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Glenn Brendel 1940-2011

By | News


Glenn E. Brendel, Director Emeritus and founding member of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, died unexpectedly at his home in New Haven, Ind., on Tuesday, Feburary 22nd. He was 71.

Growing up in a railroad family, Brendel’s affinity for the industry developed early on as a boy who would visit with tower operators and railroad employees of the Baltimore & Ohio and Wabash Railroad in his hometown of Spencerville, Ind., as well as with locomotive engine crews on the Nickel Plate Road in Fort Wayne.

Brendel was a photographer for the Air National Guard and in the early 1970s, he and other like minded railroad preservationists approached the City of Fort Wayne with  a plan to save and possibly restore 1944-built Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765 which had been installed in Lawton Park as a monument to commemorate the city’s “Elevate the Nickel Plate” project.

In 1972, with Wayne York, Walter Sassmanshausen, and John Eichman, Brendel incorporated the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society. Brendel was president for the first three years.

After removing the locomotive from display in 1974, Brendel lead the all volunteer, non-profit effort to restore the locomotive to operating condition. Brendel’s vision paid off in 1979, when no. 765 moved under its own power for the first time since 1958, making the society one of the first, all volunteer organizations to accomplish such a task.

Following the ambitious rebuild, no. 765 would become one of the country’s premiere attractions and roving ambassador for the City of Fort Wayne. In 1982, Brendel negotiated the lease of the 765 to the Southern Railway for a lengthy excursion schedule, a watershed event for the society.

Between 1979 and 1993, the locomotive would serve over a quarter of a million passengers and operate over 52,000 miles in 16 states. During this time Brendel became one of the founding members of the Railroad Passenger Car Alliance, a trade association of historic passenger car owners and operators for equipment used in excursion service.

In 1993, worn from many years in public exhibition service, the 765’s future seemed unclear. Brendel lead the effort to rehabilitate the locomotive to “as-built” condition as project manager, securing a Transportation Enhancement grant to underwrite 80% of the rebuild. Five years and 15,000 volunteer hours later, the 765 returned to operation in 2005 and operated its first passenger trips in 16 years in 2009. The 765 is now one of five mainline steam locomotives in operation in the United States and largest east of the Mississippi.

His singular vision, drive, and positive outlook on life has allowed two generations of men and women to not only experience the uncommon sights and sounds of history, but to learn first hand a uniquely American era, filled with ingenuity and excitement. He maintained an encyclopedic knowledge of railroad practices, an incredible resource in the preservation industry. In his notes after the 765’s award-winning rebuild, he wrote: “The 765 project has been a long and arduous task. I am fortunate to have made many new acquaintances and friends in the Society and around the country during the four-plus years of the restoration. It has been a wonderful experience.”

Brendel, who had served in a variety of capacities as director, locomotive crew, and member in his 38 years of service with the society, was honored with the title of Director Emeritus after stepping down as president in 2010.

His passion, knowledge, experience and statesmanship will be greatly missed.

Society Receives Locomotive from Norfolk Southern

By | News

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The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society has received the incredible donation of vintage diesel locomotive no. 57. Constructed in 1957 for the Nickel Plate Road as no. 358, the SD9 type locomotive was built to replace the railroad’s venerable Nickel Plate Berkshire type steam locomotives, including the society’s own steam engine, no. 765.

In its 50 years of service, no. 57 survived a 1964 merger with Norfolk & Western, which later became Norfolk Southern in 1990. A powerful hauler capable of 1,750 horsepower, the unit was finally retired in 2007.

Initial plans call for the diesel to be returned to its original as-built Nickel Plate black and imitation gold paint scheme and number. The society hopes to eventually return the locomotive to operating condition and is conducting a mechanical inspection to determine the cost of its restoration, though a lot of significant work will be necessary.

Restoration to operation means potential tandem service between the 765 and 358/57 in excursion and public exhibition service and the society is accepting donations to cosmetically rehabilitate and mechanically rebuild the locomotive. No. 358/57 joins the ranks of additional Nickel Plate Road equipment owned and operated by the society, including the 765 and two historic cabooses.

This donation enables the society to visibly demonstrate the important transition from steam-era locomotive production and operation to the modern diesel era as it occurred in the mid to late 1950s.

The society extends its heartfelt thanks to Norfolk Southern for the opportunity to rehabilitate a vintage locomotive from its own corporate heritage and for their continued recognition and support of the society’s operation.

A Few Thousand Horsepower is Good for the Heart

By | News

Originally printed in the Winter 2010 issue of our newsletter, Short Lines. Become a member here to receive these and other stories.

By Kelly Lynch, Communications Director

Opportunities for public outreach are the cornerstones of a steam preservation program and nowhere is that more pronounced than when the 765 is doing exactly as intended: bringing excitement, enlightenment, and wonder to the public.

While many of us are absorbed in our respective duties as locomotive crew, car hosts, or gift shop sales, it can be easy to forget that for many, a visceral, meaningful connection is made whenever the 765 turns a wheel.

