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The original item was published from 5/21/2007 2:37:28 PM to 9/9/2007 12:19:10 AM.

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Posted on: May 21, 2007

[ARCHIVED] Caboose Dedication & Opening

Saturday, May 19th marked a new day in Burlington as the restored Caboose located in Downtown Burlington was officially dedicated and opened to visitors. The history of the caboose can be read below.


Prior to the 1850s, the pioneering mills and farmers of Alamance County had few ways to reach markets outside of the piedmont of North Carolina. Railroads were concentrated in the eastern part of the state, and the local rivers were not large enough to provide sufficient shipping. But in 1856, the North Carolina Railroad extended the rails from the coastal plains of NC to the foothills, and many freight trains began to run east and west daily through Alamance County. The NCRR established its important repair shops on the parcel of land where we stand today.
Company Shops became a well-known, thriving town which gave birth to the city of Burlington when the shops were moved to Virginia and then to Spencer, NC. By providing an efficient, rapid means of moving goods, the railroad facilitated the growth of the mills and other industries that have made Burlington famous world-wide.

For over 130 years the “little red caboose behind the train” was a familiar sight through Burlington. The caboose was that important “punctuation mark” bringing up the rear – the office of the conductor and the living quarters for the train crew. Thus, this caboose, restored as the Company Shops Caboose Museum, makes a permanent, fitting tribute to Burlington and its notable railroad origin.

N&W caboose #518654 was built in 1970 by the International Railway Car Company in Kenton, OH. Weighing 55,500 pounds, it was originally delivered to Roanoke, VA in solid blue paint with yellow lettering and numbering and red/yellow diagonal striping on the ends. On board there were many of the comforts of home: sleeping bunks, a small refrigerator, a hot plate stove, a sink with cold water only, a toilet, a radio, and the conductor’s desk and chair. In the cupola, there were four stationary cushioned seats. Four lockers (closets) held electrical equipment, tools, clothes, food, and other necessities. Initially, three men – a conductor, brakeman, and flagman – were specifically assigned to this caboose. The conductor controlled all aspects of the train’s movement from his rolling office. At the time it was put into pool service (1976) and no longer assigned to one conductor, it was repainted in the red color scheme with an NW logo, the bunks were removed, the conductor’s desk was moved, and two single walkover seats with footrests were installed. As cabooses were being replaced with end-of-train devices (small computers attached to the last car of a freight) in the early 1990s, #518654 was removed from service.

Burlington obtained this caboose when George Montague, then general manager of Norfolk Southern Railway (Norfolk and Western was founded in 1881 and merged with Southern in 1982), donated it in June 1993. Restoration was begun that year by a volunteer, Jim Jordan, but family responsibilities prevented him from continuing. Over the years, the caboose has sat empty, been vandalized, and was apparently inhabited by vagrants from time to time. In February 2006, the Burlington City Council approved a proposal made by Ann Brownlee Hobgood, a Burlington resident. In lieu of the city’s plan to sell the cabooses, she offered to renovate the Depot caboose herself and to create a railroad museum. She has spent the last 1 1/2 years cleaning, scraping, sanding, painting, repairing, replacing, lettering, labeling, acquiring, and researching.

The exterior has been repainted red and lettered as it was when it was manufactured. The interior floor, walls, and rails have been completely cleaned, sanded, repainted, and re-stenciled. Broken windows have been replaced and seats have been repaired. The museum’s life-sized trainmen, cook stove complete with kitchen equipment, conductors desk with N&W paperwork, and lockers outfitted with train gear were assembled to represent life on a caboose and railway history as it relates to the founding of Company Shops.

Funding for this restoration has been provided by Ann Hobgood’s personal resources, a Heritage Grant from the National Railway Historical Society, the Greensboro Chapter of the NRHS, and the Burlington Woman’s Club. C&C Painting and Sandblasting (Robbie Carter and crew) donated their services to repaint the exterior of the caboose with very generous amounts of paint supplied free by Sherwin Williams of Burlington. The Burlington Public Works Department installed electricity and the ramp. Costs for renovation including volunteer hours, paid labor, purchased materials, and donations total in excess of $30,000.

A special thanks to Tony Laws, Director of the Burlington Recreation and Parks Department, for his consistent support and facilitation of this process and project.
In addition to those individuals, organizations, and businesses mentioned above, a HUGE thanks for the generosity of those of you who helped in just the right ways at just the right moments!!!

Jim Jordan
Saangyoung Lee and family
Victor Martin
The Upholstery Shoppe - Graham
Jim Knox
Across the Tracks Framing - Burlington
George Sharrow
SignWorXpress – Burlington
Ted Hobgood
Burlington Times-News
Julie Budd
Fox8 WGHP – High Point
Curtis Davis
Burlington Downtown Corporation
Doug Newell
Norfolk Southern Railway – George Montague
Terry Woodings
Donna Coleman

For photos of the caboose dedication visit the link below.

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