Southwest Franklin County Historical Society volunteers have restoration on track
A group of volunteers from the Southwest Franklin County Historical Society is engaged in a project to make sure a circa 1929 caboose has not reached the end of the line.
About seven or eight volunteers meet weekly to work a couple of hours on restoring the caboose, which has sat since 1988 on a farm owned by William and Doris Green on Thrailkill Road in Orient, said historical society member Joan Eyerman.
The Grove City Jaycees obtained the caboose in 1976 and placed it next to the old Grove City Railroad Station at the intersection of Front and Park streets in Grove City's Town Center, she said.
The Jaycees renovated the caboose, then gave the caboose to the city in 1986 when the local club folded, said Eyerman, who is participating in the current renovation project.
Harold Morland, who was serving as the historical society's president in 1986, approached the city with an idea to turn the railroad station into a museum, Eyerman said.
The train depot was moved in 2018 to Century Village, the city's historical park, and the historical society and city are nearing completion of a project to restore the station.
The historical society gave the caboose to the Greens and it was moved in 1988, with an annual Old Time Harvest Day held for more than 25 years on the farm site, Eyerman said.
The Greens gave the caboose back to the historical society in 2014 and the society voted to restore the caboose on-site with the goal of moving it to a new permanent location, she said.
The current project to restore the caboose began about two years ago, Eyerman said, when an anonymous donor made a financial contribution to help cover the cost, Eyerman said.
"The caboose was in pretty rough shape," she said. "The wood frame had really deteriorated over the years."
"It's a real challenge because it involves a lot of work to the roof area," said Bill Osterman, one of the volunteers working on the project. "There's a lot of rotten wood because water has gotten in."
The railroad car was built in August 1929 in Washington, Indiana, Eyerman said.
It is a Class I-5d model caboose and has eight wheels, wood siding and a metal frame and ends, she said.
"I find it just really interesting to discover the kind of work they did making this caboose back in 1929," Osterman said. "We found out that there was actually metal underneath the wood siding."
The last I-5 caboose was built in November 1929, Eyerman said. It was the last model with wood siding. Cabooses built after 1929 were all made of steel.
All I-5 cabooses had been removed from active line duty by the late 1970s, she said.
The restoration project is about half completed, Eyerman said.
"It's just seven or eight of us working a couple hours at a time," she said. "We're getting it done little by little."
Earlier this month, glass-bead blasting of the metal ends, platform and some undercarriage was completed, Eyerman said.
The caboose is worth preserving as part of Grove City's past and the nation's railroad legacy, Eyerman said.
"If we can restore it, it would be so nice for people, especially kids, to be able to see it, even if they just looked at it from outside," she said. "There aren't cabooses like this anymore. It really reflects an era gone by."