Step onto the Bicentennial Train and you get a chance to travel back to the beginning of Indiana's history.
The displays aboard the train, owned and operated by the Indiana Historical Museum, have hundreds of prints copied from the state archive of 1.8 million photographs.
The train opened Thursday and will be here through Saturday just east of New Haven at the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, Edgerton Road. The photos displayed are color-coded on four topics: talent, land use, community and transportation. Thursday morning fourth-graders from Holy Cross Lutheran School, Fort Wayne, slowly made their way through the cars, pausing here and there to point at pictures they found interesting.
John Herbst, president of the Indiana Historical Society, said they are hoping to raise awareness about the approaching state bicentennial in 2016 by running the Bicentennial Train around the state over the next couple of years. On this trip they have four stops on the route: Kokomo last week, Fort Wayne this week, then on to Valparaiso and Delphi. Next year they will travel through the southern part of the state and the following year they will come back up north.
The Indiana History train was originally funded through a grant from the Lilly Endowment and the Indiana Rail Road Company and traveled from 2004 through 2008. The cars were bought from Amtrak and were restored and modified to house the displays. From 2013 to 2016 the train cars will travel as the Indiana Bicentennial Train.
At each stop there is a historic interpreter, dressed in period costume, a free community commons tent, a free activity tent with hands-on activities and other educational information, and a market to purchase bicentennial-related items from the society, and of course the train.
Amy Lamb, media relations manager, said they expect to have 1,000 students through the train over the next two days. The event is free and open to the public and continues 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.