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“400 tons of Americana”

By News, Press Coverage


Stories from our Rocky River and Cleveland area trips and our positioning move to Altoona, Pennsylvania.

“Nickel Plate Railroad engine steams into town, thrilling passengers, onlookers”

Story from West Life Community News:

If not for the cellphones and digital cameras, the scene at the old Rocky River railroad station on Mother’s Day might have been reminiscent of another time.

As during the heyday of the Nickel Plate Railroad, in the 1930s and 1940s passengers mingled with onlookers as they awaited steam locomotive No. 765, pulling the “Nickel Plate Limited” on a 110-mile round trip to Bellevue, Ohio, and back.

According to Beachcliff Market Square marketing manager Bill Brink, one of the passengers, tickets for the excursion, which ran from $99 to $249, sold out within three days. “They started with over 300 and soon had that many on the wait list,” Brink said. More restored cars were added, and the final passenger roster topped 650.

For Bellevue residents Dennis and Angie Ruck, it was a back-and-forth kind of day, as they got up at 5:30 a.m., made the hour-and-a-half trip to Rocky River to ride the train home, then back to Rocky River, where another drive to Bellevue awaited. “We’ve always wanted to take the train,” said Dennis Ruck, adding that this was to be their first trip on a steam engine. He added that he has lived in Bellevue for 18 years and has never visited the Mad River & Nickel Plate Railroad Museum – the destination for the day, where a box lunch would be served.

“That puff of steam is so awe-inspiring,” commented Perrin Vezi, who along with her husband Dave is a veteran train traveler. “The steam engine is so animated,” Dave Vezi commented.

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“A Legacy for Steam Power”

By Headwaters Junction, News, Press Coverage, Projects



No. 765 is a rolling Hollywood production, creating, as Walt Disney called it, “a happening” in every town it travels through. This is no ordinary history lesson. It’s an icon of Midwest industry and innovation. It is Fort Wayne incarnate.

Few cities can claim they have their own train, let alone one with a proven, 30-year following. No. 765 experienced 50,000 visitors from all 50 states and five countries in 16 days alone in 2011. The engine traveled more than 3,000 miles in 2012, where up to 3,000 people daily enjoyed the sights and sounds of our rocket ship on wheels.

But how can the success of this people-magnet help Fort Wayne?

Enter Headwaters Junction, an idea that has been endorsed and supported by a number of neighborhood and civic organizations for several years, thanks in no small part to the power of the train.

Recognized by the Legacy Fort Wayne initiative as a plan with “community support and catalytic potential,” Headwaters Junction is an effort to make mixed-use development along our riverfront unique, entertaining, educational and vibrant with the train.


Saturday’s News Sentinel features an editorial highlighting Headwaters Junction. Click here to read it.

Legacy Fort Wayne Calls Railroad, Riverfront Idea “Bold, Transformative”

By Headwaters Junction, News, Press Coverage, Projects, video

FORT WAYNE, INDIANA – Legacy Fort Wayne, a program of community investment started by Mayor Tom Henry, released its official recommendation for the initial use of up to $20 million in Legacy funds, naming the Headwaters Junction proposal as “big, bold, and transformative” and an idea that “should not be overlooked when developing a vision for our riverfront.” Community officials submitted their recommendations to city council, which approved funding for a riverfront wide feasibility study in December.

Headwaters Junction is a mixed use gateway and downtown attraction concept combining river, rail, and trail development on what is known locally as the North River property and the surrounding areas. Key to the enterprise is city steam locomotive no. 765, at one time a city monument on display in Lawton Park that was restored to operation in 1979 after being preserved by the City of Fort Wayne in 1963.

Headwaters Junction proposes including the train, which experiences anywhere from 900-3,000 people a day when it operates, as part of an attraction with annual programming and events that include dinner and tourist trains operating between area attractions and on regional excursions. In addition, the proposal suggests construction of a multi-use interpretive center that includes park and green space, mixed use components, and a for-profit short line railroad that serves area businesses. The Junction would provide the the anchor to commercial, educational, and recreational actives near downtown, tying into river and trail development, and create the “vibrant, regional attraction” recommended by 2007’s North River Now and 2005’s BluePrint Plus community plans.

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Plan would give steam locomotive home downtown

By Headwaters Junction, News, Press Coverage

As reported in the Journal Gazette:

Headwaters Junction, [is] an educational and entertainment venue that would provide a link to local attractions like the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, isn’t new. It was first proposed the idea more than two years ago, before the historic Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad freight depot on Clinton Street was demolished, but hasn’t been able to gather enough monetary support for the plan.

