One of our most noticeable main outdoor attractions is the bright red caboose located just behind the museum building. This caboose sat unused in downtown Valdosta before being donated to the museum in 2001 and restored.
Built in the late 1950s, the caboose NW-557545 started its career as as a Nickel Plate Road caboose. In 1964, a merger was completed and the caboose fell under the service of the Norfolk and Western Railway System. The signature red and yellow paint scheme was applied and the giant “NW” added to the sides (seen to the right). Cabooses soon became obsolete and 557545 was sent to Roanoke Scrapping Yard before finding its way to Valdosta. It sat abandoned near the James Beck Overpass before being donated to the Museum in 2001. It was moved from this location in 2001 but was not placed at the museum until 2004. Brooks Welding stored it in the interim.
Although now obsolete with modern trains, cabooses served several functions. They provided a living quarters for train personnel during long trips, as well as a place to keep staff at the rear of the train for protection of cargo and to watch for equipment malfunctions that would not be detectable from the engine.
The museum was aided by many local businesses and institutions in the placement and restoration of the caboose. Brooks Welding provided its services to move the 30-ton caboose to its new home, Union Tank Car Co. painted it while NAPA Auto Parts provided the red paint at manufacturer’s cost. R.W. Alexander Contractors built the track on which the caboose currently rests.
Moving and setting up the caboose was no small task. Weighing 30 tons, it required a tractor trailer, crane, and several personnel to place the caboose at the museum.
A crane gets ready to lift the caboose and place it in the exhibit space after prepping and painting (September 2004)
Caboose being placed on section of track prepared by R.W. Alexander Contractors
The interior of the caboose was restored by Boy Scout Jon Bennett, with the help of Troop 440, as his service project to become an Eagle Scout.
The Caboose interior before restoration. What a mess!