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Regional Short Line and Fort Wayne Railroad Partner for Indiana Rail Experience

By Events, Excursions, News

ANGOLA, INDIANA – The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, Inc. and the Indiana Northeastern Railroad Company have announced The Indiana Rail Experience, a historic partnership that will contribute to the tourism economy and the quality of life in Northeast Indiana.

Beginning in 2022, the Fort Wayne non-profit will operate a series of passenger train trips, educational programs, and special events over the Indiana Northeastern, a 100-mile railroad line that connects Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan.

Events will include a wide array of excursions with Nickel Plate Road no. 765, a 1940s-era steam locomotive, which has become an international cultural attraction since being restored to operating condition in 1979. In addition to the 765, other historic locomotives and classic railroad passenger cars will provide unique offerings for children, families, and adults between July and October. A complete schedule and tickets will be available later in May and June. To get notified, click here. For sponsorship inquiries, click here.

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“Our railroad has helped drive the economy of this region since it was started to support local farmers,” explained Gale Shultz, President of the Indiana Northeastern. “We’re hoping to not only shine a spotlight on our community with the popularity of the 765, but let the world know that the region and the railroad are open for business.”

The Indiana Northeastern is an industrious short line railroad serving Northeast Indiana, Southern Michigan, and Northwest Ohio.

“This multi-year agreement will allow us to offer experiences to our friends and neighbors like never before,” said Kelly Lynch, Vice President of the Fort Wayne Railroad. “We couldn’t be more fortunate to work with a local, family-owned organization like the Indiana Northeastern. This partnership will bring joy to thousands of residents and visitors.”

In addition, events will be hosted in cooperation with the Little River Railroad, Norfolk & Western Business Car No. 300 Preservation Society, Steuben County Tourism Bureau, and the City of Angola. Sponsors include Berne Apparel, JICI Construction, The John H. Emery Rail Heritage Trust, McRail Insurance, and Trine University.

“We are thrilled that the Indiana Northeastern is boosting our recreation industry. Not only does this give our population more to do in the summer months, but the potential to expand these events into the off-season will be significant for our area,” said June Julien, Executive Director of Steuben County Tourism Bureau.

Formally incorporated 30 years ago in 1992, the Indiana Northeastern has revitalized the former Wabash and New York Central Railroad lines which had all but been abandoned by the 1990s. The short-line railroad success story now sees over 5,000 freight carloads a year, serves 25 industrial and agricultural industries in three states and supports over 500 jobs. The Indiana Northeastern maintains offices and a locomotive repair facility in South Milford and Hudson, Indiana, respectively.

With roots deep in state history and cultural heritage tourism, rail tourism in Indiana continues to be a burgeoning industry. The recently inaugurated Nickel Plate Express in Noblesville hosted 25,000 riders, and the events of the French Lick Scenic Railway in southern Indiana welcomed over 70,000 riders last year.

“In 2020, Indiana had an estimated 67 million visitors,” said Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch. “Development is key to the Leisure and Travel-related industry and its growth, and this development in Northeast Indiana will be a great addition to visitor attraction and to the quality of life.”

“Our events routinely sell out and are in significant demand in Northeast Indiana. Our studies have shown that a more permanent railroad attraction in this region could welcome over 120,000 visitors on an annual basis,” added Lynch.

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.

“For the love of trains” – Railroad group keeps steam engine running

By News
Originally published in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

Generations of great traditions often start with “My grandpa introduced me …” or “My mother fell in love with this and passed that love to me …” or “My father began bringing me ….”

It seems that most everyone working inside the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society’s restoration workshop at 15809 Edgerton Road in New Haven has those connections.

A few were introduced when their dads started bringing them, and now, as the group celebrates its 50th year, members are bringing their sons, daughters and even granddaughters.

When Samantha Krumanaker of Huntington was a girl, she’d visit her grandfather in Cass, West Virginia, and they’d go see the Cass Scenic Railroad. Now she’s 29, an administrative assistant for the Indiana Highway Department and spends her Saturdays helping get the Nickel Plate No. 765 ready for the upcoming season.

“My grandpa really wanted to do this when he was a kid but circumstances didn’t allow that to happen so he lives vicariously through me,” she said. “He never thought he’d be able to see this stuff in real life until it just kind of happened for me.”

