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Indiana Rail Experience 2022 Events Announced

By Uncategorized

ANGOLA, INDIANA – Starting next month, the Indiana Rail Experience will bring a number of distinct train rides, community events, and special occasions to families, railroad fans, and people of all ages in the region. 

Over four weeks between July and October, historic steam locomotive no. 765 and a vintage passenger train will operate throughout Northeast Indiana. Ticket sales begin at 6:00 PM on June 7th at indianarailexperience.org.

For group tickets and private charters for families or businesses, click here. For sponsorship inquiries, click here.

GET NOTIFIED WHEN TICKET SALES BEGIN

Indiana Ice Cream Train – July 8th, July 9th

Beat the heat, take a break from the lake, and enjoy complimentary ice cream on an hour-long train ride through the Indiana countryside. Our family-friendly passenger trains leave downtown Angola and depart four times daily. Tickets start at $15.00.

Indiana Wine & Spirit Train | July 8th, July 9th, September 23rd, September 30th

Revel in an exclusive 2.5-hour train ride aboard a first-class passenger train with the wine, whiskey, beer, cigars, hors d’oeuvres, and dessert of your choice. Guests will chase the magic hour into the evening and enjoy onboard entertainment during their trip. A selection of cigars will be available in our special open-air car. Guests may also charter an entire private car. Seats are reserved for passengers 21-years-of-age or older. Tickets start at $90.00.

Tri-State Scenic Steam Excursion | August 27th, August 28th, October 1st

This all-day, 100-mile train ride will treat railroad fans and passengers to a late summer trip from Edon, Ohio to Southeast Michigan for a three-hour layover in the historic downtown of Hillsdale. Upon arrival, guests can visit the local farmers’ market, and walking tours, and enjoy lunch on their own a variety of area restaurants. Deluxe Coach, Open Air, First Class, and Executive Class tickets are available. Select amenities include open window cars, open vestibules, onboard entertainment, and a photo runby. First Class and Executive Class tickets include complimentary appetizers and refreshments. Tickets start at $79.00.

Victory Flyer and the Angola American History Train | September 24th – 25th

Dress your vintage best and take a trip back in time to the 1940s aboard a steam-powered passenger train that departs Angola for a visit to a World War II troop camp, interact with re-enactors, and learn how the Greatest Generation and the railroads helped win the war. Before or after your trip, visit the Angola American History Days event near downtown Angola. Tickets start at $29.00. 

Nickel Plate Photo Charter | Join Our Waitlist

Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765 and historic EMD diesels will power freight and passenger cars over the Indiana Northeastern between South Milford, Indiana, Edon, Ohio, and Hillsdale, Michigan. Featuring a night photo session, period actors, and vintage vehicles, the weekend will treat photographers to dramatic scenes of railroading on former Wabash and New York Central Railroad territory. Tickets are available by invitation only. Click here to join our waitlist.

And more…

Events will be hosted in cooperation with the Little River Railroad, Norfolk & Western Business Car No. 300 Preservation Society, City of Angola, and City of Hillsdale, Michigan. Sponsors include Berne Apparel, JICI Construction, The John H. Emery Rail Heritage Trust, McRail Insurance, Trine University, Steuben County Tourism Bureau, and the Steuben County Community Foundation.

The 2022 season of the Indiana Rail Experience will feature vintage passenger cars from the 1920s through the 1950s, including accommodations in deluxe coach, first-class, lounge, and executive class cars. The event will also feature the debut of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society’s very own open-air car and dining/lounge car. 

The Indiana Rail Experience is a partnership between the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, Inc. and the Indiana Northeastern Railroad Company. Additional dates, times, and events may be added. Published times, dates, and details may be adjusted.

 

Nickel Plate Road 765’s First Steam Excursions

By News, video

As we celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2022, let’s look back at our very first steam excursion 42 years ago this month!

This silent, 8mm footage was recently acquired and scanned in high definition, though the photographer is unknown. It features the 765 operating west on the Norfolk & Western out of Fort Wayne through Huntington, Wabash, Peru, and Logansport, with additional footage at Monticello and Reynolds, Indiana, and Washington Hill.

