Railroad History of Fort Wayne, Allen County, Indiana

6 railroad lines served Fort Wayne: New York Central, Wabash, Nickel Plate Road, Pennsylvania Railroad, Grand Rapids & Indiana, and Fort Wayne Union Railway.

The Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad became the Pennsylvania Railroad with a nearly 3 mile long block of Pennsy Shops where the downtown Post Office is located. The Bass Foundry was located across the street. "from the Civil War until just past 1900, Fort Wayne was one of the most important railroad centers in the nation." Read more in The Pennsy Shops by Tom Castaldi posted December 18, 2013 on the History Center Notes & Queries blog.

See Earliest Rails in Fort Wayne by Tom Castaldi published January 23, 2014 on History Center Notes & Queries blog.

See The Fort Wayne Railfan for a comprehensive guide with many photos of Fort Wayne and surrounding area railroads.

Video Facebook post by The Journal Gazette

October 27, 2013 Facebook post and article No. 765 thrills again Beloved train creates stir on Lafayette run by Rosa Salter Rodriguez on The Journal Gazette newspaper.

Steam Was Great on the Nickel Plate This rare 16mm footage with color and sound showcases the famous Berkshire steam locomotives of the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad in their last two months of operation in June and July, 1958. Published on July 28, 2016 by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society

Back to top

“…railroad carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of fifteen miles per hour by ‘engines’ which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside. The almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed.” — New York Governor Martin Van Buren, 1829.

the railroads amassed numerous yards, shops, and engine facilities, and employed thousands of local residents as engineers, firemen, conductors, brakemen, stations agents, and locomotive and car shop laborers to maintain the railroad’s extensive network of freight and passenger trains and the locomotives that powered them. From page 7 of the History section of slick glossy photo filled informative Headwaters Junction proposal. From page 33 Though touted as a modern innovation, high speed rail got its start in the early 19 th Century and Fort Wayne’s location in the flatlands of Indiana allowed railroads to operate trains over 100 miles an hour. This was true during the operation of the Broadway Limited, which would reach a sustained 120MPH outside the city.

Headwaters Junction looks to combine the appeal of Nickel Plate Railroad coal fired steam locomotive 765 representing our railroading past with the future possibilities of the 21st century utilizing our 3 rivers creating a North River development north of Headwaters Park at the confluence of the 3 rivers in downtown Fort Wayne. Their Tumblr page states: in 2009, 30,000 people bought a ticket in 4 days with a total of 50,000 tickets sold in 16 days of operating the train. Represented in those numbers are people from all 50 states and from 7 countries. Can you imagine the economical impactHeadwaters Junction could have on downtown Fort Wayne? Their About page states: Funding for a feasibility study was approved by City Council in December, 2012 as part of the Legacy Riverfront Development Study.

NKP 765 to be on Let's Talk Trains - Kelly Lynch gave a history of the locomotive as well as discussing its life as an excursion engine on this 120 minute audio for LetsTalkTrains.com on BlogTalkRadio - Saturday March 30, 2013.


Headwaters Junction Proposal Hopes To Redevelop Riverfront YouTube video posted January 10, 2013 by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society·

Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association

“The Engine That Still Does” – Fort Wayne Locomotive a Tourism Draw Wherever it Goes from Headwaters Junction blog September 17, 2012.

Listen for the Whistle from Lynchpin Creative on Vimeo
Back to top

Nickel Plate Railroad Marker on Barr Street south of Superior Street

In 1880, the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad, known commonly as the Nickel Plat Road”, purchased from the Wabash & Erie Canal the right-of-way through central Fort Wayne. The construction of the railroad on the site of the old canal took place from 1881 to 1882, when William H. Vanderbilt purchased the system.

While the Nickel Plate put Fort Wayne on another major east-west trunk line, the railroad also divided the city, discouraging growth on the north side. The call to “Elevate the Nickel Plate” became a community issue throughout the first half of the twentieth century. In 1947, Mayor Harry Baals signed an agreement with the railroad to elevate the track, but it was not until 1953 that ground was broken for the project. Temporary tracks were laid and construction of the elevation itself began on August 27, 1954; the project was completed on July 29, 1956, inaugurating an era of expansion to the north of the city.

