Indiana interurban car set to operate at future rail history complex in Fort Wayne, home of Nickel Plate Road No. 765

RELATED TOPICS: MIDWEST | LIGHT RAIL | HISTORICAL
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Headwaters Junction, the planned hub for railroad history, culture, and Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765, says it will host and operate an Indiana interurban car in the future.

In a Tuesday news release, Headwaters Junction and Hoosier Heartland Trolley Co. announced their intention to operate interurban car No. 429 on a proposed tourist railroad at in Fort Wayne.

No. 429 is a former Union Traction Co. and Indiana Railroad interurban car built by St. Louis Car Co. in 1925. It was named Noblesville and regularly served the Fort Wayne area in the 1920s and 1930s. The Hoosier Heartland group rescued No. 429 and sister car No. 437 Marion from the Indiana Transportation Museum site in 2018, which was being liquidated.

Cameron Nichols, Hoosier Heartland's vice president, spoke to Trains about this news, and provided an update on the restoration of No. 429.

“Our group is ecstatic to partner with such a well-known and professional group,” Nichols says. “Collaboration is the key to sustainable railway preservation, and to have such an opportunity after just recently turning one-year-old, is monumental.”

According to the Headwaters Junction website, the site will not only be the new home for No. 765, but will also showcase the other equipment owned by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, as well as a recreated vintage rail yard and a city park, as well as an “area with operating vintage trains, annual programs, events, excursions and more.”

Kelly Lynch, the Fort Wayne group's vice president and head of the Headwaters Junction project, says that this will all be part of an “atmospheric experience” that they are trying to create for the general public, while also providing a public service aspect. He says that a U-shaped 1-mile route is planned as a pilot program for the interurban aspect of the project, and will also provide a transit option for the public as well an experience with the past, as Indiana at one time was truly “interurban country” as Lynch calls it, having had one of the largest interurban rail networks in the Midwest.

Nichols also says that this will be a great experience for those who want to take a step back into history.

“Once No. 429 is operational, [Hoosier Heartland], and its Headwaters Junction presence, will provide the only place where one can experience electric railway travel that has been absent from the state for nearly 80 years.” He added, “Additionally, [Hoosier Heartland] is exploring technology and programming to make the rider experience truly authentic and unique.”

According to Nichols, negotiations began about bringing No. 429 to the site in early 2019. And he believes it will be a great benefit to both organizations. While they still plan on their own site for operations of No. 429 and their other equipment in the future, this gives them a good starting point.

“While [Hoosier Heartland] develops its long-term plan and home, the car has a definitive home and vibrant future for which we can fully contribute the finished product,” he says. “Headwaters Junction will feature the car as an additional attraction connecting the riverfront and downtown area to the new site, while [Hoosier Heartland] will gain vital community exposure and work towards fulfilling its mission. It is truly a mutually beneficial partnership.”

Progress on No. 429 is proceeding well thanks to their “Electrify 429” Fundraising Campaign. Nichols says that volunteers are already well into Phase 1 of the restoration project, which involves parts acquisition/inventory, interior lighting/wiring, and cosmetic work on the car’s smoking section, including a faux wood grain finish.

“The team will keep working earnestly through the fall in anticipation of Phase 2, which is mechanically oriented, in 2020”, he says. The full restoration is projected to be complete within roughly two years.

More information is available online. 

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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