After its initial restoration in 1979, Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765 ran from Fort Wayne to Bellevue, Ohio where it spent the winter. The following spring, test runs for the locomotive were scheduled on the Toledo Peoria & Western, where the locomotive operated in freight and pusher service for several days. The locomotive’s first fan trip was held on May 10th and May 11th between East Peoria and Keokuk, Iowa, and East Peoria to Effner, Illinois. Below is an excerpt from 765: A 21st Century Survivor on the 765’s first test runs:

Early in our steam career, we were invited by Bob Macmillan, then the President of the Toledo, Peoria and Western Railroad, to bring the 765 to Peoria for some test running and a few excursion trips. We figured the 765 was ready for some hard work. After all, we had run the locomotive from Fort Wayne to Sandusky and back hadn’t we? If we only knew how much we had to learn!

We spent a few days switching in the East Peoria Yard and then we were called to work the pusher job on Washington Hill. All things considered, the first few days went pretty well. At last, we were called to pull a TP&W freight train to Effner, Illinois. The railroad romanticists called it the “Night Train to Effner.” In retrospect, it turned out to be the “Nightmare to Effner.”

In performing the repairs on the 765, all the superheater units were removed and each was subjected to a hydrostatic pressure test. Many of those units had a lot of leaks and were repaired. But there isn’t anything like dragging a few thousand tons of freight to find out what is fixed and what isn’t.

After hammering east toward Effner for 50 or 60 miles, the locomotive was starting to steam poorly. The over-the-road vibration combined with the steam velocity through the superheaters caused the units to begin to leak. Leaking superheated steam expands so rapidly that the vacuum is destroyed in the smokebox and without vacuum, you lose the draft. No draft means no fire. The poor draft in concert with the southern Illinois dirt that someone identified as coal caused the coal consumption to rise dramatically.

The long and short of it is we ran out of coal just short of Watseka, Illinois. Fortunately, the “Tip-up” (the nickname the TP&W guys used) was in the midst of a tie replacement program. We temporarily made the 765 a wood burner for the next 6 miles. “Don’t burn any new ones!” Mr. Macmillan yelled from the crew car.

By this time the railroad president probably had begun to wonder why he ever invited us there in the first place. We struggled into Watseka and laid up for the night, with the coal space swept clean and the water level in the tender at about 6 inches.

Our crew, which numbered over ten, woke up an unhappy motel owner in the wee hours of the morning. We all registered in the last room in town. A dozen dirty and weary guys crowded into one room! It must have looked like a college fraternity trying to jam the whole house into a VW.

Coaling took place the next morning and we finally reached Effner, the end of TP&W trackage, later that morning. To his everlasting credit, Mr. Mac didn’t push us off his railroad and leave us at Effner forever.

If we had any success at all in our first 14 years of steam operation, much credit must be given to Mr. Robert Macmillan, the gentleman from Peoria.

As 1980 wore on, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society had time to reflect on its accomplishments. At the time, founders Glenn Brendel and Wayne York wrote, “Admiring the 765 out on the road, or admiring her at rest, the 1975-1979 restoration may seem quite remote. But until the fire-up of September 1978, the FWRHS was faced with a seemingly impossible task. There was no assurance the 765 restorations would ever be completed. There were many dark, dark days when even after a full day’s work, no measurable progress could be detected…This was the largest steam locomotive ever restored outdoors without conventional facilities. A dubious claim of distinction. Without the help of friends and good neighbors, the project may have never been completed…the restoration of Locomotive 765 is as much a tribute to the perseverance of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historial Society as it is to the glory days of railroading.”

Thanks to Greg Scholl for the thumbnail photo.

Regional Short Line and Fort Wayne Railroad Partner for Indiana Rail Experience

By Events, Excursions, News

ANGOLA, INDIANA – The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, Inc. and the Indiana Northeastern Railroad Company have announced The Indiana Rail Experience, a historic partnership that will contribute to the tourism economy and the quality of life in Northeast Indiana. Tickets will be available at indianarailexperience.org.

Beginning in 2022, the Fort Wayne non-profit will operate a series of passenger train trips, educational programs, and special events over the Indiana Northeastern, a 100-mile railroad line that connects Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan.

Events will include a wide array of excursions with Nickel Plate Road no. 765, a 1940s-era steam locomotive, which has become an international cultural attraction since being restored to operating condition in 1979. In addition to the 765, other historic locomotives and classic railroad passenger cars will provide unique offerings for children, families, and adults between July and October. A complete schedule and tickets will be available later in May and June. To get notified, click here. For sponsorship inquiries, click here.

