Fort Wayne, Indiana - Rail Lines


Junction Interlocking


Founded in 1794, Fort Wayne is a city that came about long before there were any railroads in the United States.  The short lived canal system served Fort Wayne until the railroads came.  Eventually the city succumbed completely to the railroads and by the early 20th Century Fort Wayne was truly a railroad town, being served by several lines, most of which are still in service today.

The Fort Wayne area is interlaced with many tracks, but basically there are 3 east-west lines, 1 north-south line, and the remnants of 2 other lines.  Norfolk Southern is king in Fort Wayne, however RailAmerica operates the former Pennsylvania Railroad east and west of Fort Wayne and has a small yard (Piqua Yd.) on the southeast side of town.

The following is a listing and brief description of the lines that currently exist in Fort Wayne.
Norfolk Southern Lines - Fort Wayne, Indiana RailAmerica Lines - Fort Wayne, Indiana

Norfolk Southern Lines
Fort Wayne, Indiana

Chicago/Fostoria District

This line is the former Nickel Plate mainline between Chicago and Buffalo, New York.  Part of the line was built atop the old Wabash & Erie canal through downtown Fort Wayne.  West of New Haven the line is known as the Chicago District, while east of New Haven it is called the Fostoria District.  It enters Fort Wayne on the west side at Runnion and runs east, basically paralleling the Maumee River to New Haven and is double track between Hadley and Four Mile.  It is elevated between Van Buren St. and W. Berry St.  This line serves 2 primary purposes in the area; one being Norfolk Southern's primary routing for Chicago trains to and from the southern part of the United States.  The line east of New Haven is used predominately as a connecting route between St. Louis and Bellevue, Ohio as well as to the East Coast.  The line is fairly busy west of Fort Wayne and sees several intermodal trains, roadrailers, coal trains, as well as regular freights.  East of Fort Wayne it is dominated by auto parts trains and road freights.  Just a handful of trains run on the line through the city.

NS Chicago District
The NS Chicago District was elevated in Fort Wayne in the 1950's.

Huntington District

This is the former Wabash mainline between Detroit and Kansas City.  The portion from Peru, Indiana to Montpelier, Ohio is known as the Huntington District.  East of Montpelier it becomes the Detroit District.  The Huntington District enters Fort Wayne from the west at Hugo and runs northeast into the city, running elevated along the southern edge of downtown.  The line parallels the RailAmerica CFER line between Fairfield Ave. and Mike on elevated track.  From Fairfield Ave. the line runs completely straight to NE interlocking in New Haven where it makes a sharp turn north to cross the Maumee River.  Auto parts are the primary cargo on this line.  NS runs many roadrailers on the line and also a few intermodal trains.  This line is by far the busiest line through Fort Wayne and the section between Hugo and NE in the city is one of the busiest sections of rail in Indiana.

NS Huntington District
The NS Huntington District looking west near Harrison St.

New Castle District

The New Castle District was a rickety Nickel Plate branch line between Fort Wayne and Rushville, Indiana until the 1970s, when Norfolk & Western upgraded it to mainline status as part of a through route to Cincinnati. The New Castle District enters Fort Wayne from the south by skirting the east side of Fort Wayne International Airport and then crossing the Huntington District at Hugo.  The line crosses Taylor St. and then makes a question mark-shaped loop to the east then back to the west to join the RailAmerica CFER line at Junction.  Trains then use the Hadley Cutoff from Sand to Hill to reach the Chicago District.  The line originally continued north of Junction and used to cross 3 different lines, all within about 1 mile:  the Pennsylvania Fort Wayne Line at Junction, the Pennsylvania GR&I at Park, and the Nickel Plate at Runnion. The New Castle District is used as a route to the southeastern United States. This is the lesser used of the 3 mainlines in the Fort Wayne area and currently sees about 12-15 trains daily, including roadrailers, intermodal trains, and through freights.

A northbound NS empty molten sulfur train from Lee Creek, North Carolina is crossing Engle Rd. and approaching Hugo Interlocking on the New Castle District.

GR&I Industrial Track

This line originally ran between Mackinaw City, Michigan and Cincinnati and was called the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad (GR&I), sometimes known as the "Fishing Line."  The Pennsylvania system operated this line in its heyday, followed by Penn Central and Conrail.  The portion that remains today in Fort Wayne lies between Runnion and Interstate 69 on the northwest side of the city.  This is operated by Norfolk Southern as an industrial track to service a few shippers, one of the major ones being Tetra Pak.  Access to the track is via a connecting wye at Runnion interlocking.  Norfolk Southern still refers to this line as the GR&I.  The portion of the line from Runnion to Junction has been removed; Runnion to Park in 1994 and Park to Junction in 1999.  Southeast of Fort Wayne the GR&I is still intact and is operated by RailAmerica as the Decatur Secondary (see below).

