Posts Tagged With: railroad
As Spring approaches and the sun shines brighter, we are getting more excited to be able to continue the progress on the caboose restoration. A few small projects were able to be completed during our mild winter, but most of them have been on hold until now!
Throughout the years, almost all of the windows had been busted out or broken. We were able to get new windows installed before most of our winter storms hit, and for the first time in several years, the inside is finally sealed from the elements. Another small touch included fixing and hauling a very heavy smokestack back on top of the roof and reattaching it.
Even though we would love some snow this Christmas season, we were very glad that the unseasonably warm weather has stayed on for at least a little while. It has allowed us to restore the lettering back onto the sides of the caboose. Even with the gorgeous new paint job, it still looked like something was missing every time we looked at her….
Since we were not able to get official decals from the railroad, we did the best we could with vinyl car lettering. It was a slow process, one we let the professionals handle, but it was well worth it! The difference was immediately noticeable.
Now that she proudly displays her number once again the rest of the markings can wait until the spring and warmer weather.
Prepping to move the caboose took quite a bit of time and endured several delays. After sandblasting and getting the painting finished we had to wait for nearly a month while negotiating with the town for approval on bringing 25251 to its new home. We lost a month of good weather waiting for this but when the town and us finalized our agreement both sides were pretty happy.
Setting up for the move brought us into contact with a professional railcar mover and their crane company. These people came highly recommended from the salvage yard and we were not steered wrong in the slightest. Highly trained railcar movers, these two companies were consummate professionals who were dealing with a family of enthusiastic geeks! Cameras in hand we drove down to the salvage yard one last time to meet the crane crew at 8am. We were more excited than 4 year-olds on Christmas morning!
As the crane crew began their work, the age and condition of the railcar was working against them. The car sat with her wheels sunk in the dirt and leaning to one side for so long that she had no intentions of moving. Rust and years of being immobile had left her wheels partially rusted to the pin and the body did not want to come loose from them. (We thought that 25251 might have been afraid that she was being sent to the scrapheap) After an hour of work and a good blowtorch she finally came loose and swung freely in the air cradled gently by a large crane. There is something wrong in watching a railcar fly through the air! Once she was nestled onto her lowboy, the trucks quickly followed.
At this point we took the opportunity to look at the trucks and saw that UP had changed them out in 1977. The casting clearly delineated this for all to see. Caboose trucks are different in that they have extra pieces added to them to power the generator held underneath the body of the ‘boose. Ours are in magnificent condition.
We left at this point to get back to the house and railbed. A small crowd of friends and family had gathered waiting for the moment. Watching from down the street we waited and sure enough spotted the caboose as it came over the overpass. We didn’t know until that morning that they were planning to SHUTDOWN the highway! The height of 25251 precluded it from going under the traffic lights so…as traffic backed up people would honk their horns until they actually SAW what was coming. All action ceased as the trailer swung across the highway and then backed into the lot.
The trucks were swung individually over the fence and placed onto the rails. We were then invited to help with placement and amazingly enough the trucks moved with just a simple light push of one hand. Measurements were taken for spacing and then the body of 25251 swung over and onto her trucks. This was THE moment we had waited six months for. She easily settled onto her trucks and to our great surprise the emergency brakes still functioned. She stood tall and proud upon RAIL for the first time in over five years. It was a fantastic moment for all of us who had been involved.
Now the hard work begins…
The Christmas secret stayed safe with us, until this very critical point. We couldn’t just park the caboose on the driveway, it needed to be at home on a set of rails. How do you hide 40 feet of railroad track from your children?? Not likely!
The cat was let out of the bag when the construction began on our very own mini railbed. We were very lucky to have a railyard crew nearby who graciously delivered and installed our rails and ties.
It was exciting enough to see 40 foot of rail hanging above our house, we could just imagine how amazing it would be when the caboose was going to “fly” overhead!
Now that the last piece was in place, we anxiously awaited the main attraction!