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“Our railroad has helped drive the economy of this region since it was started to support local farmers,” explained Gale Shultz, President of the Indiana Northeastern. “We’re hoping to not only shine a spotlight on our community with the popularity of the 765, but let the world know that the region and the railroad are open for business.”

The Indiana Northeastern is an industrious short line railroad serving Northeast Indiana, Southern Michigan, and Northwest Ohio.

“This multi-year agreement will allow us to offer experiences to our friends and neighbors like never before,” said Kelly Lynch, Vice President of the Fort Wayne Railroad. “We couldn’t be more fortunate to work with a local, family-owned organization like the Indiana Northeastern. This partnership will bring joy to thousands of residents and visitors.”

In addition, events will be hosted in cooperation with the Little River Railroad, Norfolk & Western Business Car No. 300 Preservation Society, Steuben County Tourism Bureau, and the City of Angola. Sponsors include Berne Apparel, JICI Construction, The John H. Emery Rail Heritage Trust, McRail Insurance, and Trine University.

“We are thrilled that the Indiana Northeastern is boosting our recreation industry. Not only does this give our population more to do in the summer months, but the potential to expand these events into the off-season will be significant for our area,” said June Julien, Executive Director of Steuben County Tourism Bureau.

Formally incorporated 30 years ago in 1992, the Indiana Northeastern has revitalized the former Wabash and New York Central Railroad lines which had all but been abandoned by the 1990s. The short-line railroad success story now sees over 5,000 freight carloads a year, serves 25 industrial and agricultural industries in three states and supports over 500 jobs. The Indiana Northeastern maintains offices and a locomotive repair facility in South Milford and Hudson, Indiana, respectively.

With roots deep in state history and cultural heritage tourism, rail tourism in Indiana continues to be a burgeoning industry. The recently inaugurated Nickel Plate Express in Noblesville hosted 25,000 riders, and the events of the French Lick Scenic Railway in southern Indiana welcomed over 70,000 riders last year.

“In 2020, Indiana had an estimated 67 million visitors,” said Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch. “Development is key to the Leisure and Travel-related industry and its growth, and this development in Northeast Indiana will be a great addition to visitor attraction and to the quality of life.”

“Our events routinely sell out and are in significant demand in Northeast Indiana. Our studies have shown that a more permanent railroad attraction in this region could welcome over 120,000 visitors on an annual basis,” added Lynch.

For 50 years, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society has offered remarkable and inspiring experiences through the preservation, restoration, and operation of historic railroad equipment and artifacts significant to Northeast Indiana. An all-volunteer, award-winning, and safety-driven non-profit organization, it has operated Nickel Plate Road no. 765 for over 100,000 miles in public exhibition and passenger train excursion service and routinely welcomes visitors from all 50 states and half a dozen countries. As a part of its role in the rail tourism industry, Fort Wayne continues to restore and exhibit other historic steam and diesel locomotives, freight cars, and passenger cars from the Golden Age of Railroading, all of which are used to celebrate and preserve the area’s cultural and industrial heritage. Fort Wayne’s operations are funded by ticket sales, memberships, donations, grants, and sponsorships.

“For the love of trains” – Railroad group keeps steam engine running

By News
Originally published in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

Generations of great traditions often start with “My grandpa introduced me …” or “My mother fell in love with this and passed that love to me …” or “My father began bringing me ….”

It seems that most everyone working inside the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society’s restoration workshop at 15809 Edgerton Road in New Haven has those connections.

A few were introduced when their dads started bringing them, and now, as the group celebrates its 50th year, members are bringing their sons, daughters and even granddaughters.

When Samantha Krumanaker of Huntington was a girl, she’d visit her grandfather in Cass, West Virginia, and they’d go see the Cass Scenic Railroad. Now she’s 29, an administrative assistant for the Indiana Highway Department and spends her Saturdays helping get the Nickel Plate No. 765 ready for the upcoming season.

“My grandpa really wanted to do this when he was a kid but circumstances didn’t allow that to happen so he lives vicariously through me,” she said. “He never thought he’d be able to see this stuff in real life until it just kind of happened for me.”