Presented by the Journal Gazette Foundation

See “Let’s Elevate The Nickel Plate” – 1954 by Randy Harter, Fort Wayne historian, author, and the history/architecture guide for FortWayneFoodTours.com published August 4, 2018 in the Fort Wayne Reader, then posted and discussed August 7, 2018 on You are positively from Fort Wayne, if you remember... Closed group on Facebook.

Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society

One of many Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society Videos
Back to top

Railroad Events

  1. Fort Wayne's Worst Train Wreck was when a speeding Pennsylvania Railroad passenger train  crashed into a freight train in Swinney Park within the city limits on August 13, 1911 by Nancy McCammon-Hansen published April 16, 2014 in the History Center Notes & Queries blog.
  2. October 7, 1947 Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad passenger train hit an earth mover at crossing on California Road, north of city, at 12:17 p.m. 3 died and 14 hurt.

Library of Congress American Memory has several 19th century railroad maps

Railroad Photos

  1. 1889 photo of the Pennsylvania Railroad Depot and Shops on the original Great Memories and History of Fort Wayne, Indiana page on Facebook
  2. 1910 ca. Glenn Ellenberger posted photos of interurban railroad tracks down Superior Street posted October 24, 2017, Taylor and workers in a street posted October 24, 2017 and second tracks down a street posted October 25, 2017 on You are positively from Fort Wayne, if you remember... Closed group on Facebook.
  3. 1913 Fort Wayne Train Stations photos April 19, 1913 in the Fort Wayne Sentinel, and June 22, 1913 in the The Journal Gazette newspaper were posted September 14, 2017 in You are positively from Fort Wayne, if you remember... Closed group on Facebook.
  4. 1918 Pennsylvania RR roundhouse workers
  5. 1918 Pennsylvania Railroad Round House off John Street by Pontiac and Creighton Streets.
  6. June 20, 1919 The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel had an infographic showing all railroads come together at Fort Wayne stating from far and near everyone comes to Fort Wayne on Wednesday Suburban Shopping Day from Great Memories and History of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
  7. 1949 April Bro. C. W. Waltz last run on the Broadway Limited coming into the Pennsylvania Station after 38 years service. An engineer his run was between Fort Wayne and Crestline, Ohio. A newspaper writeup from Daniel Phenicie: Here is something for the Pennsylvania Railroad Album. On the original Great Memories and History of Fort Wayne, Indiana page on Facebook
  8. 1955 Nickel Plate railroad Twitter photo shows overpass under construction along Superior Street that opened up the entire north side of Fort Wayne for development from Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society.
  9. Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society photo
    Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society photo
  10. Wabash Steam Locomotive No. 534/ Lake Erie & Fort Wayne No. 1 photo from the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society was posted April 11, 2019 by West Central Neighborhood on Facebook. See more photos and read more about WABASH STEAM LOCOMOTIVE NO. 534 LAKE ERIE & FORT WAYNE NO. 1 and Follow the Flag: An Update on Project 534 when the engine was moved in 1957, written by Kelly Lynch publilshed May 21, 2013 on the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society web site. Another photo from October 1956 was posted Janaury 31, 2010 on their Facebook page.

History Center Artifact a Window on the Past video by WISE Web News June 18, 2010. What you see being rolled out is a map..a blueprint…37 feet long, drawn up in 1925 by the New York, Chicago and St. Louis railroad, showing the railroad right of way along the north side of downtown Fort Wayne…the tracks that were built over the old Wabash and Erie canal bed. This is a planning map, similar to maps used by citys and utilities, showing adjacent properties and businesses, local topography and landmarks…used by the railroad to plan expansion, construction and maintenance work. the detail is remarkable. it shows all the homes and businesses that existed along the old canal nearly 90 years ago…like the rub no more soap factory..the old national handle company factory at Berry and Hanover Steets..and lots of surprises.

2012, December 7 New Haven restored 1880's Wabash Railroad depot dedication.

New Havenites, both young and old, took a step back in time Friday evening for a look into the city’s transportation history at the long awaited opening of the restored Wabash Railroad depot on State Street. ... Inside, the depot looks pretty much as it did when it was built in the 1880s. The freight area was left rough, while the waiting room and station master’s office have been painted a yellow similar to its original color. The main exception, of course, is that the depot now has insulation, ceiling fans, heating and air conditioning, a handicap-accessible ramp and guard rail. A unisex restroom has replaced the old “indoor outhouse.”

