January 31, 2019 - Danville, KY -
Members of the non-profit Kentucky Steam Heritage Corporation (KSHC), as well as from several local companies, braved the frigid temperatures on Wednesday to help move a piece of railroad history.
A 1941-built Southern Railway caboose was successfully transported from Danville to Ravenna, Kentucky as part of an ongoing effort to establish a rail heritage center, a feature attraction in Estill County that will celebrate the Region’s railroad roots and act as an economic incubator for the area.
The caboose was donated by the Boyle County Industrial Foundation to the 501(c)(3) rail preservation group in the Summer of 2018. After several months of preparation work by volunteers on both the site and the caboose itself, Wednesday’s frigid temperatures provided the final piece of the puzzle, freezing up the ground enough to provide the heavy equipment ample traction to remove the artifact.
The Southern Railway Caboose was originally built just three months before Pearl Harbor Day and is one of only two of its kind left in the world. It has been on private land in Boyle County for decades but wound up being in the way when the Boyle County Industrial Foundation acquired the property where it was displayed.
Perplexed as to what to do with the unwieldy artifact, the Foundation put the caboose up for sale online. Kentucky Steam Restoration Director Andy Wartman caught wind of the sale and reached out to BCIF to see if they’d consider a donation. Director Cindy Elisworth entertained the idea and finally with the blessing of the Foundation board, donated the unique piece to the Estill-County-based non-profit.
“Everything we saw kept pointing to our donating it to Kentucky Steam,” she said on-site Wednesday.
“It just seemed like the right fit and we are thrilled to see it go to a place where it will be appreciated and showcased.”
In order to move the 25-ton rail car, KSHC volunteers contributed over two hundred hours making preparations that allowed it to be trucked off the property on Lebanon Road. The site also required extensive vegetation removal. But KSHC wasn’t alone. Project Director Joe Nugent, a Lexington Firefighter, got a good amount of help from the Danville Fire Department. Members used the caboose as both an opportunity to train, as well as to help a charitable endeavor.
DFD members gained useful training in heavy lifting and stabilization, utilizing their own equipment. Mike McCurdy, a battalion chief with the Fire Department, said firefighters gained valuable experience in utilizing air bag jacks, which use high power inflatable bags to lift heavy objects. The fire department lifted the caboose off its wheels with the bags in a training exercise. McCurdy said that the exercise helped simulate lifting heavy objects off cars or other hazards, especially in rescue situations.
In addition, Caldwell Stone of Danville provided heavy equipment to lift and move the caboose’s wheels.
Dobson trucking in Irvine helped move the wheelsets to Ravenna, and Roberts Heavy Duty Towing of Lexington performed the major lifting and hauling.
Chris Campbell, KSHC President, said that the donation and subsequent move is a unique example of two communities rallying together on either end of a project.
“The generous donation of this artifact wound up being much more than just a donation,” he said on Wednesday. “It’s allowed the Danville community to get behind a project that will ultimately help another community several counties away. We are thrilled to have such an historic piece being moved to Ravenna, and are grateful to all who helped make it happen.”
The Southern Caboose will now await restoration, a project that will take some time to fund. Campbell said that while the piece will need major work, it isn’t in immediate distress, and will take a back seat to the organization’s major restoration project, the rehab of a 75-year old steam locomotive that is native to Eastern Kentucky.
The caboose will be on display at the Kentucky Rail Heritage Center, a multi-use campus located on a decommissioned CSX railyard in Estill County. KSHC purchased the sprawling 40-acre property from CSX this past fall, and is working diligently to establish its presence as an economic driver in the region. The project has relied mostly on individual donations, and the Boyle-county-based caboose is just another compelling piece of the developing saga of bringing rail-based tourism to Eastern Kentucky.
“There’s so much to do to get this (Rail Heritage Center) project going” said Campbell. “But the caboose showing up and sitting on site just a few hours after we began moving it makes you realize that when communities rally together, anything can happen.”