By Kelly Lynch, Communications Manager
Not all park engines have a story like ours.
Some are far more dramatic, while others are just footnotes in local history. Few, however, symbolize the conclusion of a colorful and often tumultuous relationship between railroad and city.
Remarking on the once vast (and yes, still sizable) railroad presence in Fort Wayne, it’s easy to see why the Nickel Plate presented such a source of vexation for the populous. The Pennsylvania Railroad and Wabash had long since elevated their mainlines in the city’s southern and most industrious sector, but the Nickel Plate, for all its fast freight service and Superpowered locomotives, still managed to foul up major traffic arteries on the northern edge of downtown. It was inconvenient enough that multiple freight trains coursed through Fort Wayne, but numerous passenger trains also stopped at Calhoun street. The cry to “Elevate the Nickel Plate” is something unique to city lore.
In a process that lasted several years and ended in 1955, the NKP levitated their mainline from street level and trains came and went without fanfare; the only celebration being the first official train, escorted by locomotive no. 767.
If it weren’t for the skirmish between city and rail, no. 765, installed in Lawton Park in commemoration of the project, would have likely met a grimmer fate. Likewise, where it not for the NKP’s effort to manufacture this solution, the city’s growth and layout may have been substantially altered. Once free to flow in all directions, the city sprang northward in the proceeding years while the once prosperous southern region dried up. The railroad’s elevation furthered Fort Wayne’s development, and secured us a living monument to look after.
No. 765 symbolizes not only a powerful mechanism from another age, but a crucial token of regional progress, prosperity, and cooperation between city and industry.