In August 1918, the Baldwin Locomotive Works completed the Lake Erie and Western engine No. 5541. When the Nickel Plate railroad obtained the engine in 1922, it was renumbered as the 587. Nickel Plate donated the engine to the city of Indianapolis in September 1955, as a monument to the city’s importance as a center for the railroad industry (see Railroads).

Children play on the 587 train engine parked in Broad Ripple near the Monon Tracks, 1955 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

The 587 rested on permanent display near the entrance of Broad Ripple Park until October 1983, when the property upon which it stood was designated for a new branch of the Indianapolis Public Library. The Indiana Transportation Museum (ITM) leased the 587 from the city and moved it to the Beech Grove Railroad Shop for restoration. Refitting the engine required around $250,000 (about $700,000 in 2020) in donated funds and materials. By July 1988, the engine was fully operational, and ITM maintained it as a part of its historic railroad collection in Noblesville.

The 587 was a product of the World War I federal control of the railroad industry. It is one of six extant examples of the United States Railroad Administration’s light Mikado design, one of the period’s most successful and influential designs. The 145-ton light Mikado has a 2-8-2-wheel arrangement and is a dual-purpose engine that can haul either passengers or freight. The 587 was originally one of 625 such engines built, 15 of which were for the Lake Erie and Western railroad.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the museum took the 587 on public excursions in the Indianapolis area. The Nickel Plate 587 also was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the first locomotive to be so designated.

By 2003, the 587 needed further restoration to meet Federal Railway Administration guidelines. At that time, the engine’s operating permit expired. Since then restoration on the locomotive has been ongoing, In 2008, the Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation transferred ownership of the engine to ITM.

When ITM was evicted from its home in Noblesville in July 2018, the Nickel Plate 587 was threatened. Although other pieces of historic railroad equipment were cut up or sold, ITM retained ownership of the 587 when it moved to Logansport, Indiana, at the end of 2018. The Kentucky Heritage Steam Corporation in Ravenna, Kentucky, agreed to hold the 587 and to complete restoration work with ITM funds. Once restored it will be returned to ITM.

Revised February 2021

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