Her grandfather, Ernie White, enjoys each visit to the warehouse just like the little kids who jump up and down and wave every time the 765 engine goes by during an excursion. Each time the 765 engine rolls down the rails it makes crowds feel young again, and for some, bringing back childhood dreams of becoming a train engineer.

“We’re doing what nobody else is doing,” said Jon Jaros, one of the 765’s seven engineers. “We’re working on a time machine.”

There’s plenty of nostalgia involved whenever the steam locomotive goes out, and not just from those watching on the side of the tracks.

“For me, it’s being part of the history,” Operations Manager Zach Hall said. “When we leave Fort Wayne, somebody sat in this same seat and looked out over these same farm fields from 1944 to 1958. The biggest thing is preserving the history and making it to the different places that we’ve never been, going over railroads that haven’t seen passengers or steam engines in many, many years.”

Hall calls the 765 a people magnet, and it draws him to Fort Wayne from his home in Altoona, Pennsylvania, making the 61/2 hour drive 15 to 20 weekends a year to work with his friends. There are lots of similar stories inside the workshop, including how family-like bonds have been formed by the unending work, grime and camaraderie.

“I kind of just fell into the right group of people,” Krumanaker said. “I just started hanging out with them, and they invited me to come over here and I haven’t left. It felt natural, like I totally belonged here. As hard as they try to get rid of me, they can’t.”

Volunteers give up every Saturday to help out. According to Hall, the 765 requires 15 to 20 hours of maintenance for every hour it spends on the tracks, and that doesn’t include the rest of the refurbished cars such as the recently completed caboose.

“All the parts on this are heavy and dirty, and you have to work into figuring out you just have to get in there and don’t worry about getting filthy because you will,” said Mechanical Manager Steve Winicker, 72.

The New Haven native joined the organization a couple of years after it started in 1972, and now his job is to figure out what needs done on the trains and then show or tell everyone what to do. Because of federal regulations, paperwork and inspections are constants. There are tons of knowledge required from the crew, not all of it learned from manuals, and Winicker has lots of stories about how ingenuity led to solutions.

“I’ve seen things that I never thought would be the slightest possibility early on, but I’ve seen them happen,” he said. “There have been a lot of people here who kept it going for all those years, in good times and slow times and hard times.”

But right now is one of the good times.

Hall laughs and calls working on the train a hobby that has gotten way out of hand, but the specialization has also led to “day-job” careers for many of those involved.

“What’s even endearing to me is this machine and our programs and events and everything we do appeals to everybody,” organization Vice President Kelly Lynch said. “You don’t have to be a train fan or a history fan to get caught up in the magic. I’ve seen it firsthand. The railroads were the melting pot of the 20th century, and what we do now carries on that appeal.”

The society has nearly 1,000 members from across the country and even around the world, about 100 who volunteer regularly to help operate the 765 over 16 states.

The 2022 season starts in mid-May with the annual “Steam in the Valley” event to the Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio. More information is available at fortwaynerailroad.org. In addition to events in Ohio, there will soon be announcements on Indiana excursions, too.

The group’s biggest hope is to find a centralized showcase area home so more people can enjoy what they do as a regional attraction. That effort – known locally as Headwaters Junction – continues to pick up momentum despite a long gestation period, Lynch said.

“It’s been my mission for most of my adult life to ensure that this organization exists for another 50 years beyond me,” Lynch said. “So here we are in our 50th year, and it really puts things into perspective. We want to keep doing what we’re doing and bring joy and education to people for the next century.”

Spring Steam Events and Experiences Announced

By Events

Kick-off the start of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society’s season with the Hostler Experience or enjoy an exclusive night photo shoot with Nickel Plate Road no. 765!

HOSTLER EXPERIENCE – MAY 7th | $284.00

Join the ranks of a mainline steam locomotive crew and help prepare the 765 for the day’s run. You’ll learn how to awaken the 765’s firebox, service the locomotive’s appliances and running gear, and enjoy exclusive, behind-the-scenes access to the 765 and its cab for an 8-hour experience. All participants must be able-bodied and wear steel-toed shoes. Space is extremely limited. Click here to book.

