FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – 66 years ago this week, Fort Wayne celebrated a new era of downtown development with the elevation of the Nickel Plate Road.
On Oct. 4, 1955, community members were invited to a dedication ceremony to celebrate the new railroad overpass. During the ceremony, the Nickel Plate Road Steam Locomotive No. 767 steam locomotive broke a ceremonial ribbon, while the No. 765 engine became the first train to cross the overpass.
According to Kelly Lynch, the vice president of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, over 12 grade crossings were eliminated with the creation of the elevated track. This freed up roads and walkways for citizens and spurred development north of the St. Mary’s River.
“Prior to the elevation of the railroad, it was all just farmland,” Lynch said. “The first major development north of the river was the Memorial Coliseum. But really what happened after the elevation of the Nickel Plate was this incredible transformation of the city’s north side into the Coliseum area, the Dupont into Goshen Road and Lima to what we know it today.”
Over half a century later, a few mementos still exist to commemorate that early fall day in 1955. Near the intersection of Superior and Calhoun Streets, a plaque is built in underneath the overpass as a reminder of the elevation celebration.
As for the No. 765 itself, that has been restored and rebuilt throughout the years. It currently lives at the Railroad Historical Society on Edgerton Road. Like other locomotives, the No. 765 serves as a moving time machine for those who wish to learn more about Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana’s history with railroads.
“Even though passenger rail is not what it used to be, we still have these incredible icons like the 765 which still operate, which have become international tourist attractions that exist now to teach people about our past and our interconnectedness and not just about what once was but what possibly could be again,” Lynch said.
Take a closer look at the restored No. 765 at its current home at the Railroad Historical Society.
To learn more about the Railroad Historical Society and upcoming events, visit their website.