Skip to main content

Indiana Rail Experience Returns For 2024 Season

By Events, News

Indiana’s Best New Experience expands to include new Picnic Trains, Bike Train, World War II event on Labor Day Weekend, and additional Christmas Trains

NORTHEAST INDIANA – After being named Indiana’s Best New Experience in 2023, the Indiana Rail Experience has returned to the region with an extended calendar of events that will delight visitors with new offerings and popular favorites on Memorial Day through Christmas. The Indiana Rail Experience offers the opportunity to travel aboard vintage passenger trains operated with historic steam and diesel locomotives from the 1940s and 50s on a private railroad line that links Western Ohio, Northeast Indiana, and Southeast Michigan. Tickets are on sale now at indianarailexperience.org.

In addition to its popular train rides, including the Indiana Ice Cream Train, Wine & Whiskey Train, Wine & Chocolate Train, Cigar Train, Fall Color Train, Railroad Camp, and Christmas Train, the Indiana Rail Experience is introducing the Picnic Train, Bike Train, and hosting its second World War II themed event, Rolling Victory, on Labor Day Weekend. In addition, organizers are once again hosting the Tails & Ales Train, a special train ride that welcomes dogs and their owners and supports local humane shelters.

Group bookings, charters, and private tours are also available, and the fall color Autumn Limited trips on Friday, October 25th have been set aside exclusively for large tour groups and private businesses to reserve tickets. For more information on these offerings, click here.

AN ECONOMIC ENGINE FOR THE REGION

“The Indiana Rail Experience has proven to be transformational not just for our organization, but for the communities we serve,” stated Kelly Lynch, Executive Director for the Fort Wayne Railroad. “In 2023, we welcomed over 15,000 passengers who according to the tourism bureau brought an estimated $2.5 million in economic impact on the region. The ability to celebrate our authentic history and have a meaningful impact on Northeast Indiana has long been our goal, and we’re thrilled to grow our third season to include more events, attractions, and opportunities to welcome more people to discover what our state has to offer. None of this would be possible without our donors or volunteers, who all work to make these attractions come to life.”

INVESTING IN A NEW ATTRACTION

Last year, the Fort Wayne Railroad announced the acquisition of the historic Pleasant Lake railroad depot and has successfully raised over $120,000 to invest in the restoration of the historic structure, and the acquisition of seven historic New York Central railroad passenger cars to double train capacity in the ensuing years. Thanks to ongoing fundraising and donor support, the station’s restoration and the fleet of cars are presently ongoing. The first phase of depot restoration will occur this summer and the first restored New York Central car is planned to enter service this fall.

In addition, the Fort Wayne Railroad will be adding two newly renovated first-class open-air passenger cars to the fleet. These cars, which were once part of the famous traveling Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus train, will feature both dining car tables and lounge-style seating and open windows for passengers to enjoy the sights and sounds of the passing countryside and increase train capacity by an additional 70 seats.

Earlier this year, the organization was awarded a $250,000 grant from the Indiana Destination Development Corporation to establish the Pleasant Lake Campus, which is imagined as a hub of amenities and facilities to further support the tourism program. Development of the campus will begin later in 2024.

ABOUT

For over 50 years, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society has created unique and memorable experiences through its celebration of the Golden Age of Railroading – a special era of American transportation, innovation, and connectivity between the 1930s and 1950s. The Fort Wayne Railroad has operated historic steam locomotive Nickel Plate Road no. 765 extensively in public exhibition and passenger train excursion service and its events routinely welcome visitors from all 50 states and half a dozen countries. Its operations are made possible entirely through volunteers and funded by ticket sales, memberships, donations, grants, and sponsorships. For more information, visit fortwaynerailroad.org.

Named Indiana’s “Best New Experience” by state tourism officials, the Indiana Rail Experience offers a variety of train trips and events including hour-long rides, themed event trains, and all-day excursions aboard our historic passenger trains from the 1940s and 50s! Click here to join our mailing list to get notified as ticket sales roll out for each event in 2024!

2024 PUBLIC EVENTS CALENDAR

All trips are roundtrips. Dates, venues, prices, and trip details are subject to change.

APRIL 27 TATUAJE CIGAR TRAIN
Diesel-powered cigar train. Departing Pleasant Lake, Indiana for Hillsdale, Michigan. Tickets include a variety of amenities and cigars.