NIGHT PHOTO EVENT – MAY 7th | $120.00

This event will feature not only the 765 but also vintage freight cars and cabooses, including the recently restored Wabash caboose 2543. The equipment will be positioned so we can recreate multiple scenes from the Golden Age of Railroading. Click here to book.

THROTTLE TIME AND FIRING TIME – MAY 16th | $299-$999

Climb aboard, whistle off, and become the engineer of restored Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765 at the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad! Choose to run the engine under Throttle Time or learn how to fire the locomotive under Firing Time. Click here to book.

Collaboration Between Indiana Communities and Fort Wayne Railroad Saves Historic Artifacts

By Uncategorized

FORT WAYNE, INDIANA – Thanks to a generous donor and the efforts of Noblesville, Indiana’s Parks and Recreation Department, and the City of Logansport, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society has recovered over half a dozen pieces of vintage railroad equipment for preservation.

Throughout 2021 and into 2022, the Fort Wayne Railroad worked to identify and relocate surplus railroad equipment left at the former locations of the Indiana Transportation Museum in Noblesville and Logansport, respectively. Stored in deteriorating condition and a barrier to mediation efforts at each site, the Fort Wayne Railroad, volunteers, and contractors undertook a Herculean effort to dismantle several locomotives for shipping and prep remaining equipment for stabilization and transportation by truck. Additional assistance was provided by the Nickel Plate Express, US Rail Corporation, and Hoosier Heartland Trolley Company.

The saved equipment includes:

  • Two Milwaukee Road F Units, no. 72-A, and 96-C
  • One Milwaukee Road B-Unit no. 68-B
  • One Pennsylvania Railroad hopper car no. 257784
  • One Lake Erie & Western/Nickel Plate Road boxcar no. 18013
  • One Louisville & Nashville boxcar no. 12177
  • One Wabash Railroad boxcar

“We’re grateful that Noblesville and Logansport elected to partner with us to find new homes for these historic artifacts. It’s an unusual burden for a City to be faced with de-accessing railroad equipment of any size or age and an enormous challenge for a non-profit like ours to be able to intercede,” said Kelly Lynch, Vice President of the Fort Wayne Railroad. “Fortunately, a private donor stepped up to assist in saving these pieces of Indiana history. Everything relocated is destined for restoration and interpretation of some kind and will help tell the story of Hoosier railroading.”

Several mechanical components from the vintage locomotives have been made available to other rail preservation organizations, and at least one diesel locomotive is being considered for an interactive display. Plans call for a portion of the freight cars to be used in a variety of educational capacities as the Fort Wayne Railroad expands its programs and events, and continues work on establishing a regional railroad attraction in Northeast Indiana. Inquiries on locomotive parts can be made by clicking here.

The equipment is currently stored at a privately owned, rail-served facility where stabilization efforts will take place, along with:

  • Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 624 and Milwaukee Road reefer no. 37076, saved for preservation and relocated in a partnership with the City of Hammond in 2017
  • Former Louisville & Nashville auxiliary water tender no. 40985 and originally the tender to Louisville & Nashville Berkshire no. 1989, and later preserved for use with Bessemer & Lake Erie steam locomotive no. 643 and relocated from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2019
  • Pennsylvania Railway Post Office Car no. 6523, purchased at auction from the Noblesville collection in 2018
  • Former Santa Fe baggage cars no. 1255 and 1257, acquired via a donation from Amtrak in 2019

Due to the active industrial nature of the storage site, the equipment is not currently available for public viewing or tours.

While this equipment is currently in storage, the Fort Wayne Railroad is hard at work to finish several important restoration projects, including our dining car Silver Diner, Nickel Plate Road diesel locomotive no. 358, or future open air car no. 3671. Click here to make a contribution.

For 50 years, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society has dedicated itself to providing outstanding, hands-on educational and recreational experiences through the preservation, restoration, and operation of historic railroad equipment and artifacts significant to Northeast Indiana. An all-volunteer, award-winning non-profit organization, it has operated Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765 over 300,000 miles in public exhibition and passenger train excursion service and routinely welcomes passengers from all 50 states and half a dozen countries. In addition, Fort Wayne continues to restore and exhibit other historic steam and diesel locomotives, freight cars, and passenger cars from the Golden Age of Railroading. Its operations are funded entirely from memberships, donations, grants, and sponsorships. For several years, the Fort Wayne Railroad has worked to establish Headwaters Junction, a rail interpretive facility and regional destination, for its successful events and programs. For more information, visit headwatersjunction.org.