What’s changed is the opportunity for funding through the Legacy Fund, money the city made on the lease and sale of its old electric utility City Power & Light.

About $47 million will be immediately available while an additional $28 million will trickle in over the next 12 years.

The proposal carries a price tag of about $20.5 million, based on estimates from other cities that have tackled similar endeavors. He said if completed in its entirety as it’s proposed, Headwaters Junction would require funding from various sources, but the Legacy Fund provided the vehicle for the idea to take off.

A nod from the task force determining how the funds should be spent could provide a boost to the plan in convincing the mayor, his administration and the community that Headwaters Junction is a viable option for the north river property near the St. Marys River just north of downtown.

Headwaters Junction is mentioned in the Legacy Task Force’s riverfront development master plan and implementation, one of four spending categories for the fund. Nine projects were proposed and approved by City Council last month, including a feasibility study to examine riverfront development.

Task force members wrote that incorporating Headwaters Junction into a mixed-use development “should not be overlooked. The consulting firm (performing a feasibility study) should give Headwaters Junction its due diligence when developing a vision for our riverfront and North River.”

John Urbahns, community development director, said the team determined that the plan for Headwaters Junction provided a unique opportunity and should be given more consideration. The $500,000 riverfront study will investigate the best use for property around the city’s rivers, including the north river property.

At the heart of the plan is to return Berkshire steam locomotive No. 765 to downtown Fort Wayne where it had been on display as a monument to the 1955 Elevate the Nickel Plate project that opened a two-track overpass above city streets. Because of deterioration to the steam locomotive, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society removed the locomotive in 1974 and has since restored it.

What is Headwaters Junction?

By Headwaters Junction, News, Projects



Steam locomotive 765 already represents a remarkable national tourist attraction with a proven 30 year track record. Far from marginalization in a textbook, the 765 is not just living history, but a sensory experience.

With annual visitors, supporters, and passengers from all 50 states and a handful of countries, the draw of the train is immense, proven, and experienced by thousands around the country every year.

The railroads and their iron horses championed a time and place that represented shared purpose, common destinations, and a sense of community and connectivity. How can the 765 and its successes, and the collection and offerings of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society become an asset to tourism, economic development, and quality of life for Fort Wayne?

Visit to find out.

Santa Train Ridership Breaks Record

By News, Press Coverage

Read more in the Journal Gazette’s coverage:

This weekend’s attendance would make it the biggest single weekend in the event’s 16-year history.

The combination of trains and Santa is a winning one that draws hundreds of people each year. The event is a tribute to a holiday tradition by department store Wolf & Dessauer, which sponsored a similar train ride into downtown Fort Wayne more than 50 years ago.

The event’s popularity could also be attributed to the families in the area and their connection with the railroad industry, explains Kelly Lynch, the society’s communications director.

The line of ticket holders stretched from one end of the restoration facility just east of New Haven to the other, sometimes snaking around into a J-shape as more people joined the line.

During the average wait of about an hour, those waiting could purchase a hot dog from Brava’s Dogs hot dog cart; explore two parked trains, including the Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive No. 765; buy souvenirs from the railroad society; or play with a miniature train set.

More than 2,300 people rode the train over three weekends this year. This weekend was the last for the annual event, which this year averaged dozens of rides per day, Lynch said.

Jennifer Dodd-Fox and her husband brought their son Brighton for their third and final ride of the year on Saturday.

“We love every single time we come here,” Dodd-Fox said.

She said the trains are the biggest draw because Brighton loves them. Santa’s presence and the holiday theme are added bonuses and reminiscent of “The Polar Express.”

“It’s perfect because it’s such a wonderful blend. What kid doesn’t love ‘The Polar Express?’ ” she said.

In the caboose of the Santa Train, about 10 children climbed up into the lofts to peer out the windows as the train moved along the tracks, only coming down to the sound of jingle bells and a jolly “Ho, ho, ho,” from Santa Claus, who visits each car during the ride. The caboose was added in the past couple of years to accommodate the growing number of riders the event attracts, Lynch said. Only a few kids were brave enough to talk to Santa, among them Colin Butler, 4, who declined to sit on Santa’s lap but told Santa all about his wish list.

It was Colin’s first ride on Santa’s Train, said his mom, Coby Hanna-Butler, who attended the event for the first time with a group of four kids and three other adults.

“It was something different to do for the holidays that was also reasonably priced,” she said.

Leslee Hill brought her two children as part of Hanna-Butler’s group and said she liked the fact that the experience was in a facility with real, working trains. She said the $4 ride was also long enough without being boring.

“I loved it,” she said. “I thought it was a great holiday experience.”