MAY 24th, 25th, 26th ICE CREAM TRAINS
Steam-powered train rides departing Angola. Tickets start at $15.00.

MAY 25thWINE & WHISKEY TRAIN
Steam-powered train ride departing Angola for passengers 21-and-over. Tickets start at $75.00.

JUNE 1st & 2nd ICE CREAM TRAINS
Diesel-powered train rides departing Angola. Tickets start at $15.00.

JUNE 8th – BIKE TRAIN | HISTORY CYCLES BACK
Diesel-powered train ride from Pleasant Lake, Indiana to Angola, Indiana, and a bike ride return for a gathering at the historic Pleasant Lake depot. Tickets are $40.00.

JUNE 8th – PICNIC TRAIN
Diesel-powered train rides during the evening and afternoon for families and adults. Tickets start at $9.00 for coach passengers and first-class tables for $75.00.

JUNE 15th & 16th – TRI-STATE SCENIC EXCURSION
All-day, roundtrip steam excursion between Edon, Ohio, and Hillsdale, Michigan on Father’s Day. Tickets start at $99.00.

JUNE 17th – THROTTLE TIME
Step into the cab of a historic steam or diesel locomotive and become an engineer or fireman for a 45-minute session while you operate the locomotive over the railroad. Ticket sales begin May 1st.

JULY 6th & 7th – WINE & CHOCOLATE TRAIN
Diesel-powered train rides departing Angola for passengers 21-and-over. Tickets start at $75.00.

JULY 13th & 14th – ICE CREAM TRAINS
Diesel-powered train rides departing Angola, Indiana. Tickets start at $15.00.

AUGUST 1st & 2nd – INDIANA RAIL CAMP
Immersive, three-day railroad skills and educational camp for young adults to develop their passions and skills and for scouts to earn their Railroad Merit Badge. Camp admission and registration are $150.00.

AUGUST 9th & 10th – PLEASANT LAKE DAYS
Static displays and tours of the restoration of the Pleasant Lake depot.

AUGUST 11th – PICNIC TRAIN
Diesel-powered train rides during the late morning and early afternoon for families and adults with a meet with Little River Railroad in Hillsdale, Michigan.  Tickets start at $9.00 for coach passengers and first-class tables for $75.00.

AUGUST 23rd, 24th & 25th – ASHLEY – HUDSON DAYS
Diesel-powered train rides and during the Ashley-Hudson Days festival.

AUGUST 30th – SEPTEMBER 1st – ROLLING VICTORY / WWII EVENT
A three-day living history event celebrating American military, railroad, and home front history featuring vintage steam and diesel powered train rides, World War II reenactors, battles, a 1940s Dinner and Dance, classic automobiles, and an immersive and educational experience for all ages in Pleasant Lake, Indiana.

SEPTEMBER 2nd – THROTTLE TIME
Step into the cab of a historic steam or diesel locomotive and become an engineer or fireman for a 45-minute session while you operate the locomotive over the railroad. Ticket sales begin May 1st.

OCTOBER 5th – TAILS & ALES TRAIN
Climb aboard this pet-friendly train for a Saturday afternoon cruise that will benefit local animal care centers. Registration is $45.00.

OCTOBER 12th – ROCKY PATEL CIGAR TRAIN
Diesel-powered cigar train. Departing Pleasant Lake, Indiana for Hillsdale, Michigan. Tickets start at $199.00 and include a variety of amenities and cigars.

OCTOBER 19th & 20th – FALL COLORS STEAM SPECIAL
All-day steam-powered fall color excursions in Indiana and Michigan departing Pleasant Lake, Indiana. Tickets start at $119.00. Ticket sales begin July 10th.

OCTOBER 25th, 26th & 27th – AUTUMN LIMITED
2.5 hour, diesel-powered train rides departing Pleasant Lake, Indiana for Reading, Michigan. Tickets start at $35.00. Ticket sales begin July 10th.

NOVEMBER 15th, 16th, 17th, 22nd, 23rd, 24th –
CHRISTMAS CABOOSE RIDES
Traditional diesel-powered Christmas train rides and group charters aboard Santa’s caboose in New Haven, Indiana. Tickets start at $9.00.

