in 2019. The 2018 pilot season start date will be determined by weather and other factors.
“We continue to work through program options and are in the final stages of finalizing our operating agreement with the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority,” said Dickover. “We want to continue to move forward to make sure this happens sometime in 2018.”
“I’m excited to be a part of a group that will bring a quality train experience to Hamilton County,” said Hoback. “I’m delighted that we were able to find such unique and historic equipment that will appeal to central Indiana!”
About Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad Inc.
Formerly the Arcadia Heritage Depot/Arcadia Arts & Heritage initiative, Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad Inc. is a non-profit. The organization will serve as the governing body for the new heritage railroad operation, Nickel Plate Express. It will manage train programming and marketing with excursion rail service contracted to Atlanta Pacific Rail, LLC .