Designed to handle passengers and freight, the west end served passengers, the east was for freight with a station master’s office separating the two areas. The depot last served New Haven rail travelers going east to Toledo and west through Fort Wayne to St. Louis in 1964. It was shuttered and left to endure weather extremes, natural deterioration and vandalism until 1988 when NHAHA acquired the deed from Norfolk & Western Railroad, thus saving it from demolition.

Read the full story Ribbon cut on refurbished 1880s Wabash Railroad depot in New Haven by Rod King of The News-Sentinel Saturday, December 8, 2012.

Mass Transit, When it Meant Something

For decades the electric streetcar was a familiar sight in town, sturdy wooden coaches scooting silently down the road. Too silently, it turns out. Running down pedestrians was so common an occurrence the cars were fitted with iron basket contraptions in front, designed to harmlessly scoop up the inattentive and hold them until the conductor could stop the car. by Eric Olson of Indiana NewsCenter video December 11, 2012

Extant Railroad/Railway Structures(Source: Railroad Station Historical Society)

Back to top

Freight Depot

New York Central Railroad or is the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad freight house at Clinton and Fourth streets? See photo NYC Freight Depot III by Daniel Baker on flickr.com. More photos at Fort Wayne, IN: NYC/LS&MS/FWJ&S Freight House published September 25, 2017 on Towns and Nature blog. More photos at New York Central Railroad Freight Depot #1 by Christopher Crawford: Documentary Photography. Preservationists are crying foul, and a top city official admits he's surprised. But the owner of a historic downtown landmark is defending Monday's sudden demolition of a 97-year-old train depot, saying its poor condition had rendered it dangerous and of little economic value. Read the rest of the October 12, 2010 Owners tearing down historic 4th Street depot; City official ‘surprised and unaware' of building's demolition by Kevin Leininger. The Central Freight Association was located at the corner of 4th and North Clinton in the 1919 Fort Wayne City Directory.

Fort Wayne Pennsylvania Railroad shop - By the turn of the 20th century, its repair shops and locomotive manufacturing facilities became known as the "Altoona of the West." From Pennsylvania Railroads on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and page 74 in The Pennsylvania Railroad in Indiana by William J. Watt.

ACPL Book: History of the Pennsylvania Railroad's Fort Wayne Shops 1966, by Merle D. Rice.

Old train stations sadly reflect Fort Wayne's past by Michael Hawfield published April 18, 1994 from the Cityscapes archives of The News-Sentinel newspaper .

Some fear it's too late to save old train depot Despite its potential, it may soon follow other landmarks into oblivion. A column by Kevin Leininger published May 01, 2010 in The News-Sentinel newspaper.

Public slow to heed rail safety by Paul Wyche August 7, 2013 in The Journal Gazette newspaperabout recent railroad death of a Fort Wayne 13 year old who fell asleep on the railroad tracks.

Restorer researches local building’s history Building’s history unknown, but its future looks bright Rosa Salter Rodriguez published October 17, 2013 on the The Journal Gazette newspaper.

Railroad Records

  1. Did Grandpa Work on the Railway? Railroad Records You’ll Want by Sunny published February 22, 2016 in Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems blog.
  2. Locating Railroad Employee Records on Genealogy Today blog.
  3. Railroad Retirement Board Records - National Archives at Atlanta - limited to individuals who worked in the rail industry after 1936 ... only on persons whose employers were covered under the Railroad Retirement Act. Employers such as streetcar, interurban, or suburban electric railways are not covered.
  4. Internet Genealogy magazine in 2011 had a reference for railroad records - need to look for this...
  5. Photos from The John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library, described as one of the largest and finest railroad history collections in the United States, has released hundreds of historic photos from Barriger’s collection on Flickr. See the Nickel Plate albumand the Fort Wayne Division on the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Social Media and Blog Posts

