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Local locomotion organization celebrates 65 years as they provide rides and education to the public

Indiana Live Steamers organization preserves the history of the steam locomotive
Posted at 9:15 AM, Sep 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-02 11:31:49-04

NINEVEH — A local organization is celebrating 65 years of bringing a love of locomotion to the public.

In a quiet Johnson County Park next to Camp Atterbury, the rumbling and rolling of wheels on metal tracks is an unexpected surprise to park visitors. But the vehicles that blow steam are even more unique.

Here on this ground, the non-profit organization, Indiana Live Steamers, has made its home for the last 22 years.

The club is comprised of hobbyists and train enthusiasts. Together, the members are dedicated to preserving the transportation history of steam locomotives.

"Now my mother will tell you, if she was still here, that the first word I probably said was train," Dan Goins, the Indiana Live Steamers president said. "I've been interested as long as I can remember, so way way back."

Goins said the club members all volunteer their time to maintain the track for the park and provide rides to the public.

"And for $4, that's better than any ride at Walt Disney or someplace," Goins said. "You are in the woods, over bridges, under bridges, out in the prairie area. So it's a really good ride."

Their focus is on this 7.5-inch gauge railroad. Goins said the entire operation is a one-eighth scale of a real locomotive and railroad.

Some of the tracks you see at the park are steel and others are aluminum, but they are all laid by hand like a real railroad. The volunteers grade the land, lay some rock, lay the tracks and then more rock.

"This is real rocks, real dirt, and real work," Goins said. "An engine over here can weigh 700 pounds, easy enough."

Some of the trains here are battery operated, others run with gas, but maybe the most interesting ones are those powered by steam.

"I remember steam locomotives, because I'm old enough, but they are big and they move. And so a steam locomotive looks like it's alive," Goins said. "It belches smoke and steam comes out and so you get fascinated."

And fellow train enthusiast and ILS member Joe Hudson agrees.

"Yeah, it's hard to define," Hudson said. "Some people are interested in boats. Some people are interested in airplanes. It just so happens that there's an awful lot of people that like trains."

Hudson says being out on a run is peaceful. He's even seen deer on the rides that go back into the woods of the park.

"We have a lot of repeat visitors," Hudson said in regards to the public runs they do the third Saturday of the month, weather permitting.

The public runs and rides can last anywhere from 18 to 25 minutes depending on which route you take.

Anyone age two and older can ride, and they preach safety. These rides are $4 per rider.

The organization also puts on private birthday parties for kids.

"I mean I've seen families come in for one ride and end up going on every train we have running, which could be up to five," ILD secretary Don Fulk said.

And he built his train, which is battery-powered and also uses a remote control.

It is a fascination, turned into a hobby, and now he travels over an hour to Johnson County Park to be a part of this storied organization.

"Being out on the track, I can just relax," Fulk said.

The public runs are unique to the area. Goins explains that there are other tracks around the country, but many of them are private and not open to the public.

Their next public run is set for September 10 from noon to 4 p.m.

For more information on ILS, visit their website