Cultural related tourism in Indiana accounts for more than $4.9 billion in economic activity, contributing more than $43 million in business related taxes every year, with a significant cluster of these attractions and activities close to Indianapolis and Chicago, signaling an opportunity for growth in this region.

In addition to providing an atmospheric sense-of-place and meaningful cultural tourism, Headwaters Junction has the potential to increase property values, new businesses, jobs, and improve the quality of life and civic pride.

A New Institution

What would it be like for a family in a northern suburb to take the train to Wells Street on the night of a game at Parkview Field or for visitors to downtown to hop aboard a streetcar to the Franke Park? These represent but a few new ways to market and encourage a forward thinking experience within Fort Wayne.

The downtown lighting of Santa Claus could be augmented with a train trip with Santa himself only a few blocks away, fireworks enjoyed aboard a dinner train, transporting people during Three Rivers Festival, and joint operations with the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, Science Central, Rivergreenway expand the number of attraction and event possibilities.

A Magnet Attraction – With Wheels

The cornerstone of any commercial or retail development at 4th and Clinton can be augmented ten-fold with a vibrant destination  precisely as intended by Fort Wayne BluePrint Plus, aided by the longevity of character, sense of place, and community tradition.

One of the strengths of Headwaters Junction is its ability to provide tourist and recreational train service (pleasure trips, dinner trains, tours) and also functional connectivity between points of interest. While there are many “railroad related” attractions throughout the country, few can capitalize on more than one offering and even fewer were constructed with 21st Century needs and desires in mind.

In addition to daily and seasonal operations, major banner events like holiday trains (8,100 people in 17 days in Owosso, Michigan) festivals and fairs (40,000 people in 4 days in Owosso, Michigan and 21,000 people in 5 days in Noblesville, Indiana) and “Day Out With Thomas” (32,000 people in 5 days in Union, Illinois) can double or triple attendance in just a few days.

Annually, some attractions bring in anywhere from 120,000 – 400,000 people in 48 weeks of the year at the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in Ohio and Strasburg Rail Road in Pennsylvania, respectively.

Throughout the year, steam locomotive no. 765 operates around the midwest in passenger excursion and exhibition service. Visitors come from around the world to experience the locomotive in motion on passenger trips and at rest on display in authentic railroad surroundings. When the 765 was first restored in 1979, the number and frequency of operating larger, mainline steam locomotives was much greater and more accessible. Today, the demand has risen with far fewer running throughout the country.

Due to its low visibility workshop in New Haven, the public’s ability to experience the 765 in operation is severely limited and the locomotive’s operation typically takes it outside of Allen County. Additionally, other unique locomotives and vehicles within the collection that would otherwise draw visitors in cannot be justifiably restored or operate at their present location.

Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765
Historical and cultural relevance

  • One of five “mainline” steam locomotives restored to operation, largest operating east of the Mississippi. The other locomotives are in Portland, California, Minnesota, and Michigan respectively
  • Over a quarter million ticket buying passengers served on 300 trips through 16 states covering 54,000 miles

2009 Attendance and Ridership

  • 900 passengers a day in North Judson, Indiana
  • 5,285 visitors a day in Owosso, Michigan
  • 650 passengers on a single day in October
  • 50,000 total seasonal visitors and passengers
  • Passengers and visitors from all 50 states and 7 countries in just 16 days of operation

2010 Attendance and Ridership

  • 600 visitors a day during the August Open House
  • All 6 trips behind the 765 in Ohio were sold out in
  • September (400-800 seat capacity per train)
  • 300-800 passengers a day during the Santa Train
  • Santa Train passengers were from as far as Valpariaso, Angola, Portland, Indiana

Though operations in New Haven are limited, annual events like the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society’s Santa Train draw significant crowds.

A record 2,000 passengers rode the train in on three Saturdays in December, 2010. The number is even more significant when taken into account that there is only one passenger vehicle (a caboose), no steam locomotive operates, and the ride is 20 minutes long. Between the hours of 10 am and 5pm, over 100 trips were made with all 9 private charters sold out – all of this accomplished with extremely limited marketing.

Headwaters Junction unlocks the year-round potential of this type attraction, no longer limiting it to a handful of days per year or hosting them miles from Fort Wayne.