There aren't many left. Cabooses that it is. The gallery right (click photo to see all the pictures) is of the CWR's (California and Western aka the Skunk) last one. She sits forlorn in the Fort Bragg yard in need of $20,000 to restore her to operating condition. If you have a spare $20,000 ……….
When the above paragraph was written we believed it to be correct. Well, guess what? There IS a second CWR caboose “alive” – well sort of alive. It is in Roots of Motive Power in Willits. If the one in Fort Bragg needs $25,000 for resuscitation this poor old lady needs a miracle to get her running again. She is hemmed in and getting a photo was not easy and this picture belies her dilapidated condition.
The seemingly universal public affection for the caboose may be at least partially ascribed to its omnipresence during railroading's golden era. At its peak during the roaring Twenties the caboose numbered more than 25,000 members, ranging from the four wheel bobbers of short lines to mass-produced fleets of waycars operated by carriers that counted their route mileages in five figures.
In its busiest hour, the caboose was a daily sight on railroads throughout North America bringing up the rear of mainline manifests, riding the spindly wooden trestles of narrow gauges serving as primary elements of mixed trains on short lines . Wherever freight carrying rails and human activity crossed paths, it was a rare day which did not see at least one encounter between man and caboose.
There is a beautifully restored caboose at Roots of Motive Power over in Willits – you can ride in it on steam-up days (click here for her history ).
If you ride route 128 you can see two more cabooses – one is a hairdressing salon in Boonville and the other is in a field at Yorkville. Train Mountain (at Chiloquin in Oregon ) has over 30 dotted all over their property.
What’s inside a caboose?
One easy way to find out is to go to Willits and go to the Roots of Motive Power Open House in September of each year. As indicated above they have the beautifully refurbished Northwestern Pacific steel caboose you can ride in and the CWR Caboose awaiting restoration. Willits may be a bit far for a lot of readers. Never mind …… here is a great poster from the New York Central which shows what’s inside.
Master model maker Colin Menzies built the 1:24 scale caboose you see in the gallery on the left. The model was built from scratch using mostly styrene.