As we work our way into a new century, it’s clear that the ability to inspire a connection in the public is strained by time and shifting demographics. This puts new emphasis on every personal encounter that passengers or supporters may have with the organization and the locomotive. Each experience is another opportunity to gain a new supporter, inspire a young fan, and cement the importance of our 400-ton time machine.

The 765’s role as an educational tool is clear, but we would be remiss to forget its power as a people-mover in the emotional sense.

Following TrainFestival, the crew of the 765 was reminded of this in a letter received from a cab rider who, in conjunction with his job to film part of the locomotive’s excursion to Alma, Michigan had with him the 12 year-old son of his client to take photographs of the ride. He sent us the following:

“Just wanted to again offer my profuse thanks for the cab ride in Owosso the other day. I cannot begin to tell you the profound impact that cab experience had on my client’s 12 year-old son. He’s a great kid and a really well-read railroad fan, but he’s intensely shy, has few friends and is going through a lot of those awkward stages that kids encounter as they enter seventh grade. His dad told me that the very prospect of getting a cab ride in a main line steam locomotive made him sleepless for almost two weeks prior to the trip, and I was slightly hesitant to say “yeah, we’ll get you in the cab” since I figured his age might be a problem.

So, when all was cleared to ride the 765 with you, he already appeared to have grown another foot. I sensed self-confidence I had never seen before.

Shortly before we climbed in the cab with you, Mason asked me if I thought the engineer would let him blow the “horn” – he has a slight speech impediment, seems acutely aware of it and says “horn” to avoid the embarrassment of using any word like whistle that makes his “w’s” sound like wubbleyou’s.

“That whistle’s a big deal to most engineers. Getting to blow the whistle, that’s something between you and the engineer,” I said, as if issuing a challenge for Mason to come out of his shell.

So, when we pulled into Alma, you might not have noticed, but he stammered twice before finally getting the nerve to ask you about “blowing the horn.” Your positive response to his request, and admonition to “do it the right way” sounded like something straight from a John Wayne movie, and I shot a few still photos for him to keep as souvenirs. I also noticed that his two-longs-a-short-and-a-long [the standard grade crossing signal] appeared well-rehearsed.

His dad and I noticed a huge difference in his demeanor for the rest of the day. When we arrived at our hotel Saturday night, he immediately phoned his mother and grandmother, quite emotionally, telling them that the ride was “the coolest thing” he’d ever done.

He also told both mom and grandmother that the men on the engine treated him like “one of the guys” – letting him ride in the pilot engineer’s seat, the brakeman’s seat behind the fireman, and in the gangway. Mason’s Dad and I eavesdropped, then left the room, and his Dad told me this was a “huge” deal to see and hear his son’s excitement.

I think it’s important for you, Steve and the other fellows in the cab to know that your simple acts of kindness to a 12 year-old appeared to me to be life-changing. He appeared to be charged with a new sense of self-confidence, and as we left the airport last night I told him that I expect to see an exceptional “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” essay in 7th grade English class this fall. His dad will keep me posted, I’m sure.

After TrainFestival, the 765’s last public trip was the October 3rd doubleheader with Pere Marquette no. 1225.

On this trip, cab ride raffle tickets were sold for both locomotives. SRI had chosen to hold the photo runbys just before the sun disappeared behind what had previously been a perpetually rainy and overcast sky.

A woman, Elaine, came aboard to enjoy the ride, was seated in the road foreman’s seat, and while she didn’t say much, took in the cooperation of the crew and the steam action with interest, commenting later that she never thought it would have taken so much work to operate a locomotive.

Unknown to the locomotive crew at the time, a special set of circumstances had played a role in hosting an additional cab rider.

During the trip, Bill Otter learned that Elaine, who was traveling with her husband, was seriously ill and had only a few months more to live. After learning of her interest to ride in the cab Directors Bill, Mike Guptail, Wayne York and Steve Winicker decided that there would be more than one cab-ride winner that day. (The additional winner was a railroad fan from England, no less!)

Before the runbys, crew member Andrew Enyart came aboard discretely requesting that the crew sign a 765 shirt. Once back on the SRI tool car, Andy had members of the 1225 crew sign the shirt as well.

When presented with the signed shirt, she and her husband rendered an emotional thank you and re-boarded the train to Alma.

Those of us on the engine didn’t know it at the time, but Elaine had chosen this trip with her husband above taking a larger vacation to other attractions like the Grand Canyon.

Regardless, guest engineer and RailAmerica Vice-President of Rules and Safety Preston Claytor and crew members Jeff Rayner and Mark St. Aubin treated Elaine like royalty.

A few hundred horsepower is good for the heart, and not just our own but others as well. We’ll remember Elaine and our young cab rider’s personal journeys with the 765 for many years.

Old Locomotive Chugs to Life

By | News, Press Coverage

As Engine No. 765 belched a plume of black, soot-laden smoke into the clear October sky, 6-year-old Levi Jones’ eyes widened and a big grin spread across his face.

