The Winona Interurban Railroad, started in 1902, once included 77 miles of rail stretching from Peru to Goshen that brought hundreds of thousands of people to events such as fairs and religious gatherings. On Friday, a 100-foot section of history was laid out in Warsaw as a reminder of the progress Indiana, and especially Warsaw and Winona Lake have made with transportation.
Started in 1902 as a street railroad to connect Winona Lake and Warsaw. The line was subsequently chartered in 1905 which would then cause it to blossom into a productive 77-mile passenger service that traveled from Peru to Goshen, making stops in Mentone, Warsaw, Milford, Milford Junction, New Paris.
Winona Railroad officials even planned to expand with new lines east to Fort Wayne and west to Valparaiso, but these sections were never built, although franchise for the routes were secured.
Brady Peters is the chief engineer for Genesee & Wyoming Inc., a short line and regional freight railroad company. A history buff, Peters was instrumental in getting a section of the original Winona Interurban Railroad re-installed in Warsaw.
The installation of a 100-foot section of the original 70-pound rail used for the Winona Interurban Railroad, began at 8:30 a.m. Friday and was to completed by early afternoon. It is at the new Krebs Trailhead Park between South McKinley and North McKinley streets in Warsaw.
“In its prime, this literally hauled hundreds of thousands of people,” Peters said of the Winona Interurban Railroad line. “It’s hard to fathom that Indiana was the second highest state in interurban track lines. This was really the thing before cars and trucks that got people here. The impact interurban lines had on Indiana is definitely something forgotten about all too much today.”
To tie in with the Walk+Ride Warsaw+Winona bicycle and pedestrian paths and the recently earned Bicycle Friendly Community status, the historic section of railroad was added at the Krebs Trailhead Park. Tim Dombrosky, assistant Warsaw planner and bicycle enthusiast, said when the park is completed, markers noting the historical significance of the tracks will be included with the display. Those markers, added Peters, will also be created from some of the original rail.
According to Peters, in its heyday the Winona Interurban Railroad track led trolley cars through downtown Warsaw, right down Center Street. “There was a station just a block to the east of the courthouse,” said Peters. “Mentone had one, too. At one time, (the line) went from Peru to Goshen with stops in Milford, Milford Junction and New Paris.”
The Winona Interurban Railroad stopped passenger service in 1937, but Peters said it continued freight service on the same route from Peru to Milford Junction until 1952 when the Pennsylvania Railroad took over. When Pennsylvania when out of business, it then became Penn-Central then Conrail and eventually, as it is today, Genesee & Wyoming, which operates The Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern Railroad.
“This was the last remaining portion of the old railroad,” Peters said of the Krebs Trailhead Park location, noting another section of the original track is still buried one block south of the park. The section of track that was reinstalled Friday was initially dug out by the city, but never disposed of.
Genesee & Wyoming Inc.’s CFE has approximately 315 miles of rail between Indiana and Ohio and runs through Warsaw. “Gensee & Wyoming is a huge supporter of community enrichment and support projects. This is a great way to tie rail and history together,” said Peters of the Warsaw project. “Everyone has been tremendous to want to preserve a piece of history.”
Peters noted that the section of track installed Friday is the only replica or actual monument of the line that was abandoned in 1952. As the project is finalized with appropriate landscaping and the historical markers, Peters said historical train signals will also be added to the section of tracks. The signals, circa 1920s, are being brought in from a project upgrade being completed in Van Wert, Ohio, and have been earmarked for the Krebs Trailhead Park project.
“At this time there’s no plan to put a car or anything like that on the track,” he explained, “but there are some possibilities of that happening in the future. The signals will be a nice feature here though.”
The city plans to have a grand opening celebration of the Krebs Trailhead Park, complete with the Winona Interurban Railroad monument, some time in October.