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Rail excursion company acquires first-class car for Indiana Rail Experience

By News

NORTHEAST INDIANA – The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society has acquired the Riding Mountain Park, a vintage streamlined dome-lounge-observation car built in 1954 for transcontinental passenger train service on the Canadian Pacific. The acquisition was made possible by a private donor.

Plans call for the car to undergo a significant multi-year mechanical overhaul that will update its electrical and HVAC systems and interior furnishings at a cost of approximately $250,000. Donations can be made online at fortwaynerailroad.org or by mail.

“Most first-class trains of the 1940s and 1950s featured a dome car, lounge car, or an observation car. With Riding Mountain Park our future guests will be able to enjoy all three and we are overjoyed at the opportunity to preserve this experience,” stated Wayne York, Senior Excursion Manager. “Its acquisition is a special way to end our 50th Anniversary and mark the beginning of a new chapter.”

Named for the Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba, Canada, the car’s design was partially inspired by the California Zephyr’s stainless steel passenger cars in the United States. The Riding Mountain Park was once part of “The Canadian,” a first-class passenger train that operated between Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver and was one of eighteen such Park-series cars.

VIA-Rail dome car no.15512 'Riding Mountain Park' at Jasper, Alberta.

Deemed surplus by Via Rail Canada, the successor to Canada’s passenger rail service, and later sold into private ownership in 2005, the Riding Mountain Park has been in storage for over ten years at the Adrian & Blissfield Rail Road Company in Blissfield, Michigan. It largely retains its original interior and artwork created by members of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. All Park-series cars were described in 1954 as being the “feature car of each train.”

Pending restoration, the car will enter service as part of the Indiana Rail Experience, a new rail tourism program operating on the Indiana Northeastern Railroad in Western Ohio, Northeast Indiana, and Southeast Michigan over former Wabash Railroad and New York Central trackage. In 2022, the Indiana Rail Experience welcomed over 6,000 guests from 35 states and three countries in just ten days of operation. Events and excursions in 2023 will feature historic Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765, and other vintage locomotives and historic passenger cars.

Earlier this year, the Fort Wayne Railroad purchased the Collinsville Inn and Franklin Inn, two 1950s-era Pennsylvania Railroad passenger coaches, from the DC Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society and completed the renovation of former California Zephyr and Amtrak dining car Silver Diner, as well as completed the conversion of a former Santa Fe baggage car now named the John H. Emery.

While dome cars were not especially common in the Midwest, the Riding Mountain Park bears similarity to the Wabash Railroad’s stainless steel “Domeliner” and its lounge class and observation end were popular on the New York Central’s first-class passenger trains which operated through nearby Waterloo, Indiana and Hillsdale, Michigan.

The Fort Wayne Railroad would like to thank Chris Bagwell, Adrian & Blissfield Rail Road Company, Steam Railroading Institute, Horizon Rail, AMC Rail, and Mid America Railcar Leasing for their assistance.

ABOUT THE FORT WAYNE RAILROAD HISTORICAL SOCIETY, INC.

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.

Santa Train Returns for 20th Year

By Events, News

Explore Santa’s railroad workshop and climb aboard his red caboose as the Santa Train returns for its 20th year! Ticket sales begin Wednesday, November 9th at 6 PM at fortwaynerailroad.org. Member sales begin November 8th.

JOIN OUR WAIT LIST

The Santa Train will once again operate one week earlier on November 26th and operate the following three weekends in December, giving passengers more opportunities to take a train ride with Santa Claus. All train rides depart our restoration facility at 15808 Edgerton Road, New Haven.

2022 SANTA TRAIN DATES & TIMES
Trains operate between
9:00 AM to 4:30 PM on Saturdays
Noon to 4:30 PM on Sundays.

November 26th & 27th
December 3rd & 4th
December 10th & 11th
December 17th & 18th

SANTA TRAIN RIDES

Tickets are $9.00 each and children ages 3-and-under ride free and do not require a ticket. Due to demand, all tickets must be purchased online and in advance. Each trip is operated by a vintage diesel locomotive and lasts approximately 20 minutes. Saint Nick’s historic cabooses are heated and Travelin’ Tom’s Coffee will be on hand serving warm beverages and baked goods. All food and drink are sold separately. Trains run snow or shine.

FAMILY & GROUP CHARTERS

Limited group charters are available for up to 15 people and include a 45-minute ride with Santa, refreshments, and cookies on Saturday evenings for $350.00. Groups are encouraged to bring presents for Santa Claus to deliver during the ride. All ticket purchases support non-profit historic railroad preservation efforts in Northeast Indiana.

Historic railroad dining car enters service in Indiana

By Uncategorized

ANGOLA, INDIANA – After a year-long renovation, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society (FWRHS) is once again welcoming passengers aboard the Silver Diner, a historic railroad dining car. Originally part of the famous California Zephyr fleet which operated between Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco, the Silver Diner is the first such dining car to be owned by the organization and it is making its debut as part of the Indiana Rail Experience this year.

