Bobby Cowan, notwithstanding that he lives in Florida is a member of our club, The Mendocino Coast Model Railroad & Historical Society. Bobby is coming here to Fort Bragg to assist in the restoration of “our” caboose, CWR’s (California Western Railroad) Caboose #11. Bobby recently sent me a “heads up” about a Caboose that lives “down his street.” The”heads up” was about a piece that appeared in the The Daily News – a newspaper that serves the Emerald Coast in Florida:
“The railroad ties that bind by Heather Osbourne
VALPARAISO — Wanderlust grasped at the heart of young Randall Roberts as he watched the passenger train zoom through the Bonifay station every Sunday after church. Roberts said he would study the faces of each traveler, caught in small glimpses through the yellow glow of the train’s windows. It was the early 1940s and the United States was in the midst of World War II. Observing passengers from unknown places was a town affair, Roberts said, I’d say to myself, ’Ahh, I wish I could go, Roberts said of his 15-year-old self. “I can remember it and picture it so vividly.” Now in his early 90s, Roberts continues to spend hours gazing at trains. This time, though, it’s not a passenger train, but a red antique caboose that sits in his backyard in Valparaiso.
In 1968 Roberts and his wife traveled to Montgomery, Alabama, to do the nearly impossible. Roberts said he’d watched for years as fond memories of his childhood — cabooses traveling across the United States — were being burned for scrap. The train lover was determined to not let them go extinct. “I thought it was awful,” Roberts said. “They were burning history. We started searching for a caboose of my own. We found one in Montgomery that was downtrodden. We immediately said we’d take it.”
The journey to his new home of Valparaiso, however, would prove to be a challenge. “We had our friends pull it for us on the tracks all the way back home,” Roberts said. “This was back when I had less sense than I do now. We pulled it to a big saw mill where the Mullet Festival is held. We then had to hire a professional house mover.”
The movers, Roberts said, had to drive the large caboose over the Tom’s Bayou Bridge and through the city to their first house on Chicago Avenue. The train was moved six months later to the Roberts’ new home down the road.
The caboose has remained there for about 50 years.
Similar to a modern-style tiny house, it has a bathroom, stove, sink, fridge and living area. The caboose was placed on a few feet of tracks Roberts laid himself, which is now accompanied by an antique railroad switch just for show.
“My wife was quite the carpenter,” Roberts said. “She and my father-in-law did repair work on it. We had the conductor seats professionally reupholstered and we made curtains for it and everything. When it was all done, we borrowed incandescent lights from the city and hosted a caboose party. People came dressed in railroad overalls.”
It was a thing of beauty once fully renovated, Roberts said. He always dreamed of one day taking it out on the tracks for a trip across the country. That trip, unfortunately, hasn’t happened yet. And history, according to Roberts, is repeating itself.
Full speed ahead
The train man’s beloved caboose is slowly deteriorating. Roberts said his only wish is for it to be restored again. His carpenter wife has passed on and 90 years old is a bit too aged to be on the roof of a caboose, he said. Nevertheless, the caboose doesn’t simply remind him of his childhood anymore. It holds memories with his spouse and his friends he calls the “movers and shakers of Valparaiso” who have passed on, too. And it brings him back to a time when his children would climb up and down the little red caboose to see over the neighbors’ roofs.
“I’m going to fix it up again soon,” Rogers insisted. “It’s sad to see it like this.”
When I am writing these blogs I play music. I have very eclectic tastes and over 11,000 pieces of music on my computer. Recently I have been searching for a particular train song that I have a sort of memory of from when I lived in England – I haven’t found it yet. My selections don’t move in straight lines so when a Youtube of the Manhattan Transfer popped up I jumped on it. I saw/heard the Manhattan Transfer when I lived in Montreal soon after I came to North America. The Manhattan Transfer were my introduction to A Capella music. I still have the vinyl 33 rpm of theirs. I played several of their songs and the songs were clearly of the group that I had seen/heard. Now I am going to inflict you with a vid which is by the Manhattan Transfer but not the group I remember. Why inflict? ‘Cos I can’t get it out of my head!!!!! I want to see if it sticks in your head. [Sorry you may have to click on the link]
After I had written the above I received an earball from our esteemed computer guru, Roger Thornburn, which adds a real personal note about The Manhattan Transfer:
“HP (Hewlett Packard for whom Roger worked) once hired The Manhattan Transfer for a Christmas party. Halfway through one of their songs the audio broke, but they didn’t miss a beat, just carried on as nothing had happened. Very professional.”
I didn’t find the train song I half remembered but I did find one by Boxcar Willie, “Wabash Cannonball.” Roger reminded me that there is a version of “Wabash Cannonball” by Lonnie Donegan (an Englishman like Roger and I). The English version has a much better vid with it:
After a lifetime career as an accountant I freely admit I am not really au fait with all aspects of old time logging. So, I was NOT surprised that I hadn’t a clue what a Steam “Dummy” loco was.
First here’s the pic that set this blog in motion:
Steam “Dummy” Loco
The entirety of what I know is in the text that accompanied this pic on Martin Hansen’s Facebook page, “Steam in the Woods.”
“This great photo has so much history and tells such a story!
The location for this photo is Dee, Oregon, just off the Mt Hood Railroad. This old Steam Dummy is #10 for the Mt. Hood Railway. In the photo she is pulling a steam donkey nearly twice her size for the Oregon Lumber Co.
In the early days of Western railroad logging, many outfits picked up used steam “Dummy” locomotives like this one from street railways for use in the woods. Their small size made them easy on the temporary track of the loggers and they could operate easily in either direction without the need of being turned. Also, they were cheap to buy!
The history of this little locomotive is intertwined with the railroads she served.
This little locomotive was built by Baldwin inn 1889 for the Ogden City Railway of Ogden, Utah. This was one of the ventures of David Eccles, who was also the founder of the Mt. Hood RR and The Oregon Lumber Co. She went on to serve 2 other street railroads in Utah before being sold to the Central Railroad Of Oregon out of Union, Oregon. In 1913, she made her way back into Eccles hands in the form of Mt. Hood Railroad #10 as we see here.
This little, but powerful engine would not be retired until 1919. In the mean time, she was quite a sight to see in the woods!”
Skookum is the world’s only operating 2-4-4-2. Skookum returned to operating service this year after a 15-year overhaul at the Oregon railroad on the former Southern Pacific Tillamook Branch. The 1909 locomotive has an amazing story that starts with its rejection by a Tennessee logging railroad, its acceptance in the Pacific Northwest, and its tragic derailment that left it abandoned in the woods. Enthusiasts saved the locomotive and over more than 60 years moved it to safety and eventual restoration. Here is a photo of the “Skookum” unloading logs at a mill pond in 1953.
Skookum a 2-4-4-2 Loco
These two pictures which were posted in a Facebook page entitled Logging Railroads of the Pacific Northwest. The first shows her when she was wrecked and the second after her restoration.
Prouty Timber Company operated on the Oregon Coast not too far from Portland. That last sentence pretty much sums up what I know. However I did come across the photo below of Prouty’s Climax with the most remarkable spark arrester I have come across.