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New York Central Passenger Car Fleet Acquired for Excursion Service

By News

Seven New York Central cars from the streamliner era of passenger rail are destined for excursion service in Northeast Indiana

ROCHESTER, NEW YORK — As part of an ongoing investment in its new rail tourism program, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society has acquired seven passenger cars from the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum (RGVRM) in Rochester, New York. Once part of the New York Central Railroad’s famous “Great Steel Fleet” of passenger trains, the collection is now destined to regularly appear behind restored steam and diesel locomotives from the 1940s and 50s.

Built in 1941 for use on the Empire State Express, a flagship first-class passenger train of the New York Central, the cars will operate over former New York Central trackage in Indiana and Michigan. Restoration of the fleet is estimated to cost over 1.2 million dollars, with plans to fund the work through donations, grants, and ongoing ticket sales over the next several ensuing years. The organization’s first goal is to raise $160,000 in order to place one coach in service in 2024. A capital campaign has been launched at

“This acquisition will ensure we have a dedicated fleet of our own equipment for both the Indiana Rail Experience and future steam excursions around the country and helps strengthen our business model,” said Joe Knapke, President of the Fort Wayne Railroad. “Rochester’s care and stewardship in preserving this equipment through the years means that the cars will be enjoyed by thousands of people every year.”

The streamlined Empire State Express operated between New York City, Detroit, and Cleveland, and each of the preserved cars debuted in the inaugural run on December 7th, 1941 – only hours before the attack on Pearl Harbor. In later years, they were rebuilt for commuter service. Six cars from the fleet were acquired by the Rochester Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society in 1987 and made part of their growing museum collection where it was later joined by a railway post office car to complete the set. Refurbished by volunteers, the cars were used for a series of seasonal fall foliage excursions operated in the region through the 1990s and early 2000s, with the most recent trip taking place in 2019.

“These cars were state of the art when introduced and are beautiful examples of innovative, stainless steel construction during a period of optimism and investment in passenger rail,” said Otto Vondrak, president of RGVRM. “These lightweight, stainless steel cars set the standard for a generation of the traveling public. The Budd Company built these cars to last and they are destined for a bright future,” detailed Vondrak.

Over the next several years, the cars will undergo modernization of their mechanical, heating, and electric systems and additional work will update restrooms and seating. Two cars are likely candidates for conversion into first-class cars dining or parlor cars inspired by the New York Central’s original designs. The acquisition of the equipment was partially funded by a grant from the David A. Donoho Trust and the Central Indiana Foundation.

“Not many organizations have the resources to acquire, maintain, and operate a full seven-car passenger train, let alone one single car,” Vondrak said. “After a long career in preservation, RGVRM determined this train to be surplus to the museum’s collection. I’m proud of our museum’s accomplishments in preserving this historic train set, and our members are excited for its future. We can’t wait to see this classic streamliner operate with a powerful steam engine across the farmlands of the Midwest as they first did 82 years ago.”

Since the 1980s, the Fort Wayne Railroad has operated passenger excursions and public exhibition trains with restored Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765, often leasing privately owned passenger cars in order to accommodate the general public and make excursions financially viable. Since 2022, the organization has purchased two former Pennsylvania Railroad coaches, completed the restoration of a dining car and open-air car, converted a former baggage car into a power car to provide electricity for its trains, and also acquired an unrestored Canadian Pacific dome-observation-lounge car.

“With rising costs, limited availability, and logistical constraints, leasing even the best cars can make or break this business,” detailed Kelly Lynch, Vice President of the Fort Wayne Railroad. “We’ve gone from having no operating cars to a growing fleet in less than two years. As the Empire cars enter service over time, they will greatly expand our train sizes, capacity, and variety of trips, which means donations toward restoring our fleet can double and triple the impact our trains have.”

The Fort Wayne Railroad also recently purchased a former New York Central depot in Pleasant Lake, Indiana to support the Indiana Rail Experience, an ongoing partnership between the non-profit and the Indiana Northeastern Railroad Company, a privately-owned 100-mile short line railroad. Earlier this year, the program was named Indiana’s Best New Experience by the State Tourism Bureau for its impact on the region.

