Have you ever wondered about the old railroad bed that is part of our walkway on the east boundary of the subdivision? And, did you know there was also a train depot stop, on the north side of Wallen Rd.?
Well, the railroad was originally known as “The Fort Wayne Jackson Saginaw Road Way”. The line was built in the 1860’s. “The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad also ran it briefly” before it became part of “The New York Central System.” All of the tracks between Fort Wayne and Auburn were pulled up back in the 1960’s, except for a small portion between 4th Street and Runnion Ave. This was used by The Norfolk Southern to access the former OmniSource Scrap Yard, across the street from Lawton Park, until OmniSource closed the facility in 2000. You may have read about possibly redeveloping the OmniSource/NYC freight depot area the newspapers recently.
When the line was active, spurs in Ft. Wayne were used to supply coal to the City Light Power plant (now known as Science Central), deliver wire spools and transformers to Indian & Michigan Power’s service yard (AEP, south of Kroger’s), and unload pigment, resin and solvents to The Valspar Corp., near Jacobs & State – the plant was previously named Minnesota Paint, and Lyon Paint. And before it was a paint plant, it produced tires. There was also a spur on the south side of Jacobs Ave. that delivered supplies to The General Telephone Repair Center (the building now handles carpet and tile).
The FWJ & S RR line started (or ended) near what is now the West Jefferson Road area just, east of the Lindenwood Cemetery and on the west side of Swinney Park. The Illustrated Historical Atlas of Indiana (published by Baskin Forester & Co.) shows line going north, along our eastern boundary, making its first stop at the Academie Station on the north side of Wallen Road. The 1886 atlas showed the location of the town of Academie as centered on Till Rd. From there, it went northeast through Auburn, to Waterloo, Summit, Steubenville, Pleasantville Lake, Angola and Fremont. The line’s last stop, at the Indiana-Michigan border was at the town of Ray. And from Ray the line headed NE to Jackson, MI and Saginaw. The tracks no longer exist between Fort Wayne and Auburn, but the rest of the line north to Ray is part of The Indiana Railroad rail-bed.
As most of you know, Harold Hartman has lived in this area all of his life. He tells me he can still remember hearing the steam whistle blow as the steam engine neared the Academie Station. By the way, do you recall seeing the cement marker, with the “W” stamped in it, along the walkway? Well, that was placed there as a reminder for the steam engine crew to blow their whistle, as they approached the train station.
South of Fort Wayne, the rail line was known as “The Fort Wayne Bluffton Cincinnati RW”. The Norfolk Southern RR now owns this roadbed. The line runs south through Sheldon (now known as Yoder), West Ossian (now part of Ossian), Greenwood, and Bluffton. Then, in Bluffton, the line became part of “The Fort Wayne Muncie & Cincinnati RW”. The line continues southwest through Travisville, Wellsburg, Keystone (all in Wells County), Montipelier, Hartford City and Bowser (all in Blackford County- Bowser is no longer on today’s maps). In Delaware County, the line continues through Eaton and Muncie, then to Henry County and the town of New Castle. From New Castle, the line is now owned by “The Indiana Hi Rail Corp.” and heads southeast to the Wayne County town of Cambridge City, continuing SE to town of Connersville in Fayette County.
As you can see, we share a little bit of Fort Wayne history, right in our back yard (literally). Keep that in mind as you enjoy our walkways. And please, encourage everyone to take care of them.
William A. Smith IV
December 18, 2002