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© April 26, 2006 

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Live Steam Railroads on Public Land
Part I   (N.E.O.L.S.)


Written by Richard Dute.

 Photo courtesy of the N.E.O.L.S. secretary; Barbara Parkinson

Editors Note:When it comes to land for a live steam track, the choices are only two: locate your live steam railroad on private land or public land.  There are advantages to each.  One obvious advantage to public land is that you don't need large amounts of cash to purchase a suitable site for the track.  An obvious disadvantage to public land is a lack of control. There are other advantages and disadvantages.  What follows is a discussion of the pros and cons of operating a live steam track on land which is owned by the tax payers.

Here are just some of the live steam tracks that run on public lands:

  • Great Lakes Live Steamers

  • NorthEastern Ohio Live Steamers

  • Indiana Live Steamers

  • Largo Central Railroad

  • Houston Area Live steamers

  • Chula Vista Live Steamers

  • Long Island Live Steamers

  • Tradewinds & Atlantic Railroad

  • Orland, Newville & Pacific Railroad

  • Maricopa Live Steamers

  • Los Angles Live Steamers

There are other tracks scattered across the US and in other countries.  All of these railroads had to come to an agreement with local government as to how the railroad could operate in the "public interest".

Richard Dute, a member of the Northeastern Ohio Live Steamers Inc., recently told us about N.E.O.L.S.

The N.E.O.L.S. was started in 1969 by myself and 15 other live steamers. From 1971 thru 1998 we operated on 7 acres of land we leased from a local industry. We had a well established facility, with approx. 1 mile of mainline. In 1998 we got a notice the property had been sold ($950,000.00). Our 7 acres was part of a 30 acre tract.

From fall of 1998 thru 2000 we looked for a new location for our railroad. The problems encountered were the land was too expensive, too far away, unusable for our needs or zoning prohibited it. in the beginning we didn't really think about a public park. We wanted our own property. But, after two years of looking and finding nothing, we heard about a new county park being built in the area by the Medina County Park System, Medina, Ohio. Why not give it a try? Another member and I went to talk to the Park Director. When we brought up the idea of a railroad in the park he said "no". They had a final design for that park. We thought well that's that. Then he said " we are planning another park about 5 miles away, if we would be interested in going there. maybe something may be worked out. They thought of building this park with a railroad thyme. Over the 6 months we prepared a presentation to the Park Board and took them to a private track to see first hand what we wanted to build in the park. At the end of the 6 months we had an agreement to use approx, 8+ acres in the park.

Photos curtsey of  Northeastern Ohio Live Steamers web site.

In the spring of 2001 we started to work. We built a full size station (form B&O drawings) for a club house. Grading and Bridge construction began, followed by the track. In the fall of 2003 we gave our first public ride. In 2004 and 2005 we had 5 public runs each year. During 2005 we averaged 1000+ riders each day.  In 2004 the Park acquired 12 acres adjacent to the 8 we were using. And asked us if we would like to expand our railroad there.

Photo courtesy of the N.E.O.L.S. secretary; Barbara Parkinson

The Park system has said we are an asset to the Park and are very pleased with our operation. They include us in the planning of their years activities.  We have 1+ mile of mainline, a storage yard, large steaming bay and service area and several building that are car storage. We are planning a 3000 feet expansion starting in 2006.

The Medina County Park System, Medina Ohio, has been a great asset to the N.E.O.L.S. and to the live steam hobby.  

Editors Note: As we can see by this example, N.E.O.L.S. had to face a tough choice when the land they used was sold out from under them.  This is what can happen when you place your railroad on property owned my one individual or corporation or even on public land.  Several railroads have faced this problem and many more will deal with this in the future.  Moving to public land is not always the answer.  In this example, it seems to be working well.  In future articles we will look at other examples and the problems faced.  

the end

Written by Richard Dute.


Coming Soon: Part II (Largo Central Railroad)


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