The Caboose That Could
Not many cabooses can go back in time, but Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Caboose No. 2259 has done just that – thanks to thousands of hours of volunteer time and many thousands of dollars spent on restoration. This venerable caboose, built in 1948, was significantly altered during a 1970’s “modernization,” and then suffered through deterioration during more than 30 years of outdoor retirement.
Today, the sturdy steel caboose has been completely refurbished and returned to its original as-built appearance, couples neatly behind historic AT&SF Locomotive No. 940. Climb onto the end platform and peer through the window into the past to see how life in a “crummy” (as train crews called cabooses) would have been like. On special occasions, the caboose is open for docent-led visits.
The 66-year-old caboose was purchased in 2011 by the Friends of Locomotive No. 940 from Walter Aday, a retired Santa Fe conductor who had spent many working hours in the car. A resident of Chanute, KS, Aday purchased the caboose as a sentimental remembrance of his long career with the railway. He placed it in his backyard garden next to the tomato plants with plans to restore it someday. Read more about Aday’s story.
The Long Track Back
Restoration of the caboose has taken place over a two-year period, using primarily volunteer help. Local businesses also have provided in-kind help on items such as sheet-metal-work and electrical installation. Major phases of the restoration have included these undertakings:
- Repair rusted metal on sides and roof
- Seal roof and re-galvanize roof walks
- Strip and repaint entire exterior
- Replace rotted interior floor sections
- Remove sealed windows and plates covering former windows
- Build and install 10 new wood frame windows
- Strip and repaint interior walls and ceiling
- Install new floor covering
- Install interior electrical service for lighting and other uses
- Build and install exterior tool boxes
- Repair and rebuild built-in cabinetry including cupola benches
- Provide interior furnishings – stove, lamps and other items
Work is continuing on these aspects of the restoration:
- Build bunks and equip with mattresses
- Complete acquisition of interior furnishings
- Design and install interpretative display panel
Visitors sometimes ask why isn’t this caboose red? It was, in fact, red in the 1970s, when the Santa Fe repainted its cabooses bright red — which over time faded into a pale pink. However, when caboose no. 2259 was built in 1948, the railway’s official color for its cabooses, or “waycars” as railroaders called them, was Santa Fe Mineral Brown with white lettering.
Making It Like Home
A key feature of any pre-1950 caboose would have been a coal stove, which served as both a cook stove and heat source. The photo at right shows such a stove in use during the 1950s. When caboose no. 2259 was purchased in 2011, it contained a more modern oil stove along with a large oil storage tank. Those items were removed and replaced with a vintage coal stove thanks to substantial financial donation from the Ruby Darby chapter of the Questers in Bartlesville.
In the left photo, chapter members examine the Estate Coal Stove that is identical to the one originally installed in the caboose. The stove was obtained from a collector near Topeka, Ks. Timmons Sheet Metal fabricated and donated the custom stove pipe, and Kathi Swanson Insurance provided an authentic “conductor’s chair” to help furnish the car. Kerosene lamps also have been obtained. Although the car never had electricity, the restored car has been equipped with indirect lighting and electrical outlets for evening functions and open houses.