The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society announced plans Friday to build a narrow-gauge railroad from Headwaters Park to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo and ultimately create a summer home for its steam locomotive, the Nickel Plate 765.
The development, which would be called Headwaters Junction, could also become a starting point for railroad excursions using the historic steam locomotive. Plans are to locate Headwaters Junction on property currently occupied by Pepsi Beverages on Harrison Street at the St. Marys River.
The plans were announced at a news conference at the society’s open house, which continues from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at its facility at 15808 Edgerton Road east of New Haven.
The locomotive already runs excursions out of Cleveland, St. Louis and other places. Its only home is on Edgewater Road.
The timetable for the narrow-gauge railroad, the initial phase, would be to finish by 2018.
The second phase, to give the locomotive a summer home, could also be completed by 2018.
The third phase, to build a roundhouse for the locomotive, would be the most expensive. No timetable has been set.
The entire project could take up to 10 years to complete, said Don Steininger, a member of an advisory board for Headwaters Junction.
The entire plan would cost millions of dollars, but they have the people and a plan for raising the money, Steininger said.
By moving the locomotive downtown, at least during the summer months, it will greatly increase the train’s visibility, Steininger said. A study has estimated it could draw an additional 120,000 visitors downtown each year.
"We want to take it downtown so the whole world can see it," Steininger said.
The concept of Headwaters Junction will move slowly, Steininger said, but the business model is to be like the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. It started small on a little bit of land and has grown over the years.
By starting with the narrow-gauge railroad, "It’s a way to make people believe it can happen," Steining said.