The Journal Gazette
Thursday, August 15, 2019 1:00 am

Local railroad society eyes relocation of historic depot


When traveling by train, passengers usually start at a railroad depot.

Now, a historic Fort Wayne area depot may soon be doing a bit of traveling of its own.

The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society plans to move the Craigville Depot from Jefferson Township east of New Haven to a spot just north of downtown Fort Wayne so the 140-year-old passenger station can be restored.

The society has asked the Fort Wayne Board of Zoning Appeals to approve a use variance so the depot can temporarily be placed on a vacant lot on the east side of the 1100 block of Sherman Boulevard. 

The station's ultimate resting spot would be part of the proposed Headwaters Junction attraction, Don Steininger, a Fort Wayne developer and society president, told The Journal Gazette on Wednesday.

“The hope is to restore it outside and in and use it as a visitors center,” he said.

Headwaters Junction is proposed for the North River property across Clinton Street from Science Central. 

Steininger estimated the work may take about two years because the tiny wooden structure is on the National Register of Historic Places and the exterior must be period-authentic.

However, whether Headwaters Junction comes to fruition remains an open question.

The society this year secured a purchase agreement with Norfolk Southern railroad for 1.4 miles of right of way to bring the society's historic rolling stock to the property, formerly owned by OmniSource. 

Headwaters Junction's fate hangs in part in how city officials react to a not-yet completed consultant's report on the next phases of riverfront development.

The depot now sits partly boarded on a wooded lot at Ryan and Edgerton roads near the society's headquarters.

Before the building can be moved, its roof will need to be taken off so it can pass under overhead wires when loaded onto a moving truck, Steininger said.

The move will require permits, and it will need to be recommended to, and approved by, national registry officials, he added.

If all goes well, the move likely won't take place until late October or November at the earliest, Steininger said.

Money is not expected to be a problem, he said, because of a $250,000 donation from the Shields Family Fund.

As a result, the structure will be named for the late James R. Shields, the founder of WaterFurnace Renewable Energy, Fort Wayne, in gratitude to the family, Steininger said.

Built in 1879, the depot served Craigville, just northeast of Bluffton, until the 1930s. The station was moved to its current site in 1979 and placed on the National Register in 1984. Last year, it was sold at a nominal price to Headwaters Junction. 

If and when the depot makes it to Headwaters Junction, the plan is that the structure will contain restrooms, a ticket sales office and a gift shop, Steininger said.

According to the variance application filed with the Department of Planning Services, the restoration project will not have signage, lighting or exterior storage. Only minimal noise and three or four on-site workers are expected.

A public hearing on the variance will take place at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 19 in Room 35 of Citizens Square.

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