A project as unique and complex as Headwaters Junction is bound to inspire questions. We’ve detailed answers to many commonly asked questions below.

What is it?

Headwaters Junction is designed to be a regional destination comprised of a recreated railroad roundhouse, where vintage trains are maintained and operated in a 1940s setting; an interpretive center for education, hands-on activities, and private events; a railyard park and grounds for events and pedestrians; and a tourist railroad connecting the Junction to other area attractions and points of interest.

What is the appeal?

Simply put, trains are awesome. But that’s not all. At the turn of the 20th century Fort Wayne, Indiana was a vibrant railroad town, hosting six railroads and employing thousands, so our railroad history is an important part of our culture.

Importantly, Headwaters Junction is not about trains – it’s about creating unique, emotional experiences for visitors. You don’t  need to be a baseball fan to enjoy a home game at Parkview Field and you won’t need to be a train fan to be inspired by Headwaters Junction’s colorful events, activities, and setting. Currently, Fort Wayne’s railroad attractions host visitors from all 50 states and half a dozen countries. Studies show that Headwaters Junction could bring an estimated 140,000 visitors to downtown.

How often will trains operate?

Operating trains are an important part of the Headwaters Junction experience, but railroad operations will be sporadic and seasonally based. Frequency of train movement may be no more than a handful of times a week and train lengths will not be longer than 2-3 cars and train operation will be limited to specific hours. Trains will typically not operate during rush hour periods or cross or occupy public grade crossings for longer than sixty seconds.

Is this a City project?

It is not a project of the City of Fort Wayne. Headwaters Junction is a privately lead, privately funded, grassroots project, with over a dozen citizens and community leaders overseeing its development. In addition, Headwaters Junction is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.

The project has been endorsed by Legacy Fort Wayne and SWA Group’s 2015 Riverfront Conceptual Plan. In addition, it is supported by every neighborhood association that it touches.

Where will it be located?

Headwaters Junction requires roughly ten acres for development. We’re currently working with the City of Fort Wayne to determine the best location for the project. Sites that have been considered are the North River property at 4th and Clinton Streets (once a former railroad yard), the site between Harrison and Wells Streets, and other nearby vacant railroad property.

Headwaters Junction currently has a purchase agreement in effect for nearly a mile of right-of-way from Polk Street to 3rd Street.

How will this be funded?

A broad range of funding options are available for projects of this type given its scope covers economic development, historic preservation, brownfield renewal, railroad and trail development.

Our overall budget is between 15 and 20 million dollars and we’ve raised 2 million dollars privately before even breaking ground. We believe that 75% of the project will be funded from corporate and private donations, sponsorships and individuals and our budget does not include tax dollars.

As a comparison, Promenade Park cost 22 million and was largely funded by sponsorships and private sources.

What about public safety?

Safety is paramount to any successful railroad operation. The design of Headwaters Junction will encourage pedestrian exploration of the unique settings provided in the railroad yard and buildings. Decorative fencing and bollards will guide walkable areas.

Train movements will be conducted at reduced speed (known as yard limits or restricted speed) within the Headwaters Junction complex and volunteers and employees would protect movements on the ground while trains are in motion and the public is present. Signage and signaling will also inform visitors of train movements.

What about noise, smoke or pollution?

Fort Wayne is bordered at the north and south by two busy rail lines and the railroad’s presence near and within the heart of the city is well established.

Locomotive horns and whistles are part of the atmosphere and experience of Headwaters Junction, but are also sounded infrequently. A good comparison would be to point to the frequency and impact of baseball games at Parkview Field – which are dramatically more noticable and frequent, especially in the evening hours.

Methods such as flagging crossings enable train movements around the yard to be conducted without the need for whistle or horn signaling.

Train movements and related sounds will mostly be relegated to regular business hours and the operation of streetcars will lessen audible train movements. As part of their operation, steam locomotives smoke intermittently. When operated efficiently, they produce little to no smoke at all and future locomotive restoration work may adapt the steam locomotives to bio-fuel or vegetable oil. Both locomotive fuel and refuse will be handled responsibly according to local and federal laws.

Will the 765 operate at Headwaters Junction?

The 765 will continue to operate in regular excursion and exhibition service in the Midwest, but will only operate at Headwaters Junction a handful of times a year for special events as it does now. Other locomotives, including a historic Wabash steam locomotive switch engine, a restored Nickel Plate diesel locomotive, a streetcar, and other future motive power will operate regularly.

We anticipate using steam locomotives 30% of the year and other forms of motive power the remaining 70%.

I still have questions

We’ll be happy to addess additional questions you may have!


Go deeper!

In 2019, we commissioned a detailed report regarding the impact of railroad tourist operations near development along the riverfront.


The white dotted line roughly shows much of the area Headwaters Junction has under a purchase agreement. The white dots show locations that have been considered for the project.