DECEMBER 6th, 7th, 8th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd
INDIANA CHRISTMAS TRAIN
– Diesel-powered holiday excursions and events departing Pleasant Lake. Tickets start at $35.00

Fall Color Trains Departing for Indiana, Michigan

By Events, News

A 1940s steam locomotive will take guests on a tour of Autumn colors in Northeast Indiana and Southeast Michigan this October

STEUBEN COUNTY, IND. – As part of its expanding season, the Indiana Rail Experience has just announced its first-ever Fall Color Trains in a partnership with the Indiana Northeastern Railroad and Fort Wayne Railroad.

Featuring accommodations aboard vintage passenger cars, first-class tickets, a private car, and a layover in historic downtown, the first weekend of trips on October 7th and 8th will depart Pleasant Lake, Indiana for Hillsdale, Michigan. On the second weekend, excursions will depart Hillsdale and Angola, Indiana on October 14th and 15th. Tickets are on sale now at https://www.indianarailexperience.org/#fallcolors

“With the changing seasons, cooler weather, and dramatic sunsets, the railroad really transforms into something scenic and captivating for visitors,” said Andrew Hershman, Marketing and Sales Manager for the Indiana Northeastern. “Our company has spent the last three decades reinvesting in the line and developing industry in the region, and we’re looking forward to welcoming passengers to enjoy it this fall.”

Traversing the former line of the New York Central Railroad, the trips will offer scenic and picturesque glimpses into quiet farms, lakeside towns, and curving railroad. The October 14th and 15th excursions will be the first Indiana Rail Experience trips to depart Hillsdale.

In 2022, the Indiana Rail Experience welcomed over 7,500 visitors from 32 states and 2 countries and was named the Best New Experience by the Indiana State Tourism Association. The 2023 season includes both steam-and-diesel-powered excursions, with a series of Christmas trains planned out of Northeast Indiana in November and December.

Indiana Cigar Train to visit Midwest on July 1st

By Events, News

INDIANA CIGAR TRAIN TO VISIT MIDWEST ON JULY 1st

NORTHEAST INDIANA – Rudy’s Shop and the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society have joined forces to create Rudy’s Rolling Smoke, a one-of-a-kind Cigar Train aboard a vintage train set featuring special guest Eric Espinosa. Sponsored by Rudy’s, Fort Wayne’s premiere cigar and wine store, tickets are on sale now at cigar-train.com and start at $199.

“There is nothing else like this in the Midwest. Our cigar car had become the most popular car on our wine and whiskey trains, which lead us to create an entire train ride dedicated to enjoying cigars, spirits, and the passing countryside aboard a historic passenger train,” said Kelly Lynch, Vice President of the Fort Wayne Railroad. “We’ve taken what we love about our favorite lounges and cigar bar, and put it on rails.”

The exclusive cigar train departs Pleasant Lake, Indiana – just north of Fort Wayne and 30 minutes south of the 80/90 toll roads – and heads for Hillsdale, Michigan for a layover and lunch at the Hillsdale Brewing Company. Tickets include generous cigar packages, spirits, refreshments, lunch, and snacks. While onboard guests will get to meet and greet Erik Espinosa and enjoy complimentary premium cigars from Espinosa Cigars.

The train includes both coach and VIP seating in historic railcars specially outfitted for cigar smoking, including an executive Pullman car with a smoking platform for VIP passengers, an open-air baggage car and bar, and other traditional seating for both cigar smokers and non-smokers.

ABOUT RUDY’S SHOP

Located next to Fort Wayne’s Parkview Field, Rudy’s Shop is celebrating its ten-year anniversary in 2023. Featuring a lounge, firepits, beer garden, and private cigar floor, Rudys sells premium cigars, Indiana beer and wine, and DeBrand Fine Chocolates.

ABOUT THE FORT WAYNE RAILROAD

For over 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. In 2022, Fort Wayne Railroad’s Indiana Rail Experience was named Indiana’s Best New Experience by the Indiana Tourism Association. Its operations are funded by ticket sales, memberships, donations, grants, and sponsorships.

Indiana Railroad Camp to bring railroading to life for young adults

By Events, News

PLEASANT LAKE, INDIANA – A new generation of railroaders will enjoy a special event of immersive hands-on training and education thanks to a partnership between Camp Chief Little Turtle, the Indiana Northeastern Railroad, and the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society during the 2023 season of the Indiana Rail Experience.