Steam in the Valley Returns to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

By Events, Excursions

Two celebrated non-profit organizations set to commemorate their 50th Anniversaries with special events planned for May

INDEPENDENCE, OHIO – Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR) and the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, Inc. (FWRHS) will once again partner to host “Steam in the Valley” and bring historic steam locomotive no. 765., a fourteen-wheeled, time machine that stands 15 feet tall and weighs 404 tons to the Cuyahoga Valley.

Steam in the Valley will be held for the first time in May on the 13-15 and 20-22. 2022 will mark the 50th anniversaries for both organizations and a decade of collaborating to bring the exciting sights and sounds of historic steam railroading to the Cuyahoga Valley Steam in the Valley will be the first major event held this year for both organizations as they celebrate their 50th anniversaries. Steam in the Valley will include a variety of historical train experiences for passengers of all ages.

As part of the living history event, all riders are invited to dress in their best 1950s attire, with prizes available for best-dressed passengers. Tickets are on sale now at cvsr.org/steam.

Founded in 1972 by private citizens seeking to preserve remnants of the steam railroad era, CVSR operates through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, over what was once the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Since then, it has offered train rides and alternative transportation through the park and welcomes more than 150,000 visitors a year.

“Steam in the Valley has become an annual tradition at the railroad,” said Joe Mazur, CVSR President and CEO. “Steam locomotives ran on the same tracks through the Cuyahoga Valley as early as the 1880s, and a steam locomotive was an integral part of CVSR’s early years, which is fitting as we celebrate our 50th Anniversary year. We look forward to bringing part of that history back again this year.”

Originally built in 1944, the 765 operated between Chicago and Buffalo, New York for the Nickel Plate Railroad, whose offices were headquartered in Cleveland. Retired in 1958 and restored by the all-volunteer group in 1979, the 765 is a roving railroad attraction and one of the last locomotives of its type in operation. Its annual visits to CVSR have welcomed more than 6,000 visitors annually from 34 states.

“In the last half-century, our organization has been proud to see the 765 emerge as a unique kind of time machine and enchant thousands of people throughout the country,” said Kelly Lynch, Vice President of the FWRHS. “These events not only fulfill our dream to enrich people’s lives with unique and educational experiences but align perfectly with the mission of CVSR to blend recreation and education with railroad history. The Cuyahoga Valley is one of our favorite venues.”

Steam in the Valley will feature day and nighttime trips. Experiences include a variety of excursions including, Dinner on the Train, Murder Mystery trains, Cocktails on Rails, night rides and photo sessions and more. Tickets range from $25-$135 depending on excursion and seating class. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased through CVSR. To book tickets and to learn more, visit cvsr.org/steam.

About Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, Inc.
The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, Inc. (FWRHS) is an all-volunteer not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides hands-on educational and recreational experiences through the preservation and operation of historic railroad equipment. It has operated Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765 and other vintage trains throughout the country for 50 years. For more information, visit fortwaynerailroad.org.

About Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR) is a private sector, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) volunteer supported organization operating in partnership with Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) and is dedicated to the preservation of passenger rail transportation in Cuyahoga Valley and the historic Ohio & Erie Canalway. CVSR has been providing excursion rail service for 50 years. For more information about the railroad, visit CVSR.org.

Historic Nickel Plate Railroad Locomotives to Reunite in Bellevue

By Events, News

Historic steam locomotives and train rides to be feature of late summer event

BELLEVUE, OHIO (July 20th) – The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society and the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum are proud to announce Berkshires in Bellevue, a special series of events from September 24th through October 3rd featuring the reunion of historic 1940’s steam locomotives no. 765 and no. 757.

“Bellevue was once home to the largest railroad terminal on the Nickel Plate Road and we’re excited to honor the history of our community by bringing these iconic machines back together,” said Chris Beamer, Mad River president. “It will be the first time since 2013 that the 765 has operated at the Museum and we’re eager to collaborate with our friends from Fort Wayne to welcome hundreds of visitors to our community.”