Her grandfather, Ernie White, enjoys each visit to the warehouse just like the little kids who jump up and down and wave every time the 765 engine goes by during an excursion. Each time the 765 engine rolls down the rails it makes crowds feel young again, and for some, bringing back childhood dreams of becoming a train engineer.

“We’re doing what nobody else is doing,” said Jon Jaros, one of the 765’s seven engineers. “We’re working on a time machine.”

There’s plenty of nostalgia involved whenever the steam locomotive goes out, and not just from those watching on the side of the tracks.

“For me, it’s being part of the history,” Operations Manager Zach Hall said. “When we leave Fort Wayne, somebody sat in this same seat and looked out over these same farm fields from 1944 to 1958. The biggest thing is preserving the history and making it to the different places that we’ve never been, going over railroads that haven’t seen passengers or steam engines in many, many years.”

Hall calls the 765 a people magnet, and it draws him to Fort Wayne from his home in Altoona, Pennsylvania, making the 61/2 hour drive 15 to 20 weekends a year to work with his friends. There are lots of similar stories inside the workshop, including how family-like bonds have been formed by the unending work, grime and camaraderie.

“I kind of just fell into the right group of people,” Krumanaker said. “I just started hanging out with them, and they invited me to come over here and I haven’t left. It felt natural, like I totally belonged here. As hard as they try to get rid of me, they can’t.”

Volunteers give up every Saturday to help out. According to Hall, the 765 requires 15 to 20 hours of maintenance for every hour it spends on the tracks, and that doesn’t include the rest of the refurbished cars such as the recently completed caboose.

“All the parts on this are heavy and dirty, and you have to work into figuring out you just have to get in there and don’t worry about getting filthy because you will,” said Mechanical Manager Steve Winicker, 72.

The New Haven native joined the organization a couple of years after it started in 1972, and now his job is to figure out what needs done on the trains and then show or tell everyone what to do. Because of federal regulations, paperwork and inspections are constants. There are tons of knowledge required from the crew, not all of it learned from manuals, and Winicker has lots of stories about how ingenuity led to solutions.

“I’ve seen things that I never thought would be the slightest possibility early on, but I’ve seen them happen,” he said. “There have been a lot of people here who kept it going for all those years, in good times and slow times and hard times.”

But right now is one of the good times.

Hall laughs and calls working on the train a hobby that has gotten way out of hand, but the specialization has also led to “day-job” careers for many of those involved.

“What’s even endearing to me is this machine and our programs and events and everything we do appeals to everybody,” organization Vice President Kelly Lynch said. “You don’t have to be a train fan or a history fan to get caught up in the magic. I’ve seen it firsthand. The railroads were the melting pot of the 20th century, and what we do now carries on that appeal.”

The society has nearly 1,000 members from across the country and even around the world, about 100 who volunteer regularly to help operate the 765 over 16 states.

The 2022 season starts in mid-May with the annual “Steam in the Valley” event to the Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio. More information is available at fortwaynerailroad.org. In addition to events in Ohio, there will soon be announcements on Indiana excursions, too.

The group’s biggest hope is to find a centralized showcase area home so more people can enjoy what they do as a regional attraction. That effort – known locally as Headwaters Junction – continues to pick up momentum despite a long gestation period, Lynch said.

“It’s been my mission for most of my adult life to ensure that this organization exists for another 50 years beyond me,” Lynch said. “So here we are in our 50th year, and it really puts things into perspective. We want to keep doing what we’re doing and bring joy and education to people for the next century.”

Spring Steam Events and Experiences Announced

By Events

Kick-off the start of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society’s season with the Hostler Experience or enjoy an exclusive night photo shoot with Nickel Plate Road no. 765!

HOSTLER EXPERIENCE – MAY 7th | $284.00

Join the ranks of a mainline steam locomotive crew and help prepare the 765 for the day’s run. You’ll learn how to awaken the 765’s firebox, service the locomotive’s appliances and running gear, and enjoy exclusive, behind-the-scenes access to the 765 and its cab for an 8-hour experience. All participants must be able-bodied and wear steel-toed shoes. Space is extremely limited. Click here to book.

NIGHT PHOTO EVENT – MAY 7th | $120.00

This event will feature not only the 765 but also vintage freight cars and cabooses, including the recently restored Wabash caboose 2543. The equipment will be positioned so we can recreate multiple scenes from the Golden Age of Railroading. Click here to book.

