Caboose on way out, destination to be determined

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Posted: Sunday, March 2, 2014 12:00 am

To make way for Springfield’s future, the city will have to part with a piece of its past.

An auction is tentatively set for March 30 at 9009 Platteview Road at 12:30 p.m.

For sale? One very large Union Pacific caboose.

Back in October, before a bid for the splash pad had even been finalized, the Springfield City Council had decided that the caboose that currently resides in Buffalo Park would need to be auctioned off to make a space for the splash pad’s arrival.

In recent years, the train car has been the victim of vandalism — earning the spray-paint-encrusted historical artifact the label “eyesore” from the council.

Twenty-five years ago, though, it was a different story.

UP 25650 was built in May 1967 and retired on Aug. 30, 1989. The car was donated to city of Springfield shortly thereafter, answering a two-year-old prayer.

According to 1989 issues of the Springfield Monitor, the Springfield Commercial Club began the “caboose project” in 1987.

The caboose itself arrived in Louisville in late September 1989. From there, Springfield had to find a crane that could lift the 28-ton train car onto tracks that the Springfield rail crew installed for the purpose, made of ties from the tracks that once passed through Springfield that the city saved.

In mid-October, a lowboy transport hauled the caboose down Highway 50 to its new home, an act which required several state permits, as the train car is significantly over weight limits for the highway. The car is 16 feet high, 10.6 feet wide, and 40.5 feet long.

Transporting the car required two trips. The car’s wheels were loaded separately and hauled up Main Street to the tracks in the park. The next morning, a crane and payloader lifted the car itself onto its wheels.

An Oct. 19, 1989 article in the Springfield Monitor ends with this observation: “Seeing this as a piece of history, (Councilman Jack) Gage hopes one day tours through the car will be conducted for area students.”

In that vein, the current Springfield City Council is currently hoping to “pay it forward” and pass the train car along to Heritage Park, a museum in Henderson, Neb., located southwest of York near Interstate 80. The museum recently opened a replica depot, said Lavonne Thiessen, a museum representative.

That deal will depend entirely on what the museum staff decides at its meeting next week. Even if the museum was able to obtain the caboose at low or no cost, the cost of transporting the train car the 106 miles between the cities would be significant.

If the two parties are not able to make a deal, the auction will proceed as scheduled.

One way or the other, the caboose has to go to make way for construction to begin. Springfield hopes to have the splash pad completed in time for a summer coronation.

As to who would attend such an auction, Councilman Randy Fleming said there are two possible kinds of buyers.

“It’s either someone who wants to take it home or someone who wants to sell it for scrap,” he said.

Councilman Bob Roseland said it would probably sell for about $6,000 to $7,000 as scrap.

“But (selling it as scrap) would have to be our very last option,” he said.

Councilman Chad Nolte agreed.

“I’d like to see it donated if another community would use it,” he said. “I would hate to see it get scrapped out.”

The Springfield City Council tabled officially approving the auction until their March 4 meeting, at which point the council hopes to have heard from the Henderson museum.

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