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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.”

“The Engine That Still Can”

By News, Press Coverage

“Train Buffs Bring Special Locomotive to Town” – St. Louis Disptach
September 9th, 2012

The volunteers who move the Nickel Plate Road No. 765 steam engine conduct a 400-ton symphony on rails. On Saturday morning, it was that whistle that alerted Kyle Timmerman, 21, of Pacific, that the 765 was approaching the Missouri River. He heard it before he saw the plume of white smoke on the horizon.

“Historic Train Stops in Attica; Steam Engine Gets Premier Service” – WLFI 18
September 5th, 2012

“Historic Steam Engine Rumbles Across Western Pennsylvania Rails” – TribLive
August 20th, 2012

“I said, ‘That’s not a diesel. That’s a locomotive coming,’ ” said Pettko, 41, of Mt. Lebanon. “That was something special.”

Taylor saw the black smoke and white steam of the No. 765 as it passed through Pittsburgh last week on its way to Harrisburg.

His wife tracked its progress through the website for the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Railroad Historical Society, which owns the mainline engine, to make sure the family did not miss its return.

The family last year visited the Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton.

“But this had more novelty,” said Taylor. “It’s not every day that a steam engine passes through your neighborhood.”

“Steam Engine Chugs Through Galitzen” – Tribune Democrat
August 20th, 2012

Railroad enthusiasts lining the tracks included lots of elementary school-age boys and girls and even more older fellows who recalled the days when a steam train, especially through this area, was a way of life.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. You may not ever see it again,” said Bob Freidhoff, a Vinco native now living in Pittsburgh.

“Steam Engine Passing through Altoona” – Altoona Mirror
August 18th, 2012

“Past to Make Whistle Stop as Steam Train Returns to Pittsburgh” – TribLive
August 16th, 2012

“It’s in first-class shape,” said Bruce Manwiller, 65, of Beaver Falls, a member of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, who chased the engine last week from Ohio to Altoona. “It’s always put on a good show. It’s always been a dependable machine.”

“Spectators Great Train on Trip Through Altoona” – Altoona Mirror
August 14th, 2012

“Chasing History” – Altoona Mirror
August 21st, 2012

Residents from all over had been peppering the newsroom with calls about when to expect the engine, which was “deadheading” to Pittsburgh after weekend excursions in Harrisburg. The interest was intense.

“Train Spotters Thrilled by Historic Steam Locomotive” – WHPTV 21 News
August 20th, 2012

“Dozens Gather to See Piece of Region’s Railroad History” – Toledo Blade
July 29th, 2012

Locals and out-of-towners from gathering along the tracks, many with cameras and video tripods, to watch and hear the steam engine and wave at its passengers as it proceeded on its journey.

For some, Saturday’s viewing was a chance encounter. Erin Steinhurst of Toledo happened to see the train while running errands in Maumee, and went to the Miami Street bridge to show her father the train because she “had never seen anything like it before.”

Trig Simon of Toledo saw Saturday’s crowd gathered on the bridge’s sidewalk and stopped after deciding there must be something worth seeing.

“It’s about the nostalgia and the history behind Toledo and its railroad heyday, and remembering what Toledo used to be as a railroad town,” Mr. Rude said.

Mr. Gorshoff said he thought the steam engine’s trip through Toledo would energize the city.

“I couldn’t believe it at first,” he said of hearing that the train would pass through Toledo. “I think it’s really going to give Toledo a shot in the arm — I think Toledo needs a lot of this.”

“Lima-built Steam Locomotive to Return to Area for Special Trips” – Toledo Blade
July 16th, 2012

“Steaming with Excitement” – Fostoria Review Times
July 17th, 2012

FRPS board member Ellen Gatrell said the occasion would boost the city’s rail tourism.

“It’s another reason to come by the tracks and watch trains,” Gatrell said. “When that steam train whistle goes off, you’re going to be able to hear it from all over.”



On the Verge of History

By News

Monday, August 13th saw the 765 cross world-famous Horseshoe Curve on the downhill run to Harrisburg. On Monday, August 20th, the 765 will make the dramatic climb up the Allegheny Mountains back to Conway Yard in Pittsburgh.

The trip is planned to commence at 6AM from Enola Yards in Harrisburg. You can track the engine and route online at: and get updates throughout the day at

Monday’s schedule includes a servicing stop at Altoona and crew change at Cresson. No estimates are available beyond the times listed here. There will also be no stop at the curve.