VALPARAISO | Thousands are expected to flock to the city's transit oriented district in October for the arrival of a train, but it won't be the commuter train city officials have long sought.
The Indiana Historical Society's Bicentennial Train will make a three-day stopover near the Franklin House at Lincolnway and Campbell Street from Oct. 10 to 12 with three boxcars of exhibits highlighting the state's 200th birthday, which actually will be celebrated in 2016.
Amy Lamb, the society's media relations manager, said it will be the history train's second trip to Valparaiso. The last one was in 2007, when more than 4,300 people visited different exhibits despite a torrential rain on the first day that had city workers piling sandbags around the display tents set up in the parking lot.
"It was such an amazing community experience to see the whole community helping," Lamb said. "I really enjoyed my time in Valparaiso, although I got soaking wet."
When deciding the itinerary for the first year of the Bicentennial Train's four-year run. Valparaiso was a quick pick. The train will stop at about four cities each year, and Valparaiso is the third stop on the first year after Kokomo and New Haven, Lamb said.
"There are a lot of factors that go into deciding where the train goes. We have to have other rail companies work with us to get around the state," she said.
The city's Board of Public Works and Safety recently approved the use of the former Amtrak commuter train stop. City Administrator Bill Oeding said the site also was used by the Art Train a few years ago, which also was well-attended. Attendance for the 2007 history train was the highest of any stop in the state, Lamb said.
"One of the things we hope to accomplish is getting communities to think about (the bicentennial) and what they would like to do," Lamb said. "The theme is 'The next Indiana' because we thought it would be interesting if people thought about what they would like the community to be in 100 years."
The three renovated Indiana Railroad Co. box cars still have displays grouped under four categories: land use, community, talent and transportation. In addition to the exhibits on the train, tents will have activities for kids, and Kevin Stonerock will play a historic figure to present lessons about the state.
The train will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, and admission is free. The historic society is looking for local volunteers to help tend the exhibits. Anyone interested can call (317) 232-1882 or email Amanda Aird at firstname.lastname@example.org. A website will be set up later for people to register to volunteer.