Dream for Nickel Plate Road 765's home starts to become reality

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A purchase agreement for a mile of right of way is a major step forward for a mixed-use facility and rail attraction for downtown Fort Wayne.
Headwaters Junction
FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Headwaters Junction, Inc., the non-profit group working to create a railroad-themed park that will eventually become the home for Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765, has agreed to purchase a mile of former New York Central right-of-way on the Fort Wayne, Ind. waterfront.

The purchase agreement is a major step forward in the ambitious effort to turn an underused piece of land near downtown Fort Wayne into mixed-use facility and rail attraction for the city, says Headwaters Junction Executive Director Kelly Lynch.

“It feels great,” Lynch says of the agreement with Norfolk Southern to purchase the right-of-way. “Actually owning a piece of land on the waterfront will really legitimize this project.”

NS last used the route in 2006 and the tracks have since been removed. Lynch says NS needs to formally abandon the right-of-way before the sale can be completed, which he expects will take up to a year to complete. NS has agreed to sell the right-of-way for $560,000. Once Headwaters Junction owns the right-of-way it will rebuild the track to connect the proposed park site with the national rail network, enabling the non-profit to move equipment in and out of the site and run excursions. Steel Dynamics, a Fort Wayne-based steel producer, has agreed to donate the rail for the project.

Headwaters Junction has been more than a decade in the making and calls for the construction of a tourist railroad and roundhouse to house and display the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society’s equipment and to serve as venue for events. Lynch points to the Toronto Railway Museum as an example of what he hopes to replicate on the Fort Wayne waterfront. The group also hopes to build a two-mile long narrow gauge railroad to connect Headwaters Junction with the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.

Lynch, 33, says a venue like Headwaters Junction will enable the group to display and show off its crown jewel locomotive, regardless of what the main line steam scene looks like in the future. “My biggest fear is being in my 50s or 60s and being stuck in the barn with No. 765 and not being able to do anything meaningful with it,” he says.

The City of Fort Wayne is creating a neighborhood master plan for the Headwaters Junction area that Lynch expects will be completed later this year. Once that happens, Headwaters Junction hopes to purchase roughly 10 acres of land for the roundhouse and rail yard site. Lynch says it could take up to 5 years and $15 million to complete.

Lynch says the group hopes to run short excursions along the waterfront, most likely behind the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society’s former NKP SD9. The group will retain its current facility in New Haven for storage and miscellaneous work, but No. 765 and other display-ready equipment will be moved to Headwaters Junction.

“(Headwaters Junction) will be the showroom,” Lynch says.

Visit HeadwatersJunction.com for more information.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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