Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society Acquires Depot

The depot at Pleasant Lake, Ind., will become the home base for its excursions on the Indiana Northeastern featuring Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 765. Photo Courtesy of Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society.

Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society Acquires Depot

By Railfan & Railroad Staff

The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society announced this week that it had acquired a historic train station in Pleasant Lake, Ind., along the Indiana Northeastern Railroad that it will use for its popular Indiana Rail Experience excursions. The depot will be open this weekend from noon to 4 p.m., Saturday so the public can see the structure for itself. 

Constructed in 1882 for the Fort Wayne & Jackson Railroad and later owned by the New York Central, the Victorian Gothic-style depot is a unique structure that was used for both passenger and freight operations, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The station last served passenger trains when owned by the Little River Railroad, now located in Coldwater, Mich., and was acquired by local residents in the 2000s. In recent years, the structure has been cared for by Harold and Carmen Haifley.

Indiana Rail Experience plans on using the station almost immediately. The station will host the upcoming Tails & Rails Train, Cigar Train, Indiana Fall Color Trains, and the Indiana Christmas Train. Though the station’s interior is largely preserved, improvements will likely include a new platform, lighting fixtures, and other amenities. Plans call for the structure and nearby property to receive cosmetic and structural improvements over the next year. The acquisition was made possible by a grant to develop a station and boarding site in Steuben County. 

“Harold and Carmen Haifley have been great custodians of the station and their interest in seeing it return to its intended function will have a dramatic impact on Pleasant Lake and the surrounding area,” said Kelly Lynch, vice president of the Fort Wayne group. “We believe that our increased ridership and investment will be catalytic to the area, and boost this historic community.”

The Indiana Rail Experience began last year when it brought more than 2,500 people to Pleasant Lake in four days, doubling the town’s population. 

“As a former resort town, Pleasant Lake is an ideal spot to see these dreams develop. We’re excited to help stabilize the town’s remaining historic structures and create opportunities for re-investment,” said Elten Powers, President of the Pleasant Lake Historical Society. “We’re especially grateful for the Indiana Northeastern Railroad’s support, as the rail line has been one of our community’s assets since the 1800s.”

In its press release, the Fort Wayne group also stated that it was no longer pursuing plans to build a mixed-use development near downtown Fort Wayne called “Headwaters Junction,” which would have housed the non-profit’s Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 765. However, Lynch said the group was not giving up on its plans of developing such a venue somewhere else in Indiana. 

“Long term, we will need a facility to service and maintain these attractions and a landmark destination to help welcome thousands of visitors each year. It’s too early to know where and how a railyard park could be built here, but while the window to develop in Fort Wayne has closed, the sky is the limit in Northeast Indiana,” Lynch said.

This article was posted on: August 11, 2023