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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.

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.”

Icons of Industry: Our 2020 Projects

By Uncategorized

A visit to the shop in recent months will have revealed over a half dozen restoration projects all happening at once – a first in the Society’s long existence. First, the 765 is now all roller bearing. This adaptation required lifting the 765 twice before the season began this year. Some minor teething issues were worked out on the 765’s deadhead move to Ohio and minor modifications were made this winter to ensure a problem-free 2020.

With the 765 in great condition and needing only regular seasonal maintenance, our volunteers have rallied around on numerous other restoration projects:

1.) Wabash steam locomotive no. 534 is a 1906 graduate of the American Locomotive Works and throughout 2019 underwent an extensive ultra-sound test that has yielded positive results. Plans call for the tender to be rebuilt and finished first. Thanks to Jerrad Bennet, Carl Lyvers, and Steve Winicker for keeping the momentum up on this historic engine.

2.) 534’s tender has been completely disassembled for reconstruction. Given the engine’s special place in history, a recent donation from the Wabash Railroad Historical Society will help cover some initial costs for new steel.

3.) Wabash Caboose no. 2543 is another old-timer, and was relocated from Sweeney Park in 1984 at the same time as the 534. While the Society used the car for on-site events for many years, we weren’t able to start the badly needed repair work on this caboose until recently when DJ DePanicis felt that his carpentry background would give him a comfort level suitable enough to take the project on. Between 80-90% of the car’s interior and exterior are being replaced and thanks to recent structural reinforcements, it is the strongest it has been in decades. Several successful buy-a-board campaigns show promise of a completed caboose within 24 months.

4.) Used almost continuously for tools, parts, and storage since we acquired it, our 1904 Lake Erie & Western boxcar is likewise returning to form under the management of Rich Brinkley. With the 534, Wabash caboose, and this rare Lake Erie boxcar, we’ll have an outstanding 19th Century freight train for operation and interpretation.

5). Our forlorn Illinois Terminal flatcar has been repaired, re-decked, and re-stenciled in homage to Wabash 534’s pending restoration and will be used as a mobile work platform for that project. All of this was achieved in just eight weekends!

6.) Our Amtrak baggage cars and dining car got their first dose of cinders as the 765 departed Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad with them last fall. Work on installing a generator, building a power car, new crew car, and putting the dining car into service for merchandise and food sales is on the docket for 2020.

We’re also hard at work on planning for Headwaters Junction and recently updated with renderings, photos and videos, locations, FAQs, and much more.

We invite you to spend some time learning about where we’re headed and look forward to sharing the next steps in the continuation of this strategic plan!

Cab Ride on the Cuyahoga

By Uncategorized

Join us in real-time as engineer Jason Johnson takes Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765 from Fitzwater to Akron, Ohio on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in September 2019. On this run, the locomotive was carrying the whistle from Nashville Steam‘s steam locomotive no. 576.

Jason Johnson is the general manager for the T-1 Trust, which is slowly but surely constructing a brand new Pennsylvania Railroad T-1! Learn more about the project here:

2019 Open House to feature guest locomotive, preview of downtown attraction

By Uncategorized

Event’s popularity offers preview proposed downtown attraction

NEW HAVEN, INDIANA – The historic, operating tourist attractions of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society (FWRHS) will be on display at the Society’s 2019 Open House, which will feature educational displays, train rides, food trucks and more on August 16th, 17th and 18th.

Visiting Fort Wayne for the first time will be the Lehigh Valley Coal no. 126, a restored steam locomotive originally built in 1935. It will pull the Open House’s train rides throughout the weekend. Admission is free and train ride tickets are $7. The 126 will arrive by semi-truck and unloaded on Thursday, August 15th.


The FWRHS will also recognize the forthcoming 75th anniversary of its world-renown steam locomotive, Nickel Plate Road no. 765, which was built by the Lima Locomotive Works in September of 1944. Retired in 1958, placed on display in Lawton Park in 1963 and restored by the Society in 1979, the 765 has become a landmark tourist attraction operating special excursion trains throughout the country.

Founded in 1972, the Society is dedicated to preserving and operating Northeast Indiana’s rich railroad origins and has risen to become one of the pre-eminent rail tourist non-profit organizations and. With its annual operations and living history events, it draws visitors from all 50 states and six countries aboard its vintage trains and programs. Last year’s Open House drew over 6,000 people from around the region.

“Our Annual Open House is a great opportunity to get up-close and personal with our region’s colorful railroad history,” explained Kelly Lynch, Vice-President of the Society. “Events like these highlight the draw of our attractions and operations and showcase why our plans to become a part of riverfront development in Fort Wayne will have a meaningful impact on our city,” stated Lynch.