THROTTLE TIME AND FIRING TIME – MAY 16th | $299-$999

Climb aboard, whistle off, and become the engineer of restored Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765 at the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad! Choose to run the engine under Throttle Time or learn how to fire the locomotive under Firing Time. Click here to book.

Collaboration Between Indiana Communities and Fort Wayne Railroad Saves Historic Artifacts

By Uncategorized

FORT WAYNE, INDIANA – Thanks to a generous donor and the efforts of Noblesville, Indiana’s Parks and Recreation Department, and the City of Logansport, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society has recovered over half a dozen pieces of vintage railroad equipment for preservation.

Throughout 2021 and into 2022, the Fort Wayne Railroad worked to identify and relocate surplus railroad equipment left at the former locations of the Indiana Transportation Museum in Noblesville and Logansport, respectively. Stored in deteriorating condition and a barrier to mediation efforts at each site, the Fort Wayne Railroad, volunteers, and contractors undertook a Herculean effort to dismantle several locomotives for shipping and prep remaining equipment for stabilization and transportation by truck. Additional assistance was provided by the Nickel Plate Express, US Rail Corporation, and Hoosier Heartland Trolley Company.

The saved equipment includes:

  • Two Milwaukee Road F Units, no. 72-A, and 96-C
  • One Milwaukee Road B-Unit no. 68-B
  • One Pennsylvania Railroad hopper car no. 257784
  • One Lake Erie & Western/Nickel Plate Road boxcar no. 18013
  • One Louisville & Nashville boxcar no. 12177
  • One Wabash Railroad boxcar

“We’re grateful that Noblesville and Logansport elected to partner with us to find new homes for these historic artifacts. It’s an unusual burden for a City to be faced with de-accessing railroad equipment of any size or age and an enormous challenge for a non-profit like ours to be able to intercede,” said Kelly Lynch, Vice President of the Fort Wayne Railroad. “Fortunately, a private donor stepped up to assist in saving these pieces of Indiana history. Everything relocated is destined for restoration and interpretation of some kind and will help tell the story of Hoosier railroading.”

Several mechanical components from the vintage locomotives have been made available to other rail preservation organizations, and at least one diesel locomotive is being considered for an interactive display. Plans call for a portion of the freight cars to be used in a variety of educational capacities as the Fort Wayne Railroad expands its programs and events, and continues work on establishing a regional railroad attraction in Northeast Indiana. Inquiries on locomotive parts can be made by clicking here.

The equipment is currently stored at a privately owned, rail-served facility where stabilization efforts will take place, along with:

  • Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 624 and Milwaukee Road reefer no. 37076, saved for preservation and relocated in a partnership with the City of Hammond in 2017
  • Former Louisville & Nashville auxiliary water tender no. 40985 and originally the tender to Louisville & Nashville Berkshire no. 1989, and later preserved for use with Bessemer & Lake Erie steam locomotive no. 643 and relocated from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2019
  • Pennsylvania Railway Post Office Car no. 6523, purchased at auction from the Noblesville collection in 2018
  • Former Santa Fe baggage cars no. 1255 and 1257, acquired via a donation from Amtrak in 2019

Due to the active industrial nature of the storage site, the equipment is not currently available for public viewing or tours.

While this equipment is currently in storage, the Fort Wayne Railroad is hard at work to finish several important restoration projects, including our dining car Silver Diner, Nickel Plate Road diesel locomotive no. 358, or future open air car no. 3671. Click here to make a contribution.

For 50 years, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society has dedicated itself to providing outstanding, hands-on educational and recreational experiences through the preservation, restoration, and operation of historic railroad equipment and artifacts significant to Northeast Indiana. An all-volunteer, award-winning non-profit organization, it has operated Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765 over 300,000 miles in public exhibition and passenger train excursion service and routinely welcomes passengers from all 50 states and half a dozen countries. In addition, Fort Wayne continues to restore and exhibit other historic steam and diesel locomotives, freight cars, and passenger cars from the Golden Age of Railroading. Its operations are funded entirely from memberships, donations, grants, and sponsorships. For several years, the Fort Wayne Railroad has worked to establish Headwaters Junction, a rail interpretive facility and regional destination, for its successful events and programs. For more information, visit headwatersjunction.org.