To preserve, restore, and operate historic railroad equipment and artifacts significant to Northeast Indiana.
To provide outstanding, hands-on, educational experiences with Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765. We inspire thousands each year with the power of our industrious past.
The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, Inc. (FWRHS) is an award-winning, 501(c)3 non-profit corporation founded in 1972. The FWRHS has over 800 members, 100 volunteers, and nine board of directors. Throughout the year, it hosts and administers passenger train excursions, private charters, public exhibitions and education outreach activities with restored Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765 and a variety of other vintage railroad equipment throughout the Midwest. The first non-profit of its kind to successfully restore and operate a steam locomotive, the railroad historical society holds regular work sessions and open houses at its restoration facility in New Haven, Indiana during the year.
Through the operation of one of the last operating mainline steam locomotives in the world, members of the society are proud caretakers of history that inspires the senses and quickens the pulse. They regularly operate no. 765 throughout line-side communities, on tourist railroads, and over the general railroad system. The locomotive and its train serve as an uncommon cultural attraction with worldwide appeal with visitors, supporters, and members from all 50 states and several countries.
2015 BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Bill Otter, President
Member since 2005, former Society secretary and vice president. Grew up within sight of the Nickel Plate Road outside Cleveland, Ohio. Otter has 34 years in the industrial food industry and has lead the Society since 2011.
Will Woodward, Vice President
Member since 2004, board member since 2010. With a MBA in Finance from Butler University, Woodward is president of a Midwest mining company and co-chairs the 765’s operations task force.
Brian Christophel, Treasurer
Member since 2012, board member since 2013. Christophel has over seven years of experience in the financial services industry and an MBA from Baldwin Wallace College. He is currently employed by Do it Best Corp.
Wayne York, Excursion Manager
One of the two remaining founders of the Society, York engineered the removal of the 765 from Lawton Park in 1974. He served terms as president, vice president, secretary and director for 28 years. York works in management and civil engineering in the public and private sectors, has restored and owned a variety of passenger cars, and helps plan a variety of the 765’s excursions.
Steven Winicker, Mechanical Manager
Member since 1975. Served as Chief Mechanical Officer during the 765’s rebuild 2000-2005 and has held the office of President and Secretary. Oversees all of the maintenance and servicing of the 765. Winicker has been a District Forester for the Department of Natural Resources since 1974.
Kelly Lynch, Communications Manager
Member since 2000. Son of former Society president Dan Lynch, Lynch has worked for and promoted the steam operations of the Ohio Central Railroad, RJ Corman, and others. Lynch handles marketing, development, and outreach for the society and is the project manager of Headwaters Junction.
Joe Knapke, Volunteer Coordinator and Crew Chief
Member since 2009, elected to the board in 2015. Knapke has over 30 years of experience the electrical construction industry and currently works as a project manager for an electrical contractor. Knapke has been crew chief since 2012 responsible for training and scheduling train crew members for service.
Rick Popp, Director
Member since 1990. Popp is a veteran of the sales and marketing industries and a classic toy train collector.
Hank Germann, Director
Member since 2002. A life long farmer, Germann worked for Aeroquip-Eaton for 38 years as a millwright-machine repairman.
EX OFFICIO MANAGERS
Rich Brinkley, Secretary
Member since 2006 and secretary since 2011. Brinkley has masters degrees in both education and music and has been a Lutheran teacher and church musician for 40 years. Brinkley has served as secretary to a number of boards and organizations over the years.
Rich Melvin, Operations Manager
Member since 1982. Former Superintendent of Operations and Road Foreman of Engines for Ohio Central’s Youngstown Division and presently an engineer with Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Melvin coordinates the logistics of the 765′s excursions and has operated the locomotive over 32,000 miles in excursion service.
Tom Nitza, Training and Facilities Manager
Member since 1988, past president and treasurer. Nitza has 41 years experience in the trucking and railroad industry and was formerly with the Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern. He currently oversees the Society’s training program, property maintenance, and ongoing maintenance of the Society’s diesel locomotives.
Al Rayner, Safety Manager
Mike Guptail, Membership Manager
David Cox, Deputy Mechanical Manager
Gary Bensman, Steam Locomotive Practices