The Indiana Railcamp – the first of its kind in the state – will welcome up to 30 young adults ages 13 through 17 on July 13th and 14th. Campers will work side-by-side with career railroaders, preservationists, and educators as they learn about freight and passenger railroading, railroad safety, history, construction, model railroading, and both modern diesel-electric and vintage steam locomotives, and Scouts will be able to earn their Railroading Merit Badge. The cost is $150 per camper and registrations are open at scoutingevent.com/157-INDIANARAILCAMP2023.

The first session of Indiana Railcamp will be sponsored by the Dekko Foundation and Steuben County Foundation, and scholarships for qualified attendees are available. Additional dates and expanded experiences will be announced for scouts and the general public. To sign up for future events, visit https://forms.gle/jMH5cBQJobCz98xE6. For information on scholarships, click here.

“We’re delighted to find partners in the Anthony Wayne Area Council as part of the Scouts BSA Program at Camp Chief Little Turtle, Dekko Foundation, and the Steuben County Foundation to increase our educational offerings,” said Joe Knapke, president of the Fort Wayne Railroad. “We hope some of the attendees will become future railroaders, and begin learning valuable trade skills and knowledge about the rail industry. Passing on these skills, knowledge, and passion is central to our mission.”

“We are ecstatic to partner with the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society to bring this unique experience to youth in our Scouting community. This is not only an incredible experience, but youth will be deepening their understanding of how railroads play a vital role in our lives. This just may be the spark for our region’s next generation of conductors and engineers.”

ABOUT THE ANTHONY WAYNE AREA COUNCIL AND CAMP CHIEF LITTLE TURTLE

Anthony Wayne Area Council (AWAC) of the Boy Scouts of America serves 11 counties in northeast Indiana. During the summer, it serves many Scouts from other parts of Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio at AWAC’s Camp Chief Little Turtle (CCLT). This 1,200-acre camp is located at 2282 W. 500 S., Pleasant Lake, Indiana. Our youth development programs include aquatics, shooting sports, outdoor skills, fishing, conservation, and an innovative STEAM (Science-Trades-Engineering-Arts) Program. This summer, we will offer over 90 programs and merit badge sessions ranging from sailing, climbing, fish and wildlife management, engineering, and welding. In 2023, we anticipate over 1000 youth to participate in our summer camp experience. This includes 4 sessions of Scouts BSA camp for youth 11-17, which is six nights without internet and video games and five days of career & hobby-based instruction. We view summer camp experiences as pivotal experiences in a child’s life, from conquering fears and building confidence, to learning a new life skill or career option. We also recognize the importance of youth getting away from devices and out into nature.

ABOUT THE FORT WAYNE RAILROAD HISTORICAL SOCIETY, INC.

For over 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. In 2022, Fort Wayne Railroad’s Indiana Rail Experience was named Indiana’s Best New Experience by the Indiana Tourism Association. Its operations are funded by ticket sales, memberships, donations, grants, and sponsorships.

Award-winning rail tourism program expands after successful first year

By Events, Featured, News

NORTHEAST INDIANA – Following a successful season of memorable events and recent recognition as Indiana’s “Best New Experience” from the Indiana Tourism Association, a 1940s-era railroad attraction has expanded its calendar of excursions in Northeast Indiana, Southeast Michigan, and Northwest Ohio for 2023.

Operated by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society and the Indiana Northeastern Railroad Company, the Indiana Rail Experience has events planned between May and December, including steam-powered fall color tours, Christmas train rides, and a hands-on Indiana Rail Camp for young adults and railroad fans. The season will begin with the Indiana Ice Cream Train operating out of Angola on Memorial Day weekend and special events on Father’s Day weekend.

Returning will be the popular all-day excursions to Hillsdale, Michigan, and Wine & Whiskey Trains that will operate throughout the year. Included in the calendar of events will also be a special Railroad Open House event featuring several steam and diesel locomotives at the Indiana Northeastern’s locomotive shop in Hudson, Indiana.

Ticket sales for the season’s initial events will begin on April 19th at 6:00 PM at indianarailexperience.org. Dates, venues, and trip details are subject to change.

Excursions will feature both diesel locomotives and historic Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765 on select occasions. Trains include vintage passenger cars from the 1920s through the 1950s, with accommodations in deluxe coach, first-class, lounge, and dining cars. Group packages and private passenger car charters will also be available.

“This is only a new era not only for our organization but for cultural heritage tourism in the Northeast Indiana region,” said Kelly Lynch, Vice President of the Fort Wayne Railroad. “There is no other tourist railroad that connects three states together like this one and it presents a significant opportunity to use our transportation history and attractions as a way to welcome thousands of people to this region. This is just the start of a series of exciting announcements this year and we anticipate this program will continue to grow, especially in Steuben County.”

