New railcars will travel from French Lick to Jasper


FRENCH LICK — Two historic railway passenger cars destined to bring French Lick visitors to Jasper will be renovated in the next year.

The Indiana Railway Museum plans to restore and refurbish two passenger cars it owns. The museum was awarded a $250,000 Destination Development grant this month from the Indiana Office of Tourism Development for the work.

“There is passenger service from Jasper to French Lick, but none from French Lick to Jasper,” said Rick Olson, general manger of the museum. “We want to give our visitors, including those who are visiting our hotels, an opportunity to go to Jasper to enjoy the day and explore the area.”

The cars will also be used to host dinner trains originating in French Lick. “The Jasper dinner train and the French Lick dinner train will complement each other,” Olson said.

A third function of the cars will be providing additional seats for the museum’s popular events like the seasonal Polar Express train, which hauled 35,000 passengers last year.

The two passenger cars that will be refurbished — a 1940s-era Atlantic Coast Line Railroad car and a 1950s-era Canadian National Railway dining car — have been in the museum’s possession since the 1980s. “We own them, but they are not in usable condition,” Olson said.

The plan is to send the cars to Crossroads Railcar Services in Stearns, Kentucky, in May for the refurbishing and renovations. Olson expects to get the cars back in July 2019.

“There is a lot of work that goes in refurbishing a car,” he said.

New seating will be installed and both will be painted a light green color to match another car the museum uses. The cars will also get new seating and a new heating and air conditioning system.

“A lot of the historic elements of the cars remain, but we will have them in a better, more durable condition,” Olson said. “The historic feel will be there, but there will be some modern updates for the 21st century.”

Once the cars are finished and sent back, the museum will do test runs of the cars on the railroad in late 2019. The museum will determine when the cars will be open for service after renovations are complete.

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