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Littler River Railroad to offer train rides in Hillsdale

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HILLSDALE, MICHIGAN – For the first time in 70 years, two steam-powered passenger trains will meet in Hillsdale, Michigan. On August 27th and 28th, the Little River Railroad will operate steam-powered train rides out of downtown Hillsdale in a partnership with the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society and Indiana Northeastern Railroad Company. The collaboration is an extension of the Indiana Rail Experience, a new and popular rail tourism program based in Northeast Indiana.

These 25-minute rides will depart from the southwest side of Hillsdale Street and the railroad crossing during the layover of the Fort Wayne Railroad’s popular Tri-State Scenic Steam Excursion. Tickets for the Hillsdale Train Rides are on sale now at indianarailexperience.org and space is limited.

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“Our Tri-State excursions will deliver 800 passengers to Hillsdale over two days in August and we wanted to give area residents an opportunity to enjoy a train ride of their own. The Little River Railroad will also give our guests another great amenity to enjoy while they shop and dine in Hillsdale,” explained Chris Homco, co-event manager for the Indiana Rail Experience.

Based out of Coldwater, Michigan, the non-profit Little River Railroad has operated in rail tourist excursion service since 1975 and routinely offers rides and events in Southeastern Michigan with Little River steam locomotives no. 110 and no. 1.

“We’re looking forward to seeing our attractions operating side by side,” stated Travis Bloom, Vice President of Little River. “Teamwork between members and organizations like this is key to sustaining historic preservation and help bring added value to the communities we serve.”

The town of Hillsdale once linked the New York Central’s original east-west route between Toledo and Elkhart and a north-south route between Fort Wayne and Jackson, Michigan. The Indiana Northeastern, through an association with the Michigan Department of Transportation and nearly Branch County Rail Users Association, has revitalized the railroad line and now serves over 25 customers and supports over 500 regional jobs.

Indiana Rail Experience Arrives in Region

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Courtesy of WPTA 21:

A preview of sorts Thursday afternoon, for a new, multi-year attraction in Angola. The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society (FWRHS) took community leaders, donors, and members of the media on the organization’s first Indiana Rail Experience. It’s a new partnership between the FWRHS and the Indiana Northeastern Railroad Company. “The stars really did align for us, to be able to offer something really exciting and new — right in our backyard,” vice president Kelly Lynch told ABC21. “Having an attraction like this is like having lightning in a bottle, and now we have a place to put the bottle.”

It’s an exciting development, for the non-profit, which celebrates its 50th year in 2022. Now, more than ever, passenger train trips and theme events will be offered, taking people from Indiana to Ohio and Michigan over 100-miles of railroad line. “Everything we do here is kind of a best kept secret,” Lynch added, “and the more people we can share this secret with, the better.” He’s of course talking about the iconic machinery that powers each trip: Nickel Plate Road no. 765. The 1940s-era steam locomotive was removed as a stagnant display in Lawton Park, and restored to working condition in 1979.

Wayne York has been there since it all began. “We’ve just far exceeded any hopes we ever had of what we could do with this locomotive,” he shared. “And it’s also the bigger picture of trying to preserve railroad history from the golden age, which was about 1925 to about 1960. And all the equipment on this train, dates from that period, as well as the locomotive — that’s the railroad heritage we’re trying to preserve and introduce to new generations.”

Cars range from practical to luxury and comfort. Some have dozens of seats, others small cabins which include controlled lights, a fan, and bathroom. The higher class cars even include queen sized beds with dressers. And in between, several options tables and kitchens for dining and snacks. An open car will soon be renovated to include a bar, while guests look out over the passing landscape.

Though coal and steam power the trip, hundreds of volunteers fuel the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society’s trips. Stewards, conductors, and engineers enthusiastic each and every time they ride the no. 765. “It takes a village to run a steam train — so every time we have a weekend work session, or we’re getting ready to take the train on the road, people come from everywhere,” Lynch said. “And it’s not just from Allen County or DeKalb county or Northeast Indiana. We have people from Michigan, from Ohio, from West Virginia, and Illinois.”

