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Restoration of historic Wabash caboose completed

By Uncategorized

The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, Inc (FWRHS) has completed an extensive rebuild of its historic, century-old Wabash Railroad caboose no. 2534 – one of only two wooden Wabash cabooses in existence.

Once on display in Fort Wayne’s Swinney Park in 1957, the caboose and Wabash steam locomotive no. 534 were part of a monument installed by the Tri-State Railroad Community Committee, a consortium of area railroad employees. In 1984, the display was relocated to the FWRHS in New Haven.

While the caboose was used occasionally in events and operations in New Haven, its condition had deteriorated after 60 years of exposure to the elements. In 2018, project manager David “DJ” DePanicis, a school director from the Youngstown, Ohio region, determined that his woodworking background would enable him to take on the project in a leadership role.

With donations from members and the general public, in addition to assistance from the Wabash Railroad Historical Society, DePanicis and a team of over a dozen regular volunteers steadily disassembled and rebuilt the caboose over three years and committed over 5,000 hours to the effort. 90% of the structure was replaced and over 1,000 pieces of new lumber were used in the effort, including several curved and arched beams that were hand-made for the interior roof.

“We have such a great variety of people at the Society. Whether you have carpentry skills, are just providing general labor, or have just a love of history, our projects are the kind that anyone can lend a hand in, regardless of skills,” remarked DePanicis. “Restoring a caboose is a lot like building a house with your best friends.”

Generally, cabooses were used by train crews on freight trains to supervise their train and shipments en-route. Due to the long hours involved in the trade, they were often outfitted with desks, tables, beds, stoves, washbasins, and water closet and customized by their employees. This particular caboose was outfitted with a coal-fired stove cast in a Fort Wayne foundry. The caboose contains a combination of original kerosene and new and donated electric lamps for nighttime illumination and a pair of original Wabash Railroad marker lights were also donated to the project.

Wabash caboose no. 2534 will continue to serve in an educational and entertainment capacity, hosting families aboard the organization’s popular Santa Train and other seasonal events. The caboose’s counterpart, steam locomotive no. 534, is currently undergoing preparation for a restoration of its own sometime in the future.

Member Exclusive: Wabash Caboose Restoration

By Members Only

The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, Inc (FWRHS) has completed an extensive rebuild of its historic, century-old Wabash Railroad caboose no. 2534 – one of only two wooden Wabash cabooses in existence.

Once on display in Fort Wayne’s Swinney Park in 1957, the caboose and Wabash steam locomotive no. 534 were part of a monument installed by the Tri-State Railroad Community Committee, a consortium of area railroad employees. In 1984, the display was relocated to the FWRHS in New Haven.

While the caboose was used occasionally in events and operations in New Haven, its condition had deteriorated after 60 years of exposure to the elements. In 2018, project manager David “DJ” DePanicis, a school director from the Youngstown, Ohio region, determined that his woodworking background would enable him to take on the project in a leadership role.

With donations from members and the general public, in addition to assistance from the Wabash Railroad Historical Society, DePanicis and a team of over a dozen regular volunteers steadily disassembled and rebuilt the caboose over three years and committed over 5,000 hours to the effort. 90% of the structure was replaced and over 1,000 pieces of new lumber were used in the effort, including several curved and arched beams that were hand-made for the interior roof.

“We have such a great variety of people at the Society. Whether you have carpentry skills, are just providing general labor, or have just a love of history, our projects are the kind that anyone can lend a hand in, regardless of skills,” remarked DePanicis. “Restoring a caboose is a lot like building a house with your best friends.”

Generally, cabooses were used by train crews on freight trains to supervise their train and shipments en-route. Due to the long hours involved in the trade, were often outfitted with desks, tables, beds, stoves, washbasins, and water closet and customized by their employees. This particular caboose was outfitted with a coal-fired stove cast in a Fort Wayne foundry. The caboose contains a combination of original kerosene and new and donated electric lamps for nighttime illumination and a pair of original Wabash Railroad marker lights were also donated to the project.

Wabash caboose no. 2534 will continue to serve in an educational and entertainment capacity, hosting families aboard the organization’s popular Santa Train and other seasonal events. The caboose’s counterpart, steam locomotive no. 534, is currently undergoing preparation for a restoration of its own sometime in the future.