“Railroad dining cars have been celebrated gathering spaces on passenger trains for 100 years, and railroads often competed based on their dining car service,” explained Wayne York, founding member of the FWRHS. “For the first time in several decades, we’re steadily building a first-class passenger train to operate behind our historic steam locomotive. We’re grateful that Amtrak chose to donate this car to us where it will continue to bring delight to thousands of riders.”

Work to recondition the car included extensive cleaning, HVAC repairs, cosmetic work, new window gaskets, and curtains, among a host of other items. The Silver Diner can host up to 40 passengers and includes a kitchen and buffet counter space, and provides on-board refrigeration and catering space for excursions and events.

Built in 1948, the Silver Diner was operated for nearly 70 years by both the Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad and later Amtrak, which updated the car in the early 2000s. The car served as part of Amtrak’s Heritage Fleet until it was retired in 2017 and later donated to the FWRHS in 2019. It is one of four surviving cars from the Zephyr’s dining car fleet and volunteers contributed over 3,000 volunteer hours to its reconditioning. The renovation was directed by co-chairs Bill Otter, Rick Popp, and York, with additional assistance from AMC Rail and Current Mechanical.

The Silver Diner serves as a first-class lounge and dining car during excursions and events.

Matching fundraiser launched to complete vintage diesel locomotive restoration

By News

NEW HAVEN, INDIANA – Following five years of restoration work, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society’s volunteers have successfully restarted the prime mover engine of historic Nickel Plate Road diesel locomotive no. 358 and have launched a matching fundraiser to raise $20,000 in order to complete the effort.

Donations will be matched from now until August 21st. As an added incentive, one donor of $358 or more will win a day-long cab ride on Nickel Plate Road no. 765 during an all-day steam excursion on October 1st. Two donors of $35.00 or more will be entered to win tickets on board the same excursion.

Donations can be made online at fwrhs.org/donate or by mail at
Project 358
PO Box 11017
Fort Wayne, Indiana, 46855

DONATE TO 358

“This vintage Electro-Motive diesel is poised to start a new life as a railroad tourist attraction, and over 8,000 volunteer hours have been contributed to breathing life into the machine,” stated W.D. Miller, Manager of Project 358. “This restoration has been supported by so many people from across the country, and we’re hopeful that railroad and historic diesel fans will help us reach this important milestone.”

Plans call for the 358 to be restored to its original, as-built 1957 appearance with the Nickel Plate’s characteristic black and imitation gold striping. The locomotive will eventually enter rail tourism service as part of the Indiana Rail Experience and become an educational resource in excursion and exhibition service with Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765.

“Railroad technology is always advancing, and we really have a unique opportunity to tell the story of how the railroads evolved from steam locomotives to modern internal combustion engines and the cultural and technological changes that occurred because of it,” explained Miller. “This project has already afforded several of our members the opportunity to develop critical mechanical skills and experience, and in the future, will give our guests hands-on experiences that bring them closer to this great history and important industry.”

Project 358 has been previously supported with grants and donations from Steel Dynamics, Inc., the Nickel Plate Historical & Technical Society, Inc., Norfolk Southern, and Progress Rail, Inc.

Indiana Rail Experience Arrives in Region

By News

Courtesy of WPTA 21:

A preview of sorts Thursday afternoon, for a new, multi-year attraction in Angola. The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society (FWRHS) took community leaders, donors, and members of the media on the organization’s first Indiana Rail Experience. It’s a new partnership between the FWRHS and the Indiana Northeastern Railroad Company. “The stars really did align for us, to be able to offer something really exciting and new — right in our backyard,” vice president Kelly Lynch told ABC21. “Having an attraction like this is like having lightning in a bottle, and now we have a place to put the bottle.”

It’s an exciting development, for the non-profit, which celebrates its 50th year in 2022. Now, more than ever, passenger train trips and theme events will be offered, taking people from Indiana to Ohio and Michigan over 100-miles of railroad line. “Everything we do here is kind of a best kept secret,” Lynch added, “and the more people we can share this secret with, the better.” He’s of course talking about the iconic machinery that powers each trip: Nickel Plate Road no. 765. The 1940s-era steam locomotive was removed as a stagnant display in Lawton Park, and restored to working condition in 1979.

Wayne York has been there since it all began. “We’ve just far exceeded any hopes we ever had of what we could do with this locomotive,” he shared. “And it’s also the bigger picture of trying to preserve railroad history from the golden age, which was about 1925 to about 1960. And all the equipment on this train, dates from that period, as well as the locomotive — that’s the railroad heritage we’re trying to preserve and introduce to new generations.”

