CHESTERTON | During Monday night’s Town Council meeting, Fire Chief Mike Orlich announced his retirement effective Friday afternoon.
Orlich has served with the Chesterton Fire Department for 31 years.
Assistant Chief John Jarka was named as interim chief.
Council members thanked Orlich. Those in attendance gave him a standing ovation for his service and dedication to the town.
At the top of the meeting, Lorelei Weimer, executive director of Dunes Tourism, discussed a proposed partnership between her agency, the towns of Porter and Chesterton, along with the Porter County Board of Commissioners to build a railroad for tourists in the area.
She said that historic South Shore equipment, including rail cars, are promised as a gift from the collector to the partners.
“There is a potential gift our county has to receive of South Shore heritage inventory valued at over $2 million,” Weimer said.
The project began when Bob Harris, a collector of vintage South Shore equipment, purchased items to build a connector from Mount Baldy to the Lighthouse Place Mall in Michigan City. That proposal fell apart.
Harris has since moved to Colorado and hopes to give the inventory to the county to build an attraction.
Weimer said she is seeking $19,500 in total from partners to study some options of a train and rail line. One option would link the Indiana Dunes State Park and the Dunes Park South Shore station with the downtowns of Porter and Chesterton. A second option would create a movable attraction between Porter and Chesterton. A third option could be a stationary attraction.
She asked for $4,300 from Chesterton and Porter provided the Porter County Commissioners partner for same amount, otherwise the amount would be $6,500.
Harris, now of Grand Junction, Colo., spoke on the heritage of the South Shore railroad and the rail cars from his collection. They have been preserved and are in operation in Wisconsin.
“It is as significant a piece of history as the streetcars of desire in New Orleans, Louisiana and the streetcars of San Francisco,” Harris said.
He said in nearly 50 communities around the country, historic transportation equipment is used to attract visitors and he encouraged Indiana to use the cars instead of them being sold to other locations.
Richard Riley, of Riley’s Railhouse, spoke about the feasibility study and said the historic railroad has the ability to “change everything for Northwest Indiana,” he said.
The Town Council voted to take it under advisement to review the materials it received.