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.”
“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.”
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 headwatersjunction.com 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!
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: https://prrt1steamlocomotivetrust.org/index.php.
The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society (FWRHS) is pleased to announce that an anonymous donor has stepped forward to offer a matching grant for Project 358, the Society’s restoration of a vintage diesel locomotive from the Nickel Plate Road. Donations up to $5,358 will be matched dollar for dollar through December 31st.
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 headwatersjunction.org.
and operations. For more information, visit headwatersjunction.org.
“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 cvsr.org/steam. 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.