“That was neat,” he said, staring at the massive black machine parked not 15 feet from him.

The old, and beautifully restored, steam engine was on display Saturday at the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society’s TrainTown in rural New Haven. As society members and railroad aficionados stood around in the cold air and watched, children clambered up and down the steps into the engine’s cabin or climbed into the second story of the old caboose in the workshop.

The open house marked the end of the first successful season in 16 years for the classic train, which was taken off the line for a painstaking and expensive restoration, one of the most complete rebuilds of its type, said Kelly Lynch, communications manager for the railroad society.

For Levi’s grandfather, Harry Jones, the train brings back memories of his childhood in Richmond – taking a trip with his Cub Scout pack to catch a game at Wrigley Field in Chicago and going with his father to take the mail to the train station, where it was sorted.

“I remember seeing the train come in,” he said. “The ground just shook.”

No. 765 wasn’t shaking the ground much Saturday afternoon, but as it sat there, looking almost alive with the steam bellowing out from underneath it and its whistle occasionally piercing the air, it garnered most of the visitors’ attention.

In the steam engine world, No. 765 is a celebrity, one of the first of its type to be rebuilt and go out on passenger excursions in the 1980s, Lynch said.
Until earlier this year, the engine hadn’t pulled passenger cars since 1993.

Built in 1944 at the Lima Locomotive Works, the Berkshire-type steam engine weighs 404 tons and stands 15 feet high.

For more than a decade, the train sat in a Fort Wayne park, rusting in the rain. In the early 1970s, restoration work began.

In the early 1980s, No. 765 traveled through the Midwest and the East Coast as an excursion train. It was again retired in the early 1990s and rebuilt to its 1944 specifications, according to the historical society.

This past Memorial Day, the engine began the second phase of its career as an excursion train, and its return to New Haven this week marked the end of the season.

Society volunteers have some upgrades planned for the old engine over the winter, Lynch said. And the plan is to continue to run it as long as they can and as long as it can earn its keep.

Coal costs about $120 a ton, and the engine uses its capacity of 22 tons to go about 150 to 200 miles, pulling the coal into its firebox using an auger under the cabin, Lynch said.

It can cost about $4,000 to $8,000 a day to operate it, not counting insurance and other costs, he said.

The more mundane maintenance of the engine was lost on Levi Jones and his siblings as they stood next to No. 765, clearly awed by the monster machine.
“I like it when it rains on me,” said 4-year-old Natalie Jones, her blue hood dotted with the soot from the steam, the remains of a day spent with the train.

Click here to read the original article online.

Sound and Square in a New Career

By | News

By Richard Melvin, Operations Manager

The 765’s first revenue trips of her third career are now history. Operationally, these trips could not have gone any better. We got first class treatment from Norfolk Southern on the deadhead moves to and from North Judson, while the Chesapeake and Indiana also rolled out the red carpet for us. We then worked with a very dedicated group of folks at the Hoosier Valley Railway Museum to operate the excursions.

Personally, these trips were a chance to re-acquaint myself with an old friend, but one who had undergone an extreme makeover. The 765 is not the same locomotive that we put away in 1993. Today it fires easier, steams better, sounds better, runs smoother and overall is in the best mechanical condition it has ever been since it was new. When under way, the running gear is totally silent, with no rod slap, no clanking and banging; there is no sound at all from the running gear. Even so, nothing runs hot and all the bearings run at about the same temperatures.

The running gear may be quiet, but the sound that the 765 makes at the stack is plenty loud and is really something to hear. The 765’s valves are set absolutely dead-on square and the sound from the exhaust demonstrates that on every exhaust beat. Whether going forward or backing up, the exhaust beats are all equal in volume and perfectly timed. And of course, when working hard the 765 still has that characteristic Lima “shotgun” exhaust. She rides so well now that some of the crew have commented that the 765 now rides better than the tool car.

The most serious problem we had with the 765 in more than 10 days of operation was the little air motor that swings the clapper in the bell quit. A few drops of oil fixed that in short order.

The 765’s new crew is an interesting mix of old heads like myself and Chief Mechanical Manager Steve Winicker, and a lot of young, eager-to-learn rookies. But what a crew of rookies we’ve got! The North Judson trips gave us an opportunity to let almost every “new guy” get some time in the left-hand seat learning how to make steam. Over on the right side of the cab we also had a new engineer learning how to run the 765. Things worked out very well on both sides of the cab with our slate of major league rookies, so well that on one trip on June 21 on one of the North Judson trips, the oldest man in the 765’s cab was only 32 years old! Us “old guys” have to get prepared to pass the torch to the younger folks and we’ve got a great young crew to pass that torch on to.

Steve Winicker and the guys and gals that put so many hours of their personal time into the overhaul of the 765 should be tremendously proud of what they have accomplished. I have had the honor of running the 765 well over 30,000 miles all over the eastern part of the country on a dozen different railroads, and I can honestly say that the 765 has never run better. The 765 is as close to new as it could possibly be, poised for many more years of successful operation in her third career.