Steuben County Economic Development Director Isaac Lee, who boarded the trip with his children, sees big potential with the Indiana Rail Experience coming to Angola. “The work that I do, and that we do collectively to build our community, is about keeping our kids here with us, having them grow with us, be successful with us. It’s about generational growth,” he explained. “It’s not just looking at experiences that help my wife and I — it’s about the kids too.”

“This type of attraction has a magnet affect of bringing populations that either live here, or would like to tour through our area,” Lee continued. “You don’t get many experiences to work with trains. So, that experience coming north from Fort Wayne to Angola? We’re pretty excited about it.”

Much of the public, may already know and be following upcoming trips. The Indiana Ice Cream Train, and the Wine, Whiskey, & Spirits Train trips planned for July 8-9 are already sold out. And tickets are filling up so fast for other events, we’re told organizers are working on scheduling more events later this summer. You can look out for available opportunities for the Indiana Rail Experience here. “Being able to share that feeling of awe and wonder and joy with thousands of people every year?” Lynch told us. “That’s what’s really addicting.”

Indiana Rail Experience 2022 Schedule

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ANGOLA, INDIANA – Starting next month, the Indiana Rail Experience will bring a number of distinct train rides, community events, and special occasions to families, railroad fans, and people of all ages in the region. 

Over four weeks between July and October, historic steam locomotive no. 765 and a vintage passenger train will operate throughout Northeast Indiana. Ticket sales begin at 6:00 PM on June 7th at indianarailexperience.org.

For group tickets and private charters for families or businesses, click here. For sponsorship inquiries, click here.

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Indiana Ice Cream Train – July 8th, July 9th

Beat the heat, take a break from the lake, and enjoy complimentary ice cream on an hour-long train ride through the Indiana countryside. Our family-friendly passenger trains leave downtown Angola and depart four times daily. Tickets start at $15.00.

Indiana Wine & Spirit Train | July 8th, July 9th, September 23rd, September 30th

Revel in an exclusive 2.5-hour train ride aboard a first-class passenger train with the wine, whiskey, beer, cigars, hors d’oeuvres, and dessert of your choice. Guests will chase the magic hour into the evening and enjoy onboard entertainment during their trip. A selection of cigars will be available in our special open-air car. Guests may also charter an entire private car. Seats are reserved for passengers 21-years-of-age or older. Tickets start at $65.00.

Tri-State Scenic Steam Excursion | August 27th, August 28th, and October 1st

This all-day, 100-mile train ride will treat railroad fans and passengers to a late summer trip from Edon, Ohio to Southeast Michigan for a three-hour layover in the historic downtown of Hillsdale. Upon arrival, guests can visit the local farmers’ market, and walking tours, and enjoy lunch on their own a variety of area restaurants. Deluxe Coach, Open Air, First Class, and Executive Class tickets are available. Select amenities include open window cars, open vestibules, onboard entertainment, and a photo runby. First Class and Executive Class tickets include complimentary appetizers and refreshments. Tickets start at $79.00.

Angola American History Train | September 24th-25th

Dress your vintage best and take a trip back in time to the 1940s aboard a steam-powered passenger train that departs Angola for a visit to a World War II troop camp, interact with re-enactors, and learn how the Greatest Generation and the railroads helped win the war. Before or after your trip, visit the Angola American History Days event near downtown Angola. Tickets start at $29.00. 

Nickel Plate Photo Charter | Join Our Waitlist

Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765 and historic EMD diesels will power freight and passenger cars over the Indiana Northeastern between South Milford, Indiana, Edon, Ohio, and Hillsdale, Michigan. Featuring a night photo session, period actors, and vintage vehicles, the weekend will treat photographers to dramatic scenes of railroading on former Wabash and New York Central Railroad territory. Tickets are available by invitation only. Click here to join our waitlist.

And more…

Events will be hosted in cooperation with the Little River Railroad, Norfolk & Western Business Car No. 300 Preservation Society, City of Angola, and City of Hillsdale, Michigan. Sponsors include Berne Apparel, JICI Construction, The John H. Emery Rail Heritage Trust, McRail Insurance, Trine University, Steuben County Tourism Bureau, and the Steuben County Community Foundation.

The 2022 season of the Indiana Rail Experience will feature vintage passenger cars from the 1920s through the 1950s, including accommodations in deluxe coach, first-class, lounge, and executive class cars. The event will also feature the debut of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society’s very own open-air car and dining/lounge car. 

