Fort Wayne's Headwaters Junction project moves forward

RELATED TOPICS: STEAM/PRESERVATION | RAILFANNING | MIDWEST
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. – A decade-long vision for a permanent and interactive home for Nickel Plate Road No. 765 is moving forward after local officials say development plans for the Headwaters Junction project were the only proposals submitted to the city in a recent request.

The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society confirms with Trains News Wire that Continental Property Group, a Minnesota-based real estate company whose development plans include a roundhouse and interactive rail preservation destination, was the only proposal that responded to the city’s request to develop a city-owned vacant property formerly home to a New York Central yard.

Kelly Lynch, vice president of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society and executive director of the newly created Headwaters Junction Inc., says the organization was the only team to meet and satisfy the city’s requests. Headwaters Junction is proposing an interactive rail tourism site with a roundhouse, interpretative displays, meeting space, and additional mixed space for restaurants and retail businesses. The Headwaters Junction site would exist as a component to Continental’s mixed-used development proposal in downtown Fort Wayne.

To date, the group has raised more than $1 million in donations toward marketing and feasibility studies with those findings determining the group could generate as much as $60 million in economic impact with only a $15 to $20 million investment.

“Less than 25 percent of the budget comes from economic development funds,” Lynch says, referencing growing support from grant-providing organizations and other entities that have rallied support for the project.

The site would enable the nonprofit group to have a more visual presence in Fort Wayne. Currently, the group operates in rural New Haven using only 800-feet of track and a small pole barn. The new site would feature a more vibrant downtown scene encompassing what Lynch describe as an interpretative center that focuses on rail preservation, but in a contemporary fashion without the stigma of traditional railroad museum sites.

Lynch, who’s in his early 30s, says his biggest fear is to be 50 years old and witnessing No. 765 locked in a barn for no one to enjoy.

“The right thing is not the easy thing and this is about creating a long-term sustainable business plan,” Lynch emphasizes as he reminisces about some of his late-teen memories watching Fort Wayne volunteers restore No. 765 at their New Haven facility.

Lynch says the Headwaters Junction group has established a board of directors consisting of local leaders and rail preservationists and is actively engaging supporters. The group has also developed a 10-year business plan for the site. Those endorsing the project range from local residents to prominent business leaders, noting that the project gains a little more credibility each time No. 765 makes a mainline appearance to droves of new people.

Lynch believes the organization will know by the end of this year if the city will accept the proposal, but until then, enthusiasts and supporters can enjoy No. 765 plying the rails of suburban Chicago on Sept. 15-16 when the Berkshire leads the Joliet Rocket between Chicago and Joliet, Ill., and again on Sept. 22-23 and Sept. 29-30 when the locomotive returns to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in northeastern Ohio for a series of public excursions.

For more information, go to fortwaynerailroad.org.
HeadwatersJunction
Headwaters Junction Inc.

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