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A volunteer story as our CN Caboose nears completion

Click on the image for a closer look!

 Ori Siegel is one of our TRHA volunteers. He has agreed to my sharing the following message he sent me recently on the occasion of the (almost) completion of restoration of our CN Caboose:

"Watching 79144 leaving the stall and seeing her sitting out in the open stirred some real feelings in me. There was, of course, the memory of the days when every freight train in North America had a caboose. Then, too, the appearance of CNR's famous "Serves All Canada" logo freshly painted on her flanks recalled in me the time when I needed the reminder about where I came from. On that subject, when I was 8-years-old, my family moved from Toronto to the mid-Hudson Valley of New York State. I was terribly homesick and felt truly cut off from my beloved Toronto. Two events occurred to bring  Canada home to me. 

First was the discovery, when I was 10, that I could hear radio station CBL, Toronto's CBC  Trans-Canada Network station on 740 kc/s (kHz, in case you're too young!) after sundown and through the night. That, and the reception of AM stations from across North America, nurtured my budding love of radio. 

The second was the discovery of CNR boxcars on virtually every freight train I saw down there! 

I became a solid New York Central (NYC) fan even though it was a New Haven branchline that passed through our village. Most NYC freight was on the West Shore Line which could be plainly seen across the Hudson from Beacon Station but the occasional freight train on the Hudson Division very often had CNR boxcars in their consist. But it was the New Haven branch from Hopewell Jct. to Beacon that provided a consistent supply of CNR cars with that wonderful logo. I cannot tell you how many times I dreamed of hopping one of those cars in hopes of returning home! So when our CNR caboose emerged sporting that logo, my memory circuits went into high gear.

There is something else about the importance of having cabooses as part of our display. I've spent the last few Sundays playing host aboard TH&B 70 and it has been a great, and eye-opening, experience. As the only piece of equipment now open to museum visitors, it draws a lot of attention. But far and above that, consider this: Anyone under the age of 30 will not remember having seen a mainline caboose in service. People under 25 will never have had the opportunity at all to see a mainline caboose in service. 

So we do, indeed, have an historical piece on display; a curiosity to be sure. Think of something else. Most of us "over 30s" who do remember seeing a caboose on the back of every freight train on the continent may have fond memories of them, but have also never actually been inside of one. It never ceases to amaze me how many visitors with clear memories of cabooses are surprised to see the interior of ours and are, at the same time, completely ignorant of who occupied them and what they were for! They love the spartan though functional interior, especially the coal stove and the (formerly) kerosene lamps. 

But by far the most popular spots on the caboose for both young and old, by the way, are the seats in the cupola! I have at times had to ask people to come down and let others have a turn. They do so but often hang around until the crowd has gone in order to climb back up! It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I truly enjoy being on Number 70 and I believe that the addition of the CNR caboose for interpretive displays will make the experience complete for our visitors."

Posting by Russ Milland

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