Author Topic: Study planned for river and rail attraction in Fort Wayne  (Read 635 times)


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Study planned for river and rail attraction in Fort Wayne
« on: December 27, 2012, 02:32:37 PM »
Last year I authored a thread about an idea that the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, Inc has been quietly working on:

As a refresher, Headwaters Junction is a mixed use gateway and downtown attraction concept combining river, rail, and trail development on North River and the surrounding areas. It demonstrates how mixed-use development can be realized as an exceptional investment, creating an anchor for an attraction that weaves the city’s existing assets and identity together in an authentic, active, and compelling experience.

What does it mean? It means transforming the former New York Central yard and right of way into a public gathering space where cultural, commercial, and recreation developments and efforts can flourish, and where the city can take advantage of existing assets (popular trail network, successful railroad attraction, and river access and development) in one place. To rails and railfans, it means a rail/transit attraction that recreates a corner of the city circa 1944 -- a tourist line, a roundhouse, a station, a place where the collection of the FWRHS can not only be preserved and showcased, but put to work during seasonal operations and during significant events. It also means a new short line railroad taking over the GR&I and operating it with vintage locomotives. To the non-rails, it means a unique place where you can take a river tour, enjoy dinner on a dining car, ride a streetcar to the zoo, walk through a working roundhouse, operate a train, park your bike for lunch. It means a new place for new experiences and favorite traditions. It means a place to let our own Polar Express live and breathe. To the city, it means a regional attraction with a literal "economic engine" at its heart -- Nickel Plate Road no. 765.

Today I can provide a significant update.

At the time of my posting last year, the idea had been picked up by public voting through Legacy Fort Wayne, and since then has advanced through the Legacy Fort Wayne process, and finally endorsed by Legacy Fort Wayne's riverfront champion team. Now, the Legacy committee, Mayor's Office, and City Council have approved funding for a feasibility for Headwaters Junction as part of the larger Riverfont Study.

Specifically, the plan says:

The Headwaters Junction proposal proved to be big, bold, and transformational. Incorporating this feature within a mixed-use development should not be overlooked. The consulting form should give HWJ its due diligence when developing a vision for our riverfront and North River.

You can read it here:

We do have a great example to follow out west, as there are many similarities : ... _arri.html but what HWJ does is also establish a platform and railroad on which to operate these machines. The idea being that if Class 1s return to their stance regarding steam or historic operations as they were in the 1990s and early 2000s, the trains will have a place to live, work, and be useful engines.

To be sure, many things can still derail and complicate this effort. I have no way of knowing if it will happen. But this is a significant step forward. To the rails, the aim is to take the magic of the train, the draw of the steam locomotive, and create something that magnifies it. It means a place to bring the public into the world instead of hoping they'll stumble in the door. In a city built by the railroads -- that BUILT railroads - what today exists to tell that story? To the city, this is an opportunity to tell it's story, and let thousands create their own.

There's a new website at chronicling the last year and then some for Headwaters Junction.

We've been quiet on this idea until it could gain some significant credibility. That time has arrived. Now the hard part begins. We need buy-in. We need support. We need meaningful comments and criticisms, ideas and contributions. What are yours?


Former yard val map:
Kelly Lynch

Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society


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Re: Study planned for river and rail attraction in Fort Wayne
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2012, 02:42:16 PM »
Shared this news on the INDRR facebook page. Thanks for the update on the grand idea!
Nathan Bilger
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