In the article “1889 Fort Wayne Rail Transport,” I used the last paragraph to mention a small railroad that was being built at the time, the Findlay, Fort Wayne & Western. I want to take this chance to delve deeper into that road that lasted a little over two decades.
The FFtW&W started life as the New York, Mahoning & Western. The construction of the road began in 1887. It was, at first, designed to take advantage of the natural gas boom of the late 19th century. That boom saw manufacturing ramp up to very high levels due to the availability of cheap fuel in the form of natural gas.
By 1895, the railroad had finally reached Fort Wayne. But it also had legal problems at the same time. As reported in the Fort Wayne News of 10 April 1895, a suit was filed in United States Court in Toledo by several small bond holders. They were seeking the court to foreclosure of first mortgage bonds and to have a receiver appointed for the road. The incidents that led to this suit started back in 1890.
In 1890, George G. Patterson, one of the creators of the FFtW&W, issued bonds to the tune of $1.5 million in order to build the line to Fort Wayne. Problems crept up in 1892, and a settlement was set forth with the creditors, with an agreement between the creditors and the bond holders. That agreement was confirmed by the courts. The $1.5 million settlement was reported to be of interest of all creditors and bond holders. Except holders of about $65,000 worth of the railroad’s bonds.
Those holders did not agree to the settlement. They then started began lawsuits. Those lawsuits were shot down by Ohio State Courts. The court declared the matter settled. The plaintiffs (listed as Middleton S. Burril, B. Parr, James Galway, Richard Combs and the Exchange Fire Insurance Company of New York) then moved to the federal court. The railroad saw the suit as a attempt to force a settlement out of court.
When the railroad finally reached Fort Wayne, it was announced that all repair work would be moved from Findlay to Fort Wayne. Arrangements had been made with the Wabash Railway for all work to be done in the Wabash shops at Fort Wayne. A small crew of three or four men would be left at Findlay to act as a roundhouse repair crew.
In late 1897, the Fort Wayne Sentinel (29 November 1897) was reporting that a purchase of the Findlay line was likely to occur. That purchase would be completed by the Illinois Central Railroad. The party included “John Jacob Astor and a distinguished party of eastern capitalists and railroad magnates.” The interest of these railroad people was to forge together a collection of lines to form another Chicago-New York rail line. It should be mentioned that the collection of rail men arrived in Fort Wayne using Pennsylvania Railroad Train No. 4, and returned on Train #15, along the same Pennsylvania Railroad.
By 1900, as reported in the Fort Wayne News of 17 January 1900, discussions (rumors) were abound about the possible extension of the Findley, Fort Wayne & Western to Peoria, Illinois. The plan was mentioned by what the newspaper called “one of Peoria’s best known railroad officials.” The line was, according to the source, would possibly travel through Iroquois, Livingston and Woodoford (sic) Counties on its way to Peoria. The same area was covered by the Illinois Central at the time, but “railroaders think that there is ample business for another good line.” If such a line was built, it did not fall under the corporate umbrella of the Findlay, Fort Wayne & Western.
Interest in the railroad property was shown by the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton in 1901. The Fort Wayne News of 7 November 1901, using reports from the Indianapolis Journal, stated that the CH&D wanted access to Fort Wayne, and the FFtW&W was mentioned by name. CH&D officials had come to Fort Wayne to inspect the FFtW&W with George Chapman (President) and B. F. Fenton (General Manager) of the Findlay. While no official news was released at the time, it was not hard to believe that the CH&D would try to buy the Findlay line.
Four days later, the CH&D hadn’t made a confirmed decision to buy the FFtW&W…but that there was “no doubt the deal will go through.”
Any reference to the Findlay, Fort Wayne & Western ends in newspapers after 11 November 1901. It is assumed that the line became part of the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton shortly thereafter. The CH&D would have problems of its own after that acquisition. The Erie attempted to take over a consolidated CH&D/Pere Marquette company. The combination of these two companies was called the Great Central. The company fell into receivership in 1905. The Baltimore & Ohio purchased the CH&D in 1909. The Baltimore & Ohio decided that it no longer had need of the former Findlay, Fort Wayne & Western, abandoning the railroad by 1919.