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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.

Indiana Rail Experience 2022 Events Announced

By Uncategorized

ANGOLA, INDIANA – Starting next month, the Indiana Rail Experience will bring a number of distinct train rides, community events, and special occasions to families, railroad fans, and people of all ages in the region. 

Over four weeks between July and October, historic steam locomotive no. 765 and a vintage passenger train will operate throughout Northeast Indiana. Ticket sales begin at 6:00 PM on June 7th at indianarailexperience.org.

For group tickets and private charters for families or businesses, click here. For sponsorship inquiries, click here.

GET NOTIFIED WHEN TICKET SALES BEGIN

Indiana Ice Cream Train – July 8th, July 9th

Beat the heat, take a break from the lake, and enjoy complimentary ice cream on an hour-long train ride through the Indiana countryside. Our family-friendly passenger trains leave downtown Angola and depart four times daily. Tickets start at $15.00.

Indiana Wine & Spirit Train | July 8th, July 9th, September 23rd, September 30th

Revel in an exclusive 2.5-hour train ride aboard a first-class passenger train with the wine, whiskey, beer, cigars, hors d’oeuvres, and dessert of your choice. Guests will chase the magic hour into the evening and enjoy onboard entertainment during their trip. A selection of cigars will be available in our special open-air car. Guests may also charter an entire private car. Seats are reserved for passengers 21-years-of-age or older. Tickets start at $90.00.

Tri-State Scenic Steam Excursion | August 27th, August 28th, October 1st

This all-day, 100-mile train ride will treat railroad fans and passengers to a late summer trip from Edon, Ohio to Southeast Michigan for a three-hour layover in the historic downtown of Hillsdale. Upon arrival, guests can visit the local farmers’ market, and walking tours, and enjoy lunch on their own a variety of area restaurants. Deluxe Coach, Open Air, First Class, and Executive Class tickets are available. Select amenities include open window cars, open vestibules, onboard entertainment, and a photo runby. First Class and Executive Class tickets include complimentary appetizers and refreshments. Tickets start at $79.00.

Victory Flyer and the Angola American History Train | September 24th – 25th

Dress your vintage best and take a trip back in time to the 1940s aboard a steam-powered passenger train that departs Angola for a visit to a World War II troop camp, interact with re-enactors, and learn how the Greatest Generation and the railroads helped win the war. Before or after your trip, visit the Angola American History Days event near downtown Angola. Tickets start at $29.00. 

Nickel Plate Photo Charter | Join Our Waitlist

Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765 and historic EMD diesels will power freight and passenger cars over the Indiana Northeastern between South Milford, Indiana, Edon, Ohio, and Hillsdale, Michigan. Featuring a night photo session, period actors, and vintage vehicles, the weekend will treat photographers to dramatic scenes of railroading on former Wabash and New York Central Railroad territory. Tickets are available by invitation only. Click here to join our waitlist.

And more…

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

The 2022 season of the Indiana Rail Experience will feature vintage passenger cars from the 1920s through the 1950s, including accommodations in deluxe coach, first-class, lounge, and executive class cars. The event will also feature the debut of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society’s very own open-air car and dining/lounge car. 

The Indiana Rail Experience is a partnership between the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, Inc. and the Indiana Northeastern Railroad Company. Additional dates, times, and events may be added. Published times, dates, and details may be adjusted.

 

Nickel Plate Road 765’s First Steam Excursions

By News, video

As we celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2022, let’s look back at our very first steam excursion 42 years ago this month!

This silent, 8mm footage was recently acquired and scanned in high definition, though the photographer is unknown. It features the 765 operating west on the Norfolk & Western out of Fort Wayne through Huntington, Wabash, Peru, and Logansport, with additional footage at Monticello and Reynolds, Indiana, and Washington Hill.

After its initial restoration in 1979, Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765 ran from Fort Wayne to Bellevue, Ohio where it spent the winter. The following spring, test runs for the locomotive were scheduled on the Toledo Peoria & Western, where the locomotive operated in freight and pusher service for several days. The locomotive’s first fan trip was held on May 10th and May 11th between East Peoria and Keokuk, Iowa, and East Peoria to Effner, Illinois. Below is an excerpt from 765: A 21st Century Survivor on the 765’s first test runs:

Early in our steam career, we were invited by Bob Macmillan, then the President of the Toledo, Peoria and Western Railroad, to bring the 765 to Peoria for some test running and a few excursion trips. We figured the 765 was ready for some hard work. After all, we had run the locomotive from Fort Wayne to Sandusky and back hadn’t we? If we only knew how much we had to learn!

We spent a few days switching in the East Peoria Yard and then we were called to work the pusher job on Washington Hill. All things considered, the first few days went pretty well. At last, we were called to pull a TP&W freight train to Effner, Illinois. The railroad romanticists called it the “Night Train to Effner.” In retrospect, it turned out to be the “Nightmare to Effner.”

In performing the repairs on the 765, all the superheater units were removed and each was subjected to a hydrostatic pressure test. Many of those units had a lot of leaks and were repaired. But there isn’t anything like dragging a few thousand tons of freight to find out what is fixed and what isn’t.

After hammering east toward Effner for 50 or 60 miles, the locomotive was starting to steam poorly. The over-the-road vibration combined with the steam velocity through the superheaters caused the units to begin to leak. Leaking superheated steam expands so rapidly that the vacuum is destroyed in the smokebox and without vacuum, you lose the draft. No draft means no fire. The poor draft in concert with the southern Illinois dirt that someone identified as coal caused the coal consumption to rise dramatically.

The long and short of it is we ran out of coal just short of Watseka, Illinois. Fortunately, the “Tip-up” (the nickname the TP&W guys used) was in the midst of a tie replacement program. We temporarily made the 765 a wood burner for the next 6 miles. “Don’t burn any new ones!” Mr. Macmillan yelled from the crew car.

By this time the railroad president probably had begun to wonder why he ever invited us there in the first place. We struggled into Watseka and laid up for the night, with the coal space swept clean and the water level in the tender at about 6 inches.

Our crew, which numbered over ten, woke up an unhappy motel owner in the wee hours of the morning. We all registered in the last room in town. A dozen dirty and weary guys crowded into one room! It must have looked like a college fraternity trying to jam the whole house into a VW.

Coaling took place the next morning and we finally reached Effner, the end of TP&W trackage, later that morning. To his everlasting credit, Mr. Mac didn’t push us off his railroad and leave us at Effner forever.

If we had any success at all in our first 14 years of steam operation, much credit must be given to Mr. Robert Macmillan, the gentleman from Peoria.

As 1980 wore on, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society had time to reflect on its accomplishments. At the time, founders Glenn Brendel and Wayne York wrote, “Admiring the 765 out on the road, or admiring her at rest, the 1975-1979 restoration may seem quite remote. But until the fire-up of September 1978, the FWRHS was faced with a seemingly impossible task. There was no assurance the 765 restorations would ever be completed. There were many dark, dark days when even after a full day’s work, no measurable progress could be detected…This was the largest steam locomotive ever restored outdoors without conventional facilities. A dubious claim of distinction. Without the help of friends and good neighbors, the project may have never been completed…the restoration of Locomotive 765 is as much a tribute to the perseverance of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historial Society as it is to the glory days of railroading.”

Thanks to Greg Scholl for the thumbnail photo.