The weather outside was perfect. In just over a week the caboose would be freshly painted and ready to be brought home. Little did we know the state’s drought could not have ended at a worse time for us and that the weather had other plans.
As the painters worked at stripping all the old layers of paint off, the history of the caboose was slowly being revealed. Each layer held different decals, markings, and details from history. The crew worked slowly so that we could record them and take pictures. Once the the caboose was stripped down to bare metal, we were finally ready for primer and paint! Then it rained……and rained…..and rained……for almost a week. Now we were the not-so-proud owners of a giant block of rust. After the weather completely cleared, the workmen were back to sandblasting and grinding all over again. As soon as the first layer of primer went on, you guessed it, the rainstorms came again. At least now she was protected. Our work timeline shifted horribly off schedule. Moving date #1 was scratched off the calendar.
Within the next week the painting was completed. It was as if she had just rolled off the assembly line. No more peeling paint and no more rust. What a transformation!
For several summers our friends and family have spent time camping in the mountains of Colorado. We always look forward to the trips as the seasons change. Unfortunately, more than seasons tend to change up there. The beautiful forests have been replaced by desolation thanks to the infestation of the pine beetle. Millions of trees were killed and now stand as ghostly statues on the mountainsides. Our campground was once in the middle of dense forest. Now, it is practically in the middle of a meadow. Thousands of dead trees were removed because of fire danger and now only aspen groves and tiny pine trees no taller than my children remain. Such a sad sight. The same goes for all the tiny mountain towns near there. Once bustling sidewalks are empty, family grocery stores die, and buildings are left for sale as long as we can remember. Nestled in the heart of a nearby small town is a wonderful restaurant and one of the best museums you will ever visit. Their town caboose greets you on the side of the road. It was also donated in 1989 and has sat at the edge of town ever since. We have visited it before when the kids were little (they vividly remember daddy being dive bombed by the family of birds that call it home) but this year it had much more meaning than before. Isn’t it funny how you notice more of the little things once you have had a similar experience? This was more of a research trip, taking close-up pictures of signs, stenciling, lights, and looking inside through broken windows. Our caboose’s “cousin” was made a couple years later, but was still strikingly similar. With camera in hand we walked around taking all sorts of pictures and made a valuable discovery. Laying dusty and forgotten on the floor inside the caboose were several pieces of scrap. Metal scraps, signs, boards, and a door. Did I mention we are in desperate need of a door?? With all the dismantling that was done with our caboose we lost several valuable items, including this very important one. The discovery led us immediately back to the town hall where we left our contact information and made an appointment to talk to the town mayor. A successful discussion with the town board saw us making a very long one-day roadtrip two weeks later to retrieve our door. The very next day we held our breath as the hinges were attached. A perfect fit!
The summer was spent doing hours upon hours of research. I looked up pretty much everything to be found about cabooses on the internet while my husband called several railroad museums trying to dig up anything we could. Even with all the internet sites, books, and printouts accumulated we are still learning new and exciting parts of the Union Pacific history.
First on the agenda had to be a fresh coat of paint. The exterior of the caboose was peeling and rusting. The original colors faded, and the decals flaking off. So began our endless search for what we now know as “Armor Yellow”.
With as many UP engines and railcars that wander around the country, we thought that it would be a simple task to find the paint colors we needed to restore the caboose. Not the case. Nobody we could find knew the exact dye lot or was willing to give it to us. Any information we did find was horribly outdated. Most of the roadblocks occurred because we were not a museum. Thinking it would maybe work to go through one, we decided to try a local train museum. Since their specialty is model railroading, the paint they could procure was only enough for HO scale, not life-scale!
We were left sorting through long strips of paint swatches and crumbling paint chips trying to match them to old color photographs. The staff at our local paint store was very patient and worked with us to find the perfect match for all the colors. We could not wait to see how they would look, and scheduled the painters to begin as soon as it could be ordered!