GRI near Avilla
This is the GR&I bridge over Main St. on the abandoned section between Junction and Runnion as seen in December 2000.  It has no rail or ties on it.  More than likely this bridge is slated to come down in the future.

OmniSource Industrial Track

This line was once known as the Fort Wayne & Jackson Railroad which ran between its namesake cities.  In succession it was run by the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad,  the New York Central, Penn Central, and finally Conrail.  During the Conrail era the entire line began a rapid fall towards abandonment and today only small segments exist in Indiana and Michigan.  The Fort Wayne & Jackson came into Fort Wayne on the northwest side and crossed Coliseum Blvd. next to where Don Pablos is today.  From here it ran south through what is today's Glenbrook Commons and headed towards Runnion.  In Fort Wayne only a small portion of this line remains between Runnion and Cass St.  The rail east of St. Marys Ave. to Cass St. is out of service.  North of Cass St. the line is completely gone to Auburn Jct.  There is no regular rail service on any portion of the line in Fort Wayne, however once in a while Norfolk Southern will store cars on the line east of Runnion.

Looking east on the former New York Central line to Jackson, Michigan at the St. Mary's Ave.
crossing in Fort Wayne.  The south rail is broken just east of the crossing.

Union Belt

Originally the Fort Wayne Union Railway, the curvy Union Belt runs between the NS Huntington District and Piqua Yard on the east side of Fort Wayne.  The connection to the the Huntington District is next to the old Gladieux Refinery.  A long time ago the Union Belt actually crossed underneath the Huntington District and ran into the Chicago District near the Maumee River.  The bridge underneath the Huntington District is still there today and you can see it just east of the State Road 930 Cloverleaf.  The line runs along Meyer Rd. near the old International Harvester plant then curves west towards Piqua Yard.  Here the track runs across the old Piqua Yard hump and then into the Triple Crown Yard.  Norfolk Southern operates the Union Belt to switch out several shippers along the line.  The western most end of the track is used by roadrailer trains switching the Triple Crown Yard.  NS refers to the line as "the belt."  NS used to run roadrailers in and out of Triple Crown using the Union Belt on a regular basis but now predominately uses the Piqua Wye near Winter St. instead.

Snake Track

This track is just west of East Wayne Yard and connects the Huntington District with East Wayne Yard.  Norfolk Southern uses this track in order to have access to East Wayne Yard from the Huntington District.

Hadley Cutoff Track

Constructed from 1998-1999 this new track was built as part of a project to get New Castle District trains off of Jefferson Blvd. and Main St.  The Hadley Cutoff is a long crossover track in a thickly wooded area that connects the NS Chicago District and RailAmerica's Chicago, Fort Wayne and Eatern Railroad.  It is located just east of I-69 about 1/2 mile north of Exit 105.  I have never heard an official NS name for this track, but I just call it the Hadley Cutoff.  This track is used primarily for New Castle District trains transferring to/from the Chicago District.
RailAmerica Lines
Fort Wayne, Indiana

Fort Wayne Line/Fort Wayne Secondary

This is the former Pennsylvania Railroad's mainline between Chicago and Pittsburgh, PA and eventually Manhattan, NY.  Originally the line was a 2 track mainline through Ohio and Indiana and at one time was one of the busiest rail lines in the world.  Today the line is completely single track through Fort Wayne and has no passing sidings.  It enters Fort Wayne from the west at Sand interlocking and runs elevated through the south side of downtown.  It crosses the NS Huntington District at Mike using a crossover and switches.  From here it turns southeast into Piqua Yard and then heads east for Van Wert.  The elevation runs from Lindenwood Ave. to Mike and there are no grade crossings between Thomas Rd. on the west side of Fort Wayne until the Meyer Rd. crossing east of Piqua Yard.  This line has both jointed rail and welded rail segments across Indiana and Ohio.  RailAmerica operates both east and west of Fort Wayne on the line.  Norfolk Southern has trackage rights on the line between Mike and Sand in the city and they run a lot of trains on this portion.  Except for the TCS stretch between Mike and Sand, the line is unsignaled and run dark using Track Warrant Control west of Sand and DCS east of Mike.  Interestingly, Norfolk Southern dispatchers from three different divisions control the line in Fort Wayne including the Pittsburgh, Dearborn, and Lake divisions.

R241 at Paulding Rd.
Conrail Roadrailer R241 crosses Paulding Rd. westbound on the Fort Wayne Line on Oct. 26, 1997.  By April 1999 the Conrail Roadrailer trains were no more and the Crestline facility was moved to Sandusky.

Decatur Secondary

The Decatur Secondary is the former Grand Rapids & Indiana trackage from Adams to Richmond, Indiana.  This portion of  line begins on the east side of Fort Wayne at Adams, which is just east of Adams Center Road.  It then runs completely straight to Decatur, Indiana.  For more information on this line, check out the Decatur Line page.

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© Original Content Copyright 1999-2007 David Safdy
© Design and Updates Copyright 2005-2007 Greg Lavoie