Nebraska museum supporters, city leaders on opposite sides of the track over railroad controversy

A plan to bring a 1949 railcar back to life and move it has museum supporters and city leaders in Nebraska City on opposite sides of the tracks.
A planned museum dedicated to railroad history has a future date in court.
Published: Jul. 27, 2022 at 10:28 PM CDT
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NEBRASKA CITY, Neb. (WOWT) - A planned museum dedicated to railroad history has a future date in court. It’s the latest in an ongoing dispute over who controls tracks for short line trains coming to Nebraska City.

A plan to bring a 1949 railcar back to life and move it has museum supporters and city leaders in Nebraska City on opposite sides of the tracks.

“We’re at a stalemate. They claim they’re right, but we also claim that we’re right,” said Dave Fachman, Nebraska Railroad Museum.

“They want to come in and dictate rules and we keep saying this is the way it has to be done,” said Lou Leone, Nebraska City Administrator.

Nebraska Railroad Museum President Dave Fachman says the nonprofit owns the business railcar that railroad executives once used to travel the line.

“This was like their limousine back in the day,” said Fachman.

Though today it’s more rusty than rustic.

“Our whole plan is to refurbish the car from top to bottom,” said Fachman.

Sitting on an old unused track in hooper this is not the end of the line for the old limo of the rails.

Museum board members say in less than a month that an antique rail business car will be loaded onto a semi and brought about 90 miles to be placed on these tracks in front of the historic Burlington Railroad Depot in Nebraska City. But the city administrator isn’t onboard.

”I personally think it’s a terrible idea mainly because we haven’t even cleared up the property lines, yet we have a court hearing and tells me their willingness to actually work with anybody,” said Leone.

The BNSF railroad donated eight acres with 2,000 feet of track to the museum for a rolling history lesson.

“We’ll operate a push-pull excursion down the track and back,” said Ken Bean, Museum board member.

But Nebraska City is going to court claiming ownership of several crossings along the line and if a judge sides with the city?

“They would be crossing city land without permission. And potentially could be cited,” said Leone.

Leaving the railcar stationary wouldn’t work either because of a recent ordinance limiting wheeled vehicles to thirty-day parking.

“We are not looking for a railroad junkyard we are looking for the long haul being here making an economic difference in the area and telling the story,” said Bean.

The city wants more answers.

“We keep hearing again it’s going to make tons of money tons of money but how?” said Leone.

“We are willing to open the books we are willing to be transparent with whatever they ask,” said Fachman.

While tooting their horn over the historic and financial benefits of bringing the railcar plus donated engine to Nebraska City. A court ruling over city claims of track crossing land could derail their plans.

“The future of the museum could be as bright as the morning sun,” said Bean.

“I think the best approach would be to convert it into a bike trail,” said Leone.

Next month a hearing for a summary judgment will decide if the city gets back any crossing land since the railroad abandoned the tracks. The depot is separate and controlled by an economic development council.

However, the museum board says the land under it is theirs.

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