Book filled with 100 years of memories about train station

It has taken a year to search and research the 100 years of the Pennsylvania Railroad station on Baker Street in Fort Wayne. The result of this effort can be summed up in the title of the book, “A Story of Service & Survival.”

Add to the work the photos and stories of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago depot, which was used from 1860 to 1914. This sets the pattern of people stories related to the two depots that served Fort Wayne and the railroad.

Baker Street Station’s 100 years were filled by hundreds of thousands of travelers passing through the depot during two world wars and other military activities. The troop trains were served by Red Cross and USO canteens at the station, which were manned by people from Fort Wayne.

The Liberty Bell paid a visit to the streets of Fort Wayne and the tracks at Baker Street on July 6, 1915. In 1936 there also was a visit of the Rexall Train, the longest streamlined train of its day. Over a period of seven years (1961-67), 7,000 children in the Wildcat baseball program went to Major League Baseball games on Wildcat Rail Trips leaving from Baker Street.

The history of the station is full of new, high-speed steam locomotives. One of them ran at 133 mph on a regularly scheduled passenger train. Fifty passenger steam locomotives built in the 1940s cruised at 110 mph daily.

Yet, the greatest number of passengers were everyday people who took shopping trips to Chicago, commuted to jobs outside the city, traveled to college, took honeymoon trips by train, visited family members or took vacations. They were the ones who bought the tickets and filled the station’s concourse day after day.

Times began to change, particularly after World War II when soldiers returned home and bought cars. At the same time, some states began to build highways. The great fleets of passenger train cars were no longer necessary. The number of scheduled trains was reduced, and the railroad stations like Baker Street were only shadows of the past.

But Baker Street survived because a few people saw the possibilities. Attractive office space and the beautiful concourse for public use offered a future.

Will passenger trains come back? Only time will tell, but the beautiful building of 1914 still serves people.

The Baker Street Station books will go on sale Feb. 7-8 at the annual Railroad History Weekend at the station, which is sponsored by the Three Rivers Railroad Heritage Council.

For this special weekend, the book, which normally will sell for $39.95, will be marked down to $30 to celebrate the 100-plus years the building has been active.

The theme for the 2015 Railroad History Weekend will be the New York Central Railroad, which played a major role in the transportation history of northern Indiana. Photos, maps, printed posters and other historical material will be displayed. Scale models of New York Central equipment will run model railroad layouts.

In addition to the New York Central materials, photos and drawings of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Baker Street Station will be on display.

We are requesting that people who have contributed photos or stories for the Baker Street Station book to please check with Martin Riley at 221 W. Baker St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802, or call 422-7994, to send your name, address and phone number so you will be contacted about receiving your “Thank you” copy of the book. The books will be available for you to pick up during the Railroad History Weekend event.

Books will be available after that event for $39.95 in local museum shops and bookstores. <br>

<i> This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel. Sassmannshausen is with Three Rivers Railroad Heritage Council. </i><br>

<center> Celebrating rail history </center><br>

WHAT: The Three Rivers Railroad Heritage Council will sponsor a Railroad History Weekend at the historic Baker Street Station. A new book about the station, “A Story of Service &#38; Survival,” will be released at the event.

WHEN: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Feb. 7-8

WHERE: Baker Street Station, 221 W. Baker St., at Baker and Harrison streets

COST: $5 per person for ages 13 and older, free for ages 12 and younger.

NOTE: Copies of the new book will be sold for $30 each at the event; normal price is $39.95.


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