  1. The Fort Wayne Railfan - Official message board for the greater Ft Wayne area - lots of discussions since 2000, some old time photos of Fort Wayne such as photos of Old City Light in 1952 before Science Central.
  2. Fort Wayne - Historical Aspects has photos of interurban railroad tracks down the middle of Broadway and old cars on FWARailfan.net.
  3. At least 10 photos of the Baker Street Station in 1972 on Facebook scroll right to the rest on the original Great Memories and History of Fort Wayne, Indiana page on Facebook
  4. Fort Wayne railroad history and old railroad maps? discussion started December 13, 2012 on Indiana Railroads Bull Session.
  5. The Big Four Railroad In Indiana including the Pittsburg, Fort Wayne and Chicago, and the Pennsylvania Central railroads by Ared Maurice Murphy in Volume 21, Issue 2-3, June 1925 Indiana Magazine of History on scholarworks.iu.edu. See Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  6. Technical marvel dominated rails in Fort Wayne in early 1940s S1 steam locomotive was the biggest of its kind by Justin Kenny published March 3, 2016 in The News-Sentinel newspaper. This article was based on the December 1941 Popular Mechanics magazine which stated the Chicago to Fort Wayne division was the fastest stretch of rails in the land.
  7. The Rise and Fall of Penn Station on American Experience video on PBS.

Back to top

Archive.org ebook

  1. Thurstons Route book from Philadelphia to Chicago. Via Pennsylvania central railroad and Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago railway (1863)
  2. Thurston's route book from Philadelphia to Chicago. Via Pennsylvania central railroad and Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago railway (1863)
  3. A compilation of the laws, deeds, mortgages, leases, and other instruments, and minutes of proceedings, affecting the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway Company[h[electronic resource] together with a prefatory statement by the chairman (1875) - Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Railway Company
  4. Agreement between the Pennsylvania Company, Chicago and Alton Railroad Company, Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company, Pennsylvania Railroad Company, Joliet & Chicago Railroad Co. and Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Ry. Co. : use of tracks in Chicago (1880) - Pennsylvania Company
  5. Transitalk (Volume 5 no.1-6, 6 no. 1-6) - Fort Wayne Transit, Inc

Know Your Records: Railroad Accident Reports by David Pfeiffer, a reference archivist at Archives II in College Park, Maryland, published February 21, 2014 on The National Archivesblog.

Google ebooks

  1. History, organization, and legal proceedings, relative to the Pittsburgh ... by Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Railway Company

Other Information

  1. 765/767 locomotive engine installation at Lawton Park with North Side High School band and crowd photo posted May 27, 2017 on the original Great Memories and History of Fort Wayne, Indiana page on Facebook. See photo and discussion June 19, 2017 on You are positively from Fort Wayne, if you remember... Closed group on Facebook
  2. The Fort Wayne Rail Fan with photos has several pages on railroads, train stations and more on fwarailfan.com.
  3. Fort Wayne Railroad Bridge listed as the Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge on the National Register of Historic Places, is a double-deck steel truss railroad bridge spanning the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
  4. Interurban - Relic of the Interurban bridge on Spy Run Creek shown in a photo posted April 28, 2015 on Facebook by Daniel Baker. Caption says the route was out of service by 1938.
  5. The Interurban: Ahead of It's Time 1 minute YouTube  published May 30, 2012 by SofCIH. From May 17, 2016 Facebook post by Indiana Bicentennial Commission.
  6. Interurban Railways of Allen County, Indiana by Roy M. Bates, 1958, reprinted from an original paper published by the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society.
  7. November 5, 2017 photos of Fort Wayne year book for 1906, put out by the Fort Wayne Commercial Club article titled Street and Interurban Electric Railways by Hon. James M. Barrett on You are positively from Fort Wayne, if you remember... Closed group on Facebook.
  8. Mass Transit, When it Meant Something video story by Eric Olson December 11, 2012 on WPTA21 ABC TV station
  9. MOURNING THE DEATH OF THE AMERICAN RAILWAY by Lorraine Boissoneault published October 25, 2015 on JSTOR | Daily.
  10. Nickel Plate Road No. 765 brings Taylor family together by Justin Kenny published January 4, 2016 in The News-Sentinel newspaper.
  11. December 22, 2016 Facebook post of the Old railway structure getting a facelift at Mercantile on Main by Justin Kenny published December 22, 2016 in the The News-Sentinel newspaper.
  12. Riding Grandfather's Paper Express: Genealogical Research in U.S. Railroad Records posted by Jake Fletcher published May 20, 2016 on  Legacy News.
  13. Fort Wayne IN Trolley Coaches - Indiana Service Corporation (ISC) - Fort Wayne Transit (FWT) on TrolleyBuses.net

Back to top

Page updated: