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Eastern Railroad Discussion > how about a MoPac caboose for an office?

Date: 11/24/02 23:29
how about a MoPac caboose for an office?
Author: karldotcom

Letter From Gaithersburg

A Quest for the Perfect Caboose
Monday, November 25, 2002; Page E03
Washpost...for educational purposes only

Robert Herbert wanted a unique office for his trash hauling and snow-removal business. For years, he has worked out of his Rockville home.

So in fall 2001, Herbert bought a caboose in Poplar Bluff, Mo., from an engineer who used to work for the Missouri Pacific Lines, and had it hauled to Old Town Gaithersburg.

"I wanted a conversation piece," said Herbert, 44, who bought land near some tracks in a railroad park to deposit the caboose. He and Bob Cassidy, a friend and sometime co-worker, surfed the Internet for the most original caboose they could find. They located a handful and headed off on a four-day road trip, looking at cabooses and rail cars in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri. In Poplar Bluff, the seller had the caboose sitting in his front yard.

"It was the most beautiful one we saw and it was in its original condition," Herbert said.

The yellow letters spelling Missouri Pacific Lines are still on it, and the caboose has a slightly faded red coat of paint. Its number, 13577, is written in white letters above a light. Inside, it has the original metal bed frame, a sink and a place for a toilet. A desk, chair and light sit where an engineer probably once did paperwork.

Unlike other cabooses, in which the cupola is in the middle or closer to the front, this one has a cupola near the back. The caboose is a rarity -- one of the last made in 1972. By the mid-1970s, most major railroad companies had stopped making cabooses because they were too expensive, too heavy and too dangerous, according to train enthusiasts.

But this one was just perfect for Herbert, he said, and it had the one quality few old rail cars possess: little rust.

Moving the caboose, though, was a logistical nightmare.

Herbert said he paid the Missouri engineer $15,000 for the caboose, but it sat in the engineer's yard after heavy rains during the fall and winter kept a crane company from lifting out the rail car. Three weeks ago, the ground was hard enough for the only company in Poplar Bluff with a crane big enough to hoist the caboose to move it out of the engineer's yard and to the railroad tracks for $2,000.

Railroad safety officials checked the caboose and found that it ran fine. Union Pacific Railroad hooked the little red caboose to one of its trains for a fee and it chugged to Chicago.

Once it arrived, train officials could not find the caboose for a week because it did not have an automated tracking device on its roof, as do more modern rail cars.

From Chicago, the caboose had to make its way east. But Union Pacific doesn't come east, so CSX carried it from Chicago to Cumberland, Md. From there, it went to Jessup, just outside of Baltimore, and then to Gaithersburg, where it was moved to a side track used for repairs next to the existing railroad track.

"Between the rains keeping it in Missouri for a year and then we get to move it and Union Pacific loses it, it's been quite a journey," said Herbert's wife, Donna, 44, as she taped every maneuver with a video camera.

Once the caboose got to Gaithersburg, Herbert had to find a truck to get it off the tracks. He needed one with a special, low flatbed so the caboose's cupola would fit beneath power lines and stoplights. The truck's bed also had to be long enough for the 43-foot-long caboose.

After dozens of calls, he found a company in Baltimore that could move the caboose on a 63-foot-long truck for $1,200. Herbert paid a Lorton-based company $1,000 to lift the caboose onto the truck bed.

He said he plans to renovate the interior in the spring.

(photo caption Train enthusiast Bob Herbert stands in front of the caboose he transported to Old Town Gaithersburg to use as an office. He looked at rail cars in six states before settling on this one, made in 1972.

Photo Credit: Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)

Date: 11/25/02 03:42
Re: how about a MoPac caboose for an office?
Author: ge13031

Nice office but I would trade those loverly roller bearing trucks for a pair of friction bearing jobbies seeing how it will probably never move again.(got a use for them)<g>

Date: 11/25/02 16:39
Re: how about a MoPac caboose for an office?
Author: P

karldotcom wrote:

By the
> mid-1970s, most major railroad companies had stopped making
> cabooses because they were too expensive, too heavy and too
> dangerous, according to train enthusiasts.

What train enthusiast did this guy talk to?

Silly me thought that the primary reason for the demise of the cabooses was due to radio communications & other technology.

Date: 11/25/02 18:23
Re: how about a MoPac caboose for an office?
Author: JCH9596

I'd guess that expenses did play a part in the death of the cab in main line use. Gotta be expensive to keep them up, rebuild them when needed, build new ones when needed.

Plus, they weren't needed anymore. Crews were getting amsller and moved to the front of the train. I'd guess (key word there) that a FRED is cheaper in nearly every category than a caboose.

That said, when was the last time you saw someone setting up for that perfect going away shot of an EOT device.

Joe H.

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