Cars range from practical to luxury and comfort. Some have dozens of seats, others small cabins which include controlled lights, a fan, and bathroom. The higher class cars even include queen sized beds with dressers. And in between, several options tables and kitchens for dining and snacks. An open car will soon be renovated to include a bar, while guests look out over the passing landscape.

Though coal and steam power the trip, hundreds of volunteers fuel the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society’s trips. Stewards, conductors, and engineers enthusiastic each and every time they ride the no. 765. “It takes a village to run a steam train — so every time we have a weekend work session, or we’re getting ready to take the train on the road, people come from everywhere,” Lynch said. “And it’s not just from Allen County or DeKalb county or Northeast Indiana. We have people from Michigan, from Ohio, from West Virginia, and Illinois.”

Steuben County Economic Development Director Isaac Lee, who boarded the trip with his children, sees big potential with the Indiana Rail Experience coming to Angola. “The work that I do, and that we do collectively to build our community, is about keeping our kids here with us, having them grow with us, be successful with us. It’s about generational growth,” he explained. “It’s not just looking at experiences that help my wife and I — it’s about the kids too.”

“This type of attraction has a magnet affect of bringing populations that either live here, or would like to tour through our area,” Lee continued. “You don’t get many experiences to work with trains. So, that experience coming north from Fort Wayne to Angola? We’re pretty excited about it.”

Much of the public, may already know and be following upcoming trips. The Indiana Ice Cream Train, and the Wine, Whiskey, & Spirits Train trips planned for July 8-9 are already sold out. And tickets are filling up so fast for other events, we’re told organizers are working on scheduling more events later this summer. You can look out for available opportunities for the Indiana Rail Experience here. “Being able to share that feeling of awe and wonder and joy with thousands of people every year?” Lynch told us. “That’s what’s really addicting.”

Fort Wayne railroad organization acquires two historic Pennsylvania Railroad passenger cars

By News

NEW HAVEN, INDIANA – The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society has acquired two vintage Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) passenger cars from the Washington, DC Chapter, of the National Railway Historical Society (DCNRHS) to support the Indiana Rail Experience, an expansion of its popular events and programs in Northeast Indiana. Tickets to ride aboard these cars are on sale now at indianarailexperience.org.

Constructed in 1949 by the Budd Company in Philadelphia, the Collinsville Inn and Franklin Inn were originally built as sleeping cars for the PRR’s famous passenger trains, several of which operated through Fort Wayne, Indiana.

“It is very exciting to celebrate our 50th Anniversary with the purchase of these cars and we can’t wait to welcome guests aboard them later this summer,” explained Wayne York, senior excursion manager for Fort Wayne. “DCNRHS has been a long and respected partner to our organization, and we are thankful for their stewardship in preserving these cars.”

In 1963, the PRR converted the cars into traditional passenger coaches to transport visitors to the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. Later, they were assigned to commuter train service in Michigan, New York, and Maryland before they were donated to DCNRHS in 2008. Thanks in part to a 2012 Trains Magazine grant to “introduce new generations of rail enthusiasts to the history and excitement of mainline rail travel,” the cars were restored to their 1960s appearance and certified for use on Amtrak.

“Changes in the private car environment meant these two beautiful, historic cars were no longer a great fit for our business model,” said DCNRHS Chief Mechanical Officer Jim Lilly, who oversaw the rescue, restoration, and operation of the equipment. “We are pleased to have the coaches go to an organization we have worked with for many years. We are confident that they will be cared for and continue to serve as icons of railroad history, giving another generation a chance to ride. It’s rather fitting that they go to Fort Wayne, as these were built for the Pennsylvania Railroad which was once a major industry in the region.”

Since 2015, the cars have been used in special charters and excursions, including steam-powered trips operated by Fort Wayne. This year, they will enter service as part of the Indiana Rail Experience, which will offer a variety of train rides and programs for all ages in Angola, Indiana. Offering comfortable, climate-controlled interiors with rotating chairs, the set also includes ADA-compatible seating and a restroom.

The purchase was aided by First Merchants Bank with assistance from a private donor. Transportation, logistics, shipping, and assistance were provided by FMW Solutions, Inc. Norfolk Southern Corp, and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

DCNRHS is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, District of Columbia Not-For-Profit all volunteer organization founded in 1944 and dedicated to “expanding the public appreciation of railroads and their history through preservation and education.” DCNRHS serves a variety of audiences with free monthly railroad-related public programs on historical and contemporary topics, railroad trips and tours, the Martin F. O’Rourke Railroad Library, annual scholarships to high school students for railroad learning, and other railroad history endeavors. A major focus of DCNRHS has been the restoration and operation of historic rail equipment which began with the acquisition of the classic heavyweight Pullman sleeper-lounge, Dover Harbor in 1979 and continues today. For more information on DCNRHS, please see dcnrhs.org.

An all-volunteer, award-winning, and safety-driven non-profit organization, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, Inc. 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.