Editor's note: Walter "Skip" Sassmannshausen Jr. is president of the Three Rivers Railroad Heritage Council and vice president of the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association. The Your Neighbor column is written by a representative of a nonprofit group and appears frequently in the Neighbors section.
For many, the Nickel Plate was the neighborhood railroad.
Photos of the 1935 Franklin School Boy Scout Troop on locomotive No. 714 show this feeling.
Twenty-six members of the Boy Scout troop, led by teacher William A. Willer, made a visit to the Nickel Plate Road's West Wayne Yards on a cold day early in 1935 to learn things about running a railroad. Two photos from that day were given to me by Charles A. Willer, the grandson of the teacher and scout troop leader.
The object of their attention for a good part of the visit was the neat and clean No. 714, which was built by the American Locomotive Company in November 1934 at its Schenectady (N.Y.) Works. A Berkshire design for fast freight, the locomotive was assigned to mainline service on the Nickel Plate Road's west end — through Fort Wayne to Chicago to the west, and to Bellevue, Ohio, to the east.
No. 714 was a hallmark design with boiler pressure of 245 psi (pounds per square inch), total weight of 429,500 pounds, 25-inch-by-34-inch cylinders, 69-inch drivers and 64,000 pounds of tractive effort. Its tender carried 22 tons of coal and 22,000 gallons of water. It was one of the prime movers of freight for the railroad.
So it was when the Boy Scouts arrived on the service track to find No. 714 parked at the sand tower. Soon the boys, in various combinations of Scouting uniforms, had climbed the front steps and moved to the cab by the narrow running boards.
Keep in mind that No. 714 was hot, and 26 boys were on the side of this 15-foot-tall boiler. Mr. Willer took the engineer's seat in the cab. All was ready for a historic photo of Fort Wayne's railroading industry in the rough times of 1935.
Unfortunately, the Nickel Plate Road's West Wayne Yards, the Osage Street Roundhouse and Berkshire No. 714 are all gone.
It would be interesting to know how many of Mr. Willer's Boy Scouts are still alive, and if they remember that cold day in 1935 on locomotive No. 714.
To answer questions, fill in some blanks and celebrate the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad, the Three Rivers Railroad Heritage Council has rescheduled its Nickel Plate Road celebration to 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Feb. 9-10, 2013, at Baker Street Station (former Pennsylvania Railroad station).
An attempt to hold the celebration this past February was canceled when an appropriate two-day weekend could not be found. So once again, “Don't Wait, … Celebrate the Nickel Plate” will be heard in Fort Wayne.
At the event, there will be artifacts of the Nickel Plate, including locomotive number plates and builder's plates. Hundreds of photos, drawings and pieces of printed material will be shown.
The celebration also will have original World War II paintings by the late Gil Reid, as well as prints of his railroad subjects from his long painting career. There will be three operating model railroad layouts in three popular gauges. Video presentations will feature the post-war steam operations.
Fort Wayne's Nickel Plate Road Berkshire's career as an excursion locomotive will be featured in photos and video.
Yes, mark your calendars with a note about Feb. 9-10, 2013. This celebration will be worth the wait.