2020 Santa Train Announcement

By News

Out of concern for our patrons and volunteers  – and in consultation with old Saint Nick himself – the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society has decided not to operate its Santa Train this December. 

This decision was reached after reviewing numerous financial, logistical, and health-related concerns, and also in discussions with our rail tourism partners in Indiana. It has been made in the interest of public safety and in deference to state guidelines on public gatherings.

“The Santa Train is a family-friendly event, and the unique, cherished experience with Santa aboard our historic train is the highlight,” stated Society vice-president Kelly Lynch. 

“While we explored several alternative experiences, COVID-19’s impact on our Allen County is burdening our local health care community, and the number of cases continues to rise. Ultimately we determined that it was in the best interest of everyone to withdraw the event for the year,” Lynch said. 

The Santa Train has also become an important annual fundraiser for the organization, and its annulment represents a notable financial loss. 

Donations to offset this financial loss can be made online at fortwaynerailroad.org. Additionally, several Christmas items will be made available through the organization’s online store in December.

The Santa Train has become one of the community’s favorite traditions for over 20 years, welcoming thousands of people each season from the tri-state region. Its origins began over 70 years ago with the Pennsylvania Railroad and Wolf and Dessauer Santa Train which visited Fort Wayne each season.

Outdoor Autumn Railroad Festival Announced for October

By Events

Updated 10/1: All Pumpkin Train Tickets are sold out. General Admission tickets are required for entry. All tickets must be purchased in advance.

On October 1st through the 4th, this admission-only event will offer socially distanced train rides, vintage steam locomotive no. 765 operating for the enjoyment of attendees, historic railroad displays, and locally-owned food trucks.

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City and Headwaters Junction strike deal, partnership

By Headwaters Junction, News, Uncategorized

July 13, 2020, FORT WAYNE, INDIANA – Statement from the Headwaters Junction Board of Directors regarding the Redevelopment Commission’s vote approving the City of Fort Wayne’s purchase of Headwaters Junction’s interest in the Norfolk Southern railroad right-of-way property:

“As we have from the beginning, we are proud to partner with the City as they continue their efforts to make Fort Wayne a world-class place to live, work and play. We believe this agreement with the City is the right step for Fort Wayne and its ongoing efforts to transform our riverfront into an amazing destination for residents and visitors alike.

At the same time, we are excited about what the future holds for Headwaters Junction. While its concept as a recreated rail yard, roundhouse and tourist railroad is rooted in our history, its vision looks confidently to the future. It will bring a mixed-use regional destination offering unique programs, events, connectivity and truly memorable experiences, while celebrating our city’s local culture and identity.

We are grateful to the City for its continued support of Headwaters Junction, and we look forward to working with its Community Development team to set the foundation for the City’s partnership and contribution to creating a regional destination entirely unique to Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana.”

The City of Fort Wayne also released a statement:

“Advancing Riverfront Fort Wayne helps us continue to improve the quality of place that so many employers are looking for,” said Townsend. “I want to thank the Headwaters Junction Board of Directors for transferring the purchase agreement to the Redevelopment Commission and I look forward to working with them as they bring their vision of creating a vibrant regional destination to life.”

WANE 15 reports:

“We talked through the plans and future of the riverfront,” Redevelopment Director Nancy Townsend told the commission about her conversations with the railroad preservation group. “Headwaters Junction still has plans and will still occur.”

While Monday’s vote likely means the end of the project’s riverfront plans, WANE 15 has learned a new location in the downtown area has been discussed between Headwaters Junction and city leaders. The specific location has not yet been publicly announced.

“There’s still a lot of work to do, but we’re not doing it alone,” Headwaters Junction Executive Director Kelly Lynch said.

The Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly details the evolution of Headwaters Junction and its partnership with the City:

“Lynch, Headwaters Junction’s executive director and vice president of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, sees the transfer of the purchase agreement to the city as a bit of a fast track for eventual development of the $15-$20 million project, a place to transport visitors back in time. An important aspect of the project is that it’s not just going to appeal to train enthusiasts, but have recreational and tourism aspects as well, he said.

“This (transfer) really officiates the start of a more formal working partnership with the city,” Lynch said. Over the last couple of years, the city has come to understand not only the vision of the project, but also the impact on tourism, economic development and its quality-of-life benefits, he said.

“Rather than working separately on projects that are meant to benefit the community like riverfront development and Headwaters Junction, we’re finally working together,” he said.”