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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.

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.”

Historic Nickel Plate Railroad Locomotives to Reunite in Bellevue

By Events, News

Historic steam locomotives and train rides to be feature of late summer event

BELLEVUE, OHIO (July 20th) – The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society and the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum are proud to announce Berkshires in Bellevue, a special series of events from September 24th through October 3rd featuring the reunion of historic 1940’s steam locomotives no. 765 and no. 757.

“Bellevue was once home to the largest railroad terminal on the Nickel Plate Road and we’re excited to honor the history of our community by bringing these iconic machines back together,” said Chris Beamer, Mad River president. “It will be the first time since 2013 that the 765 has operated at the Museum and we’re eager to collaborate with our friends from Fort Wayne to welcome hundreds of visitors to our community.”

Featuring steam-powered caboose rides, cab rides, hands-on experiences, dinner and breakfast buffets, and an exclusive night photo session featuring the 765 and 757, this event is ideal for railroad fans and families alike. Click here to purchase tickets.

The Berkshire-type locomotive emerged as one of the most technologically advanced and popular locomotive designs in the 20th Century and is most associated with the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad, commonly known as the Nickel Plate Road. The high-speed, high-horsepower Berkshires were heralded as “the engines that saved a railroad,” and were a common sight along the railroad line between Fort Wayne, Indiana, Bellevue, Ohio, and across the Nickel Plate system.

Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765 was originally placed on display in Fort Wayne, Indiana as a monument to a railroad elevation project and later restored to operation by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society in 1972. Since then, the 765 has become one of the most popular railroad attractions of its kind in the world, welcoming passengers and visitors from all 50 states and six countries.

Out of 80 Berkshires built for the Nickel Plate, six of these engines were preserved after the railroad transitioned to diesel locomotives. After efforts to find a home for it in Bellevue did not materialize in the late 1960s. the 757 was relocated to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania (RRMPA) in Strasburg, Pennsylvania. Thanks to the tireless advocacy of Mad River volunteers, the RRMPA agreed to transfer ownership of the 757 to Mad River in 2019. Soon after, the engine had its very own homecoming in Bellevue for permanent display where it joins over 50 pieces of railroad equipment and historic displays. Plans call for the locomotive to be cosmetically restored.

Berkshires in Bellevue Dates

BOOK YOUR TICKETS NOW

Friday, September 24th

Hostler Experience

Saturday, September 25th

Caboose Rides
Berkshire Dinner Buffet

Sunday, September 26th

Berkshire Breakfast
Caboose Rides

Friday, October 1, 2021

Hostler Experience
Night Photo Session

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Caboose Rides
FWRHS/Mad River Members Banquet
Members Night Photo Session

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Berkshire Breakfast
Caboose Rides

Berkshires in Bellevue Events & Experiences

All events take place at 253 Southwest St, Bellevue, Ohio, 44811

Caboose Rides

These 20-minute train rides will let passengers experience the sights and sounds of Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765 up close and personal from aboard a unique vantage point: inside a genuine Nickel Plate Road caboose! Bring the family and ride along like railroad crews did in the 1950s. Trains depart every 30 minutes. Tickets range from $10.00 – $25.00.

Cab Rides

Climb aboard the cab of steam locomotive no. 765 during for a 20-minute ride with the fireman and engineer. Tickets are $50.00. Space is limited.

Night Photo Session

For amateur and professional photographers alike, enjoy an extended opportunity to photograph no. 765, no. 757, and other historic railroad equipment, actors, vintage automobiles, and props in action under professionally lit scenes throughout the museum grounds in set-ups uniquely created for this event. Lighting provided by Chris Lantz Photography. Tickets are $175.00 per person. Space is limited.

Hostler Experience

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. Tickets are $284.00 per person. Space is limited.

Berkshire Breakfast

Held in the newly constructed Mary Cooper Restoration building, this banquet-style breakfast will feature Nickel Plate Road no. 765 under steam and no. 757 on display inside the building. Diesel-powered caboose rides will be held for attendees. Tickets are $65.00.

Berkshire Dinner Buffet

Catered by Bone Boy’s BBQ & Catering and held in the newly constructed Mary Cooper Restoration building, this buffet-style dinner will feature Nickel Plate Road no. 765 under steam and no. 757 on display inside the building. Diesel-powered caboose rides will be held for attendees. Tickets are $75.00.

Museum Admission

Tour the Mad River & NKP Museum and explore its detailed displays, exhibits and vintage railroad equipment. Admission is $8.00 with any event or train ride ticket or $10.00 if purchased separately.

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.

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.”

Steam locomotives delight crowds during open house

By News, Press Coverage

The Journal Gazette covers our 2018 Open House…

Crowds gathered as the historic steam locomotive No. 765 let out a whistle as it sat on the tracks during the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society’s open house on Saturday.

The glossy black engine, which was the first locomotive to make its way across Fort Wayne’s elevated railroads, had coals stacked high as conductors climbed aboard.

In its seventeenth year, the open house event in New Haven was expected to attract 4,000 to 5,000 visitors over the weekend.

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