Featuring steam-powered caboose rides, cab rides, hands-on experiences, dinner and breakfast buffets, and an exclusive night photo session featuring the 765 and 757, this event is ideal for railroad fans and families alike. Click here to purchase tickets.

The Berkshire-type locomotive emerged as one of the most technologically advanced and popular locomotive designs in the 20th Century and is most associated with the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad, commonly known as the Nickel Plate Road. The high-speed, high-horsepower Berkshires were heralded as “the engines that saved a railroad,” and were a common sight along the railroad line between Fort Wayne, Indiana, Bellevue, Ohio, and across the Nickel Plate system.

Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765 was originally placed on display in Fort Wayne, Indiana as a monument to a railroad elevation project and later restored to operation by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society in 1972. Since then, the 765 has become one of the most popular railroad attractions of its kind in the world, welcoming passengers and visitors from all 50 states and six countries.

Out of 80 Berkshires built for the Nickel Plate, six of these engines were preserved after the railroad transitioned to diesel locomotives. After efforts to find a home for it in Bellevue did not materialize in the late 1960s. the 757 was relocated to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania (RRMPA) in Strasburg, Pennsylvania. Thanks to the tireless advocacy of Mad River volunteers, the RRMPA agreed to transfer ownership of the 757 to Mad River in 2019. Soon after, the engine had its very own homecoming in Bellevue for permanent display where it joins over 50 pieces of railroad equipment and historic displays. Plans call for the locomotive to be cosmetically restored.

Berkshires in Bellevue Dates

BOOK YOUR TICKETS NOW

Friday, September 24th

Hostler Experience

Saturday, September 25th

Caboose Rides
Berkshire Dinner Buffet

Sunday, September 26th

Berkshire Breakfast
Caboose Rides

Friday, October 1, 2021

Hostler Experience
Night Photo Session

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Caboose Rides
FWRHS/Mad River Members Banquet
Members Night Photo Session

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Berkshire Breakfast
Caboose Rides

Berkshires in Bellevue Events & Experiences

All events take place at 253 Southwest St, Bellevue, Ohio, 44811

Caboose Rides

These 20-minute train rides will let passengers experience the sights and sounds of Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765 up close and personal from aboard a unique vantage point: inside a genuine Nickel Plate Road caboose! Bring the family and ride along like railroad crews did in the 1950s. Trains depart every 30 minutes. Tickets range from $10.00 – $25.00.

Cab Rides

Climb aboard the cab of steam locomotive no. 765 during for a 20-minute ride with the fireman and engineer. Tickets are $50.00. Space is limited.

Night Photo Session

For amateur and professional photographers alike, enjoy an extended opportunity to photograph no. 765, no. 757, and other historic railroad equipment, actors, vintage automobiles, and props in action under professionally lit scenes throughout the museum grounds in set-ups uniquely created for this event. Lighting provided by Chris Lantz Photography. Tickets are $175.00 per person. Space is limited.

Hostler Experience

Join the ranks of a mainline steam locomotive crew and help prepare the 765 for the day’s run. You’ll learn how to awaken the 765’s firebox, service the locomotive’s appliances and running gear, and enjoy exclusive, behind-the-scenes access to the 765 and its cab for an 8-hour experience. Tickets are $284.00 per person. Space is limited.

Berkshire Breakfast

Held in the newly constructed Mary Cooper Restoration building, this banquet-style breakfast will feature Nickel Plate Road no. 765 under steam and no. 757 on display inside the building. Diesel-powered caboose rides will be held for attendees. Tickets are $65.00.

Berkshire Dinner Buffet

Catered by Bone Boy’s BBQ & Catering and held in the newly constructed Mary Cooper Restoration building, this buffet-style dinner will feature Nickel Plate Road no. 765 under steam and no. 757 on display inside the building. Diesel-powered caboose rides will be held for attendees. Tickets are $75.00.

Museum Admission

Tour the Mad River & NKP Museum and explore its detailed displays, exhibits and vintage railroad equipment. Admission is $8.00 with any event or train ride ticket or $10.00 if purchased separately.