“In addition to boosting the local economy, we are planting the seeds for an immersive, linear cultural experience, where the passenger cars, stations, and locomotives are all from the same era, if not from the very same historic railroad,” said Lynch. “There are compelling models throughout the world that demonstrate how a tourist railroad can create an enduring sense of place and improve an area’s quality of life, and the Indiana Rail Experience hopes to build on these great examples and our own accomplishments so far.”

The acquired equipment is as follows:

New York Central Railway Post Office Car 5021 – Alonzo B. Cornell
New York Central 2566
New York Central 2567
New York Central 2568
New York Central 2571 – Hamilton Fish
New York Central 2572 – David B. Hill
New York Central 2578 – Charles Whitman


For over 50 years, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society has created unique and memorable experiences through its celebration of the Golden Age of Railroading – a special era of American transportation, innovation, and connectivity between the 1930s and 1950s. The Fort Wayne Railroad has operated historic steam locomotive Nickel Plate Road no. 765 extensively in public exhibition and passenger train excursion service and its events routinely welcome visitors from all 50 states and half a dozen countries. Its operations are made possible entirely through volunteers and funded by ticket sales, memberships, donations, grants, and sponsorships. For more information, visit

Tracing its roots back to 1937, the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum was established in 1971 in the old Erie Railroad depot in Rush, New York, just 12 miles south of downtown Rochester. Since that time, it has grown into the largest operating railroad museum in New York state, with more than 40 pieces of historic railroad equipment in its collection spanning generations of railroad technology and showcasing Rochester’s rich railroading heritage. For more information, visit

A family-owned company, the Indiana Northeastern Railroad began operations in December 1992 on nearly 130 miles of track in southern lower Michigan, northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio. The Indiana Rail Experience operates seasonal excursions over the tracks of the Indiana Northeastern, including the Wabash Railroad, New York Central’s former Fort Wayne & Jackson line and the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway. Six New York Central stations remain on the line. For more information, visit

Spanning more than 10,000 miles across 13 states and two Canadian provinces, the New York Central was one of the largest railroad systems in the east, connecting New York with Boston, Chicago, Montreal, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and St. Louis. Today, many of its routes are now operated by Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation, with Amtrak operating a number of passenger trains like the Lake Shore Limited and the Wolverine over former New York Central tracks. An earlier iteration of the Empire State Express was first operated in the late 1890s and famous for breaking a land speed record of 112.5 miles an hour on May 10th, 1893 with steam locomotive no. 999, which is now on display at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. For more information, visit

Rail Tourism Effort Acquires Historic Train Station

By News

A 141-year-old railroad station has been acquired by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society to support its expanding rail tourism programs in Northeast Indiana.

PLEASANT LAKE, IND – The historic railroad station on Main Street will serve as headquarters for the Indiana Rail Experience, a partnership of the non-profit Fort Wayne Railroad and the Indiana Northeastern, a regional short line railroad. The acquisition was made possible by a grant to develop a station and boarding site in Steuben County. The station will be open to the general public between Noon and 4:00 PM on Saturday, August 12th to coincide with the town’s annual Pleasant Lake Days Festival.

The station will host the upcoming Tails & Rails Train, Cigar Train, Indiana Fall Color Trains, and the Indiana Christmas Train. Though the station’s interior is largely preserved, improvements will likely include a new platform, lighting fixtures, and other amenities. Plans call for the structure and nearby property to receive cosmetic and structural improvements over the next year to host train rides and community events.

Fundraising for this work will start immediately at In addition, the non-profit is seeking the donation of historic railroad furniture, materials, and ephemera that would have been found in a typical railroad station, including benches, timetable racks, vintage vending machines, signage, and communications equipment, with the goal to make the station as immersive as possible for visitors.

“Harold and Carmen Haifley have been great custodians of the station and their interest in seeing it return to its intended function will have a dramatic impact on Pleasant Lake and the surrounding area,” said Kelly Lynch, Vice President of the Fort Wayne Railroad. “We believe that our increased ridership and investment will be catalytic to the area, and boost this historic community.”

Railroad events in 2022 brought over 2,500 visitors to Pleasant Lake in four days, doubling the town’s population. The program was named Indiana’s “Best New Experience” by the state tourism association earlier this year for its success in attracting visitors and welcoming over $300,000 in economic impact in the region. Trips will also continue to operate out of Angola thanks to a partnership with Trine University, as well as Edon, Ohio, and Hillsdale, Michigan.