Headwaters Junction, the Society’s robust plan to create a regional destination near the Fort Wayne riverfront, has a purchase agreement for 9 acres of railroad right-of-way for their operations and events. After being included in the city’s conceptual riverfront plan and roundly endorsed by the community, studies have shown the attraction would bring an estimated

140,000 visitors to downtown Fort Wayne throughout the year. While the project’s final location has yet-to-be-determined, its educational, immersive setting will be complemented by annual events, programs and hands-on activities, and train rides. Earlier this year, Headwaters Junction entered into a purchase agreement with Norfolk Southern for 9 acres of railroad right-of-way along the riverfront. For more information, visit

and operations. For more information, visit

“As shown by our popular events and trips, we are a successful business excited to expand into our namesake city. Railroad tourism is a billion-dollar industry that contributes greatly to our history, culture and economic development,” stated Lynch. “This project will be an anchor attraction and exciting community gathering space for Fort Wayne.”

Historic steam locomotive no. 765 will operate special excursion trains this September at the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad and tickets are on sale at The Society is also offering riders the chance to operate the engine during special Throttle Time sessions. Click here for more details and tickets for Throttle Time.

Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society to partner with revived New River Train

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Rail Excursion Management Co. announces their inaugural Autumn Colors Express railroad excursion this October from Huntington to Hinton, WV along the famed New River route; Fort Wayne group to provide experienced car hosts and administrative support

The Rail Excursion Management Co., a national leader in railroad excursions and charters, today announce their inaugural 2019

Autumn Colors Express​ on October 25, 26 and 27, 2019. The ​Autumn Colors Express​ continues the 50+ year tradition of transporting passengers in vintage railroad equipment to Hinton’s Railroad Days Festival, held the same weekend. There will be three days of train excursions, originating in downtown Huntington, WV. Tickets can be purchased online at​.

The ​Autumn Colors Express​ consist will be comprised of 25-30 privately-owned vintage railcars, with meal service provided on board to every passenger, as part of their ticket price. The round-trip train ride will feature on-board entertainment and historic narration. Lunch is available from the many food vendors in Hinton. The train will lay over in Hinton for approximately three hours while guests enjoy the Hinton Railroad Days Festival.

Railexco is also proud to announce that it is partnering with two renowned rail preservation groups, the Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp. of Ravenna, KY, as well as the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Both groups will lend their expertise to the ​Autumn Colors Express ​through their on-train volunteer programs, and vast logistical experience.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) “I applaud Adam Auxier and Rail Excursion Management Co. on their decision to continue the 50 year tradition of the New River train and the Railroad Days festival in October. The trip from Huntington to Hinton in the fall truly showcases the beauty of West Virginia and brings joy and revenue to our state,” said Senator Manchin. “I look forward to a long partnership with Rail Excursion Management Co. on their Autumn Colors Express venture and pledge my support to help them however I can.”

Hinton City Manager Cris Meadows: “The return of the train this fall means so much to the city of Hinton and its residents. The annual Railroad Days festival has brought thousands of people to our town over the years; our local nonprofits operate food and vending tents that in turn provide scholarships to so many of our local students. We’re overjoyed that this tradition can keep going year after year.”

Railexco CEO Adam Auxier: “We are very excited to showcase the beautiful New River Gorge in its fall colors to our passengers. I hope they enjoy their journey on these lovingly preserved railcars on their trip to Hinton.”

KSHCO President Chris Campbell: “The Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation is keenly aware of the economic benefit that rail-based tourism can provide our region, and we are proud to support our neighbors in West Virginia by providing logistics help and on-train personnel for the Autumn Color Express excursion. Our organization is pleased to be a non-profit partner in this exciting excursion event which aligns with our mission to champion the beauty and benefits of Appalachia.”

FWRHS Vice President Kelly Lynch: ​“For nearly a decade, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society was a part of what made the rail tourism experience in the New River Gorge so popular and after a 25 year absence, we’re excited to return as part of this important tradition as a nonprofit partner.​ ​Our commitment to creating engaging and educational railroad experiences will be reflected through the participation of our car hosts and administrative personnel and we thank ACE for offering its support for our own tourist rail operations in 2019.”

Rail Excursion Management Co.’s ​staff have a combined decades of experience working in rail excursions, private railcar logistics, and rail charters. For more information, please contact Chief Marketing Officer Lou Capwell at 812-320-3596 or ​