A caboose was hoisted into the air and then rolled onto the tracks in front of the restored MKT train depot in downtown Waxahachie on Thursday morning. The piece of history was brought to town through a donation from Historic Waxahachie Inc.
“Our involvement started when the city was going to restore the depot but they were able to get additional funds for the project,” Historic Waxahachie board president Jane Yeager said. “So we decided to commit the balance of the funds that we had originally voted to give to the city to buy the caboose, which was $27,000.”
Yeager said having the caboose next to the depot adds a touch of realism to the recently restored building.
Historic Waxahachie recruited the help of Fire Chief David Hudgins, who owns a restored Pullman rail car, to locate a caboose for the depot. Hudgins used his contacts, which located one for $20,700 that was mechanically sound to travel on rail lines. After the purchase, the remaining funds were used to make some repairs and pay for transportation costs.
Hudgins said the caboose came from the St. Louis area and had to be transferred from the CSX rail lines to a Union Pacific line, which was done over a two-month period. It was shipped to Ennis and stored in the UP railyard until it could be placed on a tractor-trailer and trucked to Waxahachie. To move the caboose from Ennis to Waxahachie the board approved $8,500 to cover the transportation costs and use of a crane.
Once in Waxahachie, construction workers set up the crane and first off loaded the wheels, which are known as trucks, onto the track. Workers then attached rigging to the body of the caboose and lowered it onto the wheels.
“As you know, all of these are gone off the line, you don’t see them any more. The ultimate goal is to have school kids come down and go through it and know what a caboose is and see the living quarters,” Hudgins said, noting a caboose would usually have a sitting area, a restroom, small cooking area and maybe a small area for a closet.
According to Union Pacific’s website, a caboose served several functions, including serving as an office for the conductor while also carrying a brakeman and a flagman. In the days before automatic air brakes, the engineer signaled the caboose with his whistle when he wanted to slow down or stop. The brakeman would then go on top to twist the brake wheels atop the cars.
The flagman would leave the caboose and walk to a safe distance with lanterns, flags and other warning devices to stop any approaching trains. Once under way, the trainmen would sit up in the caboose’s cupola and watch for smoke or other signs of trouble from overheated wheel journals called hotboxes.
Yeager said Historic Waxahachie will host a fundraiser gala in the near future to help pay for the restoration costs.
The depot restoration, which was completed by the city in December, was paid for through the city’s Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, which issued bonds for $1.5 million. The TIRZ is a funding mechanism available to cities to finance public improvements for development or redevelopment in a specific area. No funds were used from the city’s general fund on the project.
The total spent on the depot restoration project was $1.37 million, with the work done by the Corbet Group.
To make a donation for caboose restoration project, contact Yeager at 469-658-1590 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The depot and caboose are located at 501 S. Rogers St.
Contact Andrew at email@example.com or 469-517-1451.