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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette A spectator stands in clouds of steam released by the historic Nickel Plate Road No. 765 on Sunday during the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society's annual open house.

  • Bill Corey forges a drive hook for spectators at Sunday’s open house.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Atlas Westerfeld, 5, right, covers his ears as the historic Nickel Plate Road No. 765 sounds it’s steam whistle during the Railroad Open House at the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society on Edgerton Road on Sunday.  

Monday, August 19, 2019 1:00 am

Railroad open house 'able to amaze people'

Society dreams of downtown move

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Logan Tackett, 5, fiddled Sunday with the chain keeping him and those lined behind him from boarding a train at the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society until a volunteer punching tickets gave the signal.

“All aboard,” the man called out.

Logan, who picked a window seat for him and his father, was among about 6,000 people who attended the organization's annual railroad open house. Along with $7 train rides that lasted about 15 to 20 minutes, the three-day event offered blacksmith demonstrations and up-close looks at the historic steam locomotive No. 765.

“We have a 400-ton hidden gem right here,” said Kelly Lynch, vice president of the railroad historical society.

Although parking wasn't a problem mid-afternoon Sunday, Lynch said Saturday's crowds filled the grassy lot, forcing visitors to park along Edgerton Road.

“We're victims of our own success,” he said.

Instead of attracting people to an industrial park near New Haven, Lynch envisions the trains will someday draw people to downtown Fort Wayne, where a train could drop off passengers at such destinations as the newly opened Promenade Park.

The open house included information about the organization's vision for Headwaters Junction, a railroad-themed attraction at the north end of the North River property directly west of Science Central.

“It's a cool idea but years away,” one attendee said to his companion as they looked at a rendering of what could be.

Those wanting to support the railroad historical society's efforts, including restoration projects, could contribute to donation boxes placed around the venue.

Many visitors, however, reached for their smartphones to snap photographs.

Catie Makinson took a picture of her family near a locomotive undergoing restoration. They were visiting because “our little one, Thatcher, is obsessed with trains,” she said.

The 3-year-old wanted to attend Sunday even after seeing the trains with his grandmother Saturday, Makinson said.

“He loves this,” she said. “He would stay all day.”

Lynch enjoys watching visitors' reactions. The open house achieves a rare feat, he said: “to be able to amaze people.”

asloboda@jg.net