The Indiana Rail Experience is a partnership between the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, Inc. and the Indiana Northeastern Railroad Company. Additional dates, times, and events may be added. Published times, dates, and details may be adjusted.


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Introducing the Indiana Rail Experience

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The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, Inc. and the Indiana Northeastern Railroad Company have announced The Indiana Rail Experience, a historic partnership that will contribute to the tourism economy and the quality of life in Northeast Indiana.

Beginning in 2022, the Fort Wayne non-profit will operate a series of passenger train trips, educational programs, and special events over the Indiana Northeastern, a 100-mile railroad line that connects Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan.

Events will include a wide array of excursions with Nickel Plate Road no. 765, a 1940s-era steam locomotive, which has become an international cultural attraction since being restored to operating condition in 1979. In addition to the 765, other historic locomotives and classic railroad passenger cars will provide unique offerings for children, families, and adults between July and October. A complete schedule and tickets will be available later in May and June. To get notified, click here. For sponsorship inquiries, click here.

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“Our railroad has helped drive the economy of this region since it was started to support local farmers,” explained Gale Shultz, President of the Indiana Northeastern. “We’re hoping to not only shine a spotlight on our community with the popularity of the 765, but let the world know that the region and the railroad are open for business.”

The Indiana Northeastern is an industrious short line railroad serving Northeast Indiana, Southern Michigan, and Northwest Ohio.

“This multi-year agreement will allow us to offer experiences to our friends and neighbors like never before,” said Kelly Lynch, Vice President of the Fort Wayne Railroad. “We couldn’t be more fortunate to work with a local, family-owned organization like the Indiana Northeastern. This partnership will bring joy to thousands of residents and visitors.”

In addition, events will be hosted in cooperation with the Little River Railroad, Norfolk & Western Business Car No. 300 Preservation Society, Steuben County Tourism Bureau, and the City of Angola. Sponsors include Berne Apparel, JICI Construction, The John H. Emery Rail Heritage Trust, McRail Insurance, and Trine University.

“We are thrilled that the Indiana Northeastern is boosting our recreation industry. Not only does this give our population more to do in the summer months, but the potential to expand these events into the off-season will be significant for our area,” said June Julien, Executive Director of Steuben County Tourism Bureau.

Formally incorporated 30 years ago in 1992, the Indiana Northeastern has revitalized the former Wabash and New York Central Railroad lines which had all but been abandoned by the 1990s. The short-line railroad success story now sees over 5,000 freight carloads a year, serves 25 industrial and agricultural industries in three states, and supports over 500 jobs. The Indiana Northeastern maintains offices and a locomotive repair facility in South Milford and Hudson, Indiana, respectively.

With roots deep in state history and cultural heritage tourism, rail tourism in Indiana continues to be a burgeoning industry. The recently inaugurated Nickel Plate Express in Noblesville hosted 25,000 riders, and the events of the French Lick Scenic Railway in southern Indiana welcomed over 70,000 riders last year.

“In 2020, Indiana had an estimated 67 million visitors,” said Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch. “Development is key to the Leisure and Travel-related industry and its growth, and this development in Northeast Indiana will be a great addition to visitor attraction and to the quality of life.”

“Our events routinely sell out and are in significant demand in Northeast Indiana. Our studies have shown that a more permanent railroad attraction in this region could welcome over 120,000 visitors on an annual basis,” added Lynch.

For 50 years, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society has offered remarkable and inspiring experiences through the preservation, restoration, and operation of historic railroad equipment and artifacts significant to Northeast Indiana. An all-volunteer, award-winning, and safety-driven non-profit organization, it has operated Nickel Plate Road no. 765 for over 100,000 miles in public exhibition and passenger train excursion service and routinely welcomes visitors from all 50 states and half a dozen countries. As a part of its role in the rail tourism industry, Fort Wayne continues to restore and exhibit other historic steam and diesel locomotives, freight cars, and passenger cars from the Golden Age of Railroading, all of which are used to celebrate and preserve the area’s cultural and industrial heritage. Fort Wayne’s operations are funded by ticket sales, memberships, donations, grants, and sponsorships.