“As a former resort town, Pleasant Lake is an ideal spot to see these dreams develop. We’re excited to help stabilize the town’s remaining historic structures and create opportunities for re-investment,” said Elten Powers, President of the Pleasant Lake Historical Society. “We’re especially grateful for the Indiana Northeastern Railroad’s support, as the rail line has been one of our community’s assets since the 1800s.”

“Being able to connect three states and each of these communities is an unparalleled opportunity in the tourism industry. One day our visitors will be able to ride our trails, explore our lakes and streams, visit our towns and festivals, and use our very own historic train to do so,” said June Julien, Executive Director, Steuben County Tourism Bureau. “We are thrilled that Steuben County will be the railhead for this exciting new corridor.”

Constructed in 1882 for the Fort Wayne & Jackson Railroad and later owned by the New York Central, the Victorian Gothic-style depot is a unique structure that combines passenger and freight operations, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The station last served passenger trains when owned by the Little River Railroad, now located in Coldwater, Michigan, and was acquired by local residents in the 2000s. It was once listed as one of Indiana’s 295 most threatened structures.

Located off Main Street, the station was once a center of activity in Pleasant Lake that served six passenger trains a day. It was surrounded by freight and passenger trackage, a coal dock, water tower, and a stockyard, and commonly saw freight trains carrying grain, livestock, stone from a nearby quarry, and ice from the lake. Local passenger excursions from Fort Wayne once brought tourists to the lake for weekend getaways.


In addition to developing Pleasant Lake and operating into the holiday season in 2023, the Indiana Rail Experience is also looking to evolve a proposal for a regional attraction initially envisioned for downtown Fort Wayne’s riverfront.

Originally named Headwaters Junction, the proposed cultural campus included an interpretive center and educational restoration facility inside a 1940s-inspired roundhouse, an outdoor railyard park, and a mixed-use community gathering space. With construction costs estimated between 15-20 million dollars, studies determined the attraction would welcome over 120,000 annual visitors to the area once completed. Various factors limited efforts to expand in Fort Wayne despite its long history of local support, consultant recommendations, and community plans. Elements of the original concept and connections to downtown Fort Wayne attractions will be furthered by the newly established Pufferbelly Junction, Inc. at Cass Street.

“Long term, we will need a facility to service and maintain these attractions and a landmark destination to help welcome thousands of visitors each year. It’s too early to know where and how a railyard park could be built here, but while the window to develop in Fort Wayne has closed, the sky is the limit in Northeast Indiana,” relayed Lynch.

A schedule of events, train rides, and excursions is available at

About the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society

For over 50 years, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society has created unique and memorable experiences through its celebration of the Golden Age of Railroading – a special era of American transportation, innovation, and connectivity between the 1930s and 1950s. The Fort Wayne Railroad has operated historic steam locomotive Nickel Plate Road no. 765 extensively in public exhibition and passenger train excursion service and its events routinely welcome visitors from all 50 states and half a dozen countries. Its operations are made possible entirely through volunteers and funded by ticket sales, memberships, donations, grants, and sponsorships. For more information, visit

Progress Rail Helps Transform Historic Locomotive

By News, Project 358

The restoration of a 1950s railroad locomotive has been invigorated by a collaboration with Progress Rail, a Caterpillar company.

MUNCIE, IND – The mechanical overhaul of Nickel Plate Road diesel locomotive no. 358 has entered a dramatic new phase as Progress Rail has transformed it to its as-built 1957 appearance. After six years of work, the volunteers and donors of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society will soon return this 50’s-era icon to the rails again.

Donated by Norfolk Southern to the Fort Wayne Railroad in 2010, the 358 has undergone an extensive restoration. It will soon become an operating rail attraction, complementing the non-profit’s preservation efforts and expanding tourism events in the Northeast Indiana region. Donations to help complete the restoration can be made at

“It has been emotional for us to watch this machine transform from a derelict state to a museum-quality showpiece. Progress Rail’s support has been critical throughout the overhaul, and their commitment to making the locomotive look just as it did when it was built by Electro-Motive has our heartfelt gratitude,” said W.D. Miller, Project Manager. “While our organization is known for operating a 1940s-era Nickel Plate steam locomotive, there is an entire generation of Americans who remember the enduring presence of these types of diesel-electric engines operating throughout the country.”