Operated entirely by volunteers, the increased number of events this year also means that the Indiana Rail Experience is recruiting this year for positions in event administration, docents, operations, gift store, on-board, and customer service roles. Interested participants can apply at fortwaynerailroad.org/volunteer.

Events will be hosted in cooperation with the Little River Railroad, Gramling Locomotive Works, Trine University, Norfolk & Western Business Car No. 300 Preservation Society, City of Angola, and City of Hillsdale, Michigan, and the Steuben County Tourism Bureau.

2023 PUBLIC EVENTS CALENDAR

All trips are roundtrips. Dates, venues, prices, and trip details are subject to change.

MAY 27th & 28th ICE CREAM TRAINS
Steam-powered train rides departing Angola, Indiana. Tickets start at $15.00.

JUNE 17thDONUTS & DADS TRAIN and SUMMER BBQ TRAIN
Steam-powered train rides departing Angola, Indiana during Father’s Day weekend. Tickets start at $15.00 for Donuts & Dads and $75.00 for the Summer BBQ Train.

JUNE 18th TRI-STATE SCENIC EXCURSION
All-day, roundtrip steam excursion between Edon, Ohio, and Hillsdale, Michigan on Father’s Day. Tickets start at $99.00.

JUNE 24th ICE CREAM TRAINS
Diesel-powered train rides departing Angola, Indiana. Tickets start at $15.00.

JULY 1stROLLING SMOKE CIGAR TRAIN
Diesel-powered cigar train with special guest Erik Espinosa. Departing Pleasant Lake, Indiana for Hillsdale, Michigan. Tickets start at $199.00 and include a variety of amenities and cigars.

JULY 7th & 8thWINE & CHOCOLATE TRAIN
Diesel-powered train rides departing Angola for passengers 21-and-over. Tickets start at $75.00.

JULY 13th – 15th INDIANA RAIL CAMP
Immersive, three-day railroad skills and educational camp for young adults to develop their passions and skills and for scouts to earn their Railroad Merit Badge. Camp admission and registration are $150.00.

JULY 15th – WINE & WHISKEY TRAIN
Steam-powered train ride departing Angola for passengers 21-and-over. Tickets start at $75.00.

JULY 16th – ICE CREAM TRAINS
Diesel-powered train rides departing Angola. Tickets start at $15.00.

JULY 29th & 30thRAILROAD OPEN HOUSE
Featuring Little River Railroad, Gramling Locomotive Works, and Nickel Plate Road no. 765 in Hudson, Indiana. Admission is free. Train rides start at $10.00.

AUGUST 19th SOUTH MILFORD MEMORIAL DEDICATION TRAIN
Steam train ride departing South Milford, Indiana. Tickets start at $15.00.

AUGUST 20thTAILS, ALES & RAILS
Train rides for good dogs and their owners departing Pleasant Lake, Indiana. Tickets are $45.00.

SEPTEMBER  30th RUDY’S ROLLING SMOKE CIGAR TRAIN
Rudy’s is partnering with Micallef and Stolen Throne Cigars for a pre-trip BBQ lunch and smoke out in Pleasant Lake, Indiana with live entertainment at the station starting at 11:00 AM, followed by a three-hour train trip to south-central Michigan. Tickets start at $125.00.

OCTOBER 7th & 8th INDIANA FALL COLOR TRAIN
All-day steam excursions departing Pleasant Lake for Hillsdale. Tickets start at $99.00.

OCTOBER 14th & 15thMICHIGAN FALL COLOR TRAIN
Steam & diesel excursion departing Hillsdale for Angola. Tickets start at $99.00.

NOVEMBER 24th-26th CHRISTMAS CABOOSE RIDES
Traditional diesel-powered Christmas train rides and group charters aboard Santa’s caboose in New Haven, Indiana. Tickets start at $9.00.

DECEMBER 8TH-10th INDIANA CHRISTMAS TRAIN
Diesel-powered holiday excursions and events departing Pleasant Lake. Tickets start at $35.00.

DECEMBER 15TH – 17th INDIANA CHRISTMAS TRAIN 
Diesel-powered holiday train excursions and events departing Pleasant Lake. Tickets start at $35.00.