The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society on Wednesday announced its 2021 slate of events, including the return of excursions on the historic steam locomotive No. 765.
Joe Knapke, the society's president, thanked members, donors and volunteers for helping the nonprofit weather the coronavirus pandemic's uncertainties.
“After hosting a successful but limited capacity event last October, we're looking forward to the opportunity to educate and entertain the general public aboard our attractions once again,” he said in a statement.
Nickel Plate Road locomotive No. 765 will be on display and offering short rides at the annual open house on Aug. 20, 21 and 22 in New Haven.
Kelly Lynch, the society's vice president, said some people burst into tears the first time they see the steam engine in person. When the train travels by homes and businesses, people rush outside to see it pass.
“It is such a sensory experience. You can smell it. You can hear it. You can feel the ground shake when it goes by,” he said during a phone interview.
Lynch has devoted countless hours to promoting the 765 since he fell in love with it as a teen. “It is a pageantry of joy,” he said of the historic steam locomotive. “It is so unusual, it's almost magic. It's from a different time and a different era.”
The train will operate over three weeks for Steam in the Valley at the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic on Sept. 3, 10-12 and 17-19. For tickets and more information, visit fortwaynerailroad.org.
Society members will also be co-hosting the Autumn Colors Express on Oct. 21 through 24. These all-day, first-class passenger trains will carry passengers through the heart of the New River Gorge National Park during peak fall color. Tickets for these diesel-powered excursions are available now at autumncolorexpresswv.com.
The society's annual events in New Haven include the Pumpkin Train on Oct. 9 and 10.
This year, the 19th annual Santa Train will return one week earlier on Nov. 27 and operate the first three weekends in December, giving passengers more opportunities to take a train ride with Santa Claus. Ticket sales begin Nov. 3.
The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society is also partnering with the Mad River & Nickel Plate Railroad Museum in Bellevue, Ohio, for two weekends of events between Sept. 24 and Oct. 3.
Bellevue and Fort Wayne were once major terminals for the Nickel Plate Road, and the 765 will operate train rides and special events at the museum to honor the community's heritage as a railroad town.
Earlier this year, society volunteers completed an extensive restoration of a century-old Wabash Railroad caboose, which will expand capacity for the organization's popular train rides and offerings.
Also, volunteers are in the final stages of restoring vintage Nickel Plate Road diesel locomotive No. 358. The classic diesel locomotive will be used on regional tourist railroads and in tandem exhibition and excursion with the 765.
Volunteers continue to make meaningful progress on the rebuild of a one-of-a-kind Lake Erie & Western freight car, with a fundraising goal of $3,500 to complete the project. Donations can be made online at fortwaynerailroad.org/donate.