Progress Rail continues the tradition of EMD® locomotive manufacturing and maintains an assembly plant in central Indiana, where company employees consulted the original diagrams and restored the locomotive to its original Nickel Plate Road livery.

“This project is a tribute to the design, durability, and quality of EMD locomotives,” commented Art Erbacher, senior vice president of Progress Rail. “Supporting an effort like this is part of what makes working in the rail industry so rewarding.”

“Being involved in this project has boosted morale within our team,” added Jose Ruy Sanchez, locomotive operations director at Progress Rail in Muncie. “We are excited to see the finalized unit and tell our family and friends we were part of the restoration. At Progress Rail, we are proud to be part of an industry that connects people and communities, and we are looking forward to crossing paths with this locomotive in the future.”

No. 358 was one of twenty diesel locomotives built to replace the Nickel Plate Road’s steam engine fleet, which included Nickel Plate Road Berkshire-type steam locomotive no. 765, which the Fort Wayne Railroad has restored, owned, and operated since the 1970s. Designated as “Special Duty” locomotives, the SD9-type locomotive helped end the era of steam power thanks to their reduced maintenance costs. The 358 went on to serve Norfolk & Western and Norfolk Southern for decades before it was retired. The 358 will be the only operational Nickel Plate SD9 to look as it did when new and the only one to operate in rail tourism service.

“It’s rare to have operating examples of two dramatically different locomotives from the same railroad company, and together they’ll help us tell the story of railroad technology throughout the last 80 years,” explained Miller.

More than 12,000 volunteer hours went into the 358’s restoration. The work was also supported by over $100,000 in financial and in-kind contributions. In addition to Progress Rail and its employees, supporters have included Steel Dynamics, Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway, Nickel Plate Railroad Historical & Technical Society, Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum, Illinois Railway Museum, Crown Battery, Horizon Rail, and numerous private individuals with locomotive expertise. Upon its departure from Progress Rail, the 358 will be shipped to the Indiana Northeastern Railroad Company’s locomotive shop in Hudson, Indiana, where final restoration work will be completed.

“We still have electrical work to do, but we are 90% there. Once the 358 is completed, tested, and broken in, we plan to operate it as part of the Indiana Rail Experience on passenger excursions, at commemorative events, and for guest engineer programs,” added Miller. “Some of our youngest volunteers have grown up learning to work on the 358, and now a new generation will have their first experience with railroading thanks to the 358 and our supporters.”

About the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society:

For over 50 years, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society has created unique and memorable experiences through its celebration of the Golden Age of Railroading – a special era of American transportation, innovation, and connectivity between the 1930s and 1950s. The Fort Wayne Railroad has operated historic steam locomotive Nickel Plate Road no. 765 extensively in public exhibition and passenger train excursion service and its events routinely welcome visitors from all 50 states and half a dozen countries. Its operations are made possible entirely through volunteers and funded by ticket sales, memberships, donations, grants, and sponsorships. For more information, visit

About Progress Rail:

Progress Rail, a Caterpillar company, is one of the largest integrated and diversified providers of rolling stock and infrastructure solutions and technologies for global rail customers. Progress Rail delivers advanced EMD locomotives and engines, railcars, trackwork, fasteners, signaling, rail welding and Kershaw Maintenance-of-Way equipment, along with dedicated locomotive and freight car repair services, aftermarket parts support and recycling operations. The company also offers advanced rail technologies, including data acquisition and asset protection equipment. Progress Rail’s deep industry expertise, together with the support of Caterpillar, ensures a commitment to quality through innovative solutions for the rail industry. Progress Rail has a network of nearly 200 locations across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Australia, China, India, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. For more information, visit and follow @Progress_Rail on Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Indiana Rail Experience Returns for Second Season

By Events, Excursions

Following a successful season of memorable events and recent recognition as Indiana’s “Best New Experience” from the Indiana Tourism Association, a 1940s-era railroad attraction has expanded its calendar of excursions in Northeast Indiana, Southeast Michigan, and Northwest Ohio for 2023.

Operated by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society and the Indiana Northeastern Railroad Company, the Indiana Rail Experience has events planned between May and December, including steam-powered fall color tours, Christmas train rides, and a hands-on Indiana Rail Camp for young adults and railroad fans. The season will begin with the Indiana Ice Cream Train operating out of Angola on Memorial Day weekend and special events on Father’s Day weekend.

Returning will be the popular all-day excursions to Hillsdale, Michigan, and Wine & Whiskey Trains that will operate throughout the year. Included in the calendar of events will also be a special Railroad Open House event featuring several steam and diesel locomotives at the Indiana Northeastern’s locomotive shop in Hudson, Indiana.

Ticket sales for the season’s initial events will begin on April 19th at 6:00 PM at Dates, venues, and trip details are subject to change.

Excursions will feature both diesel locomotives and historic Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765 on select occasions. Trains include vintage passenger cars from the 1920s through the 1950s, with accommodations in deluxe coach, first-class, lounge, and dining cars. Group packages and private passenger car charters will also be available.

“This is only a new era not only for our organization but for cultural heritage tourism in the Northeast Indiana region,” said Kelly Lynch, Vice President of the Fort Wayne Railroad. “There is no other tourist railroad that connects three states together like this one and it presents a significant opportunity to use our transportation history and attractions as a way to welcome thousands of people to this region. This is just the start of a series of exciting announcements this year and we anticipate this program will continue to grow, especially in Steuben County.”

Operated entirely by volunteers, the increased number of events this year also means that the Indiana Rail Experience is recruiting this year for positions in event administration, docents, operations, gift store, on-board, and customer service roles. Interested participants can apply at

Events will be hosted in cooperation with the Little River Railroad, Gramling Locomotive Works, Trine University, Norfolk & Western Business Car No. 300 Preservation Society, City of Angola, and City of Hillsdale, Michigan, and the Steuben County Tourism Bureau.


All trips are roundtrips. Dates, venues, prices, and trip details are subject to change.

Steam-powered train rides departing Angola, Indiana. Tickets start at $15.00.

Steam-powered train rides departing Angola, Indiana during Father’s Day weekend. Tickets start at $15.00 for Donuts & Dads and $75.00 for the Summer BBQ Train.

All-day, roundtrip steam excursion between Edon, Ohio, and Hillsdale, Michigan on Father’s Day. Tickets start at $99.00.

Diesel-powered train rides departing Angola, Indiana. Tickets start at $15.00.

Diesel-powered cigar train with special guest Erik Espinosa. Departing Pleasant Lake, Indiana for Hillsdale, Michigan. Tickets start at $260.00 and include a variety of amenities and cigars.

For the following events, ticket sales will begin May 17th. Click here to get notified when sales begin.

Diesel-powered train rides departing Angola for passengers 21-and-over. Tickets start at $75.00.

Immersive, three-day railroad skills and educational camp for young adults to develop their passions and skills and for scouts to earn their Railroad Merit Badge. Camp admission and registration are $150.00.

Steam-powered train ride departing Angola for passengers 21-and-over. Tickets start at $75.00.

Diesel-powered train rides departing Angola. Tickets start at $15.00.

For the following events, ticket sales will begin June 14th. Click here to get notified when sales begin.

Featuring Little River Railroad, Gramling Locomotive Works, and Nickel Plate Road no. 765 in Hudson, Indiana. Admission is free. Train rides start at $10.00.

Steam train ride departing South Milford, Indiana. Ticket price TBA.

Train rides for good dogs and their owners departing Pleasant Lake, Indiana. Tickets are $45.00.

For the following events, ticket sales will begin July 19th. Click here to get notified when sales begin.

All-day steam excursions departing Pleasant Lake for Hillsdale. Tickets start at $99.00.

Steam & diesel excursion departing Hillsdale for Angola. Tickets start at $99.00.

Traditional diesel-powered Christmas train rides and group charters aboard Santa’s caboose in New Haven, Indiana. Tickets start at $10.00.

Diesel-powered holiday excursions and events departing Pleasant Lake. Tickets start at $35.00.

Diesel-powered holiday train excursions and events departing Pleasant Lake. Tickets start at $35.00.

“Premiere” Observation Car Acquired for First-Class Service

By News

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 $500,000. Donations can be made online at 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 features 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.


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.

Historic railroad dining car enters service in Indiana

By Uncategorized

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.