Barron County Caboose Project

The Barron County Historical Society Museum is located one mile west of Cameron, Wisconsin and is open during the summer. With 42 buildings housing many various artifacts from the local area, it is a treasure trove of memories and education for visitors.
One of the buildings is a former Soo Line depot that was located at Cylon, Wisconsin. The building has been refurbished and railroad items such as a lighted crossbucks and switchstand have been added.

Besides the regular visitors, the Museum hosts many groups such as fourth graders who are working on their Wisconsin projects.  In May, 2016, over 1,100 students toured our Museum!  Here are some shots of volunteers hosting the children.
To help educate students and adults about our railroad heritage, the Museum is obtaining a Soo Line caboose. The Soo Line Railroad had its beginning at Cameron, laying its first tracks west toward Turtle Lake and east toward Bruce. It is very appropriate to have a Soo Line caboose at the Museum, which also borders the former Soo Line tracks!
On November 22, John Peter, Mike Bearden, and Arlyn Colby met at the Museum to discuss where the caboose should go and found the perfect place beside the depot. Volunteers quickly moved two stump pullers that were in the way.
A rock base would be needed for proper drainage and to make the display look authentic. Todd's Ready-Mix of Rice Lake donated 15 yards of rock which was brought in on December 2.
Dan Morris used his Kubota tractor to move the rock into position and level it.
Rail and ties were donated by Frank Nesbit and Tavis Anderson of Independent Locomotive Services, in memory of John Knutson. Dan Morris and Arlyn Colby picked them up and on December 4 unloaded them.
Hydraulics certainly make easy lifting of heavy objects! After unloading the rail, the ties were moved into position.
And it's starting to look like a railroad track!
On December 5, 2015, the track was laid. After placing the rail on the ties, Keith Kolpack and Dan Morris bolt the rail sections together.
Next, Keith tightens the bolts with a wrench.
The rail then needs to be spiked. Matt Whitmore does the honors here.
The track width is measured to make sure it is the proper gauge.
Getting close to done!
And here is the track, ready for the caboose when we get it!!!
We purchased a caboose for $14,000.  Following are pictures of the caboose before it is moved to our Barron County Museum for restoration.

On the inside, looking down the hallway.
Looking down the hallway from the opposite direction.
The conductor's desk.
One of the bunks for a crew member to sleep on.
Looking up at the cupola.
This is the refrigerator (actually an ice box).
And looking down into the icebox.
The file case for keeping the conductor's records.
This is the sink.
The stove is unique, with a high guard to keep coffee pots and pans from sliding off.

Part of the roof will need some work!!
One of the doors.
The trucks (wheels and frame) are friction bearing trucks.
One of the end platforms will probably need some attention.
And this is one of the couplers.
This is what the caboose will look like after restoration.  Note the steps on the right end.  There will be steps on the left end also to allow visitors to see the inside of the caboose
After restoring the caboose, we are going to place a canopy over it so it will last for many years and be enjoyed by many generations yet to come.  It will be similar to this canopy at the Colfax Railroad Museum.

With donated funds, a wood Soo Line caboose was purchased from the Railroad Memories Museum in Spooner.


The caboose was moved to our Barron County Museum on Thursday, July 7, 2016.  Anderson Trucking of Grantsburg, WI did the honors with the following documentary describing the move.

The caboose was located on track near the Spooner Museum so it was moved south to the end of the existing track for easier loading.
A set of bogeys, consisting of 16 wheels, was unloaded from the flatbed truck.  This would be placed under one end of the caboose.
The south end of the caboose was then lifted with the heavy-duty wrecker (tow truck).  The caboose wheel set was rolled out and winched up onto the flatbed truck.
The bogeys were then rolled under the caboose.
The bogeys were blocked up to support the caboose and the caboose chained to the bogeys.
The north end of the caboose was then lifted.
Railroad cars rest on a round pad on a bolster over a pin.
The trucks are then rolled out and the caboose attached to the tow truck.
The caboose is backed off the track and it is ready to be hauled to our Museum!  (After loading up the Bobcat and all support materials.)
The caboose rolls well down the highway and soon arrives at the Museum!!
First move is to unload the wheels.  It looks easy but they are HEAVY and the Bobcat strains to lift them and position them for the rails.
The caboose is then backed alongside the track.
The tow truck swings the front of the caboose toward the lead wheels but it can't reach far enough!  Cribbing is set up to support that end of the caboose.
When the back of the caboose is swung toward the track, it becomes unstable.  We don't want this thing tipping over now!!  So S&R Trucking of Cameron is called to help with the operation.
With a powerful truck on each end of the caboose, it is stabilized for movement.
The S&R truck then backs and lifts the rear of the caboose onto the wheels.
It is getting dark when the Anderson truck lifts the front of the caboose onto the front wheels.
And the operation is completed just at dark.  Here is the crew, left to right:  Rich Schmidt, Karl Anderson, and Tony Schmidt.  Karl's son Brock had to leave early.
Thanks to Anderson Trucking for a great job!
Restoration began on July 27.  Here Burnell Hanson starts removing plywood from the east side.

On July 28, Arlyn Colby removed the plywood from the ends.
Removal continued on July 29.

July 30
Joe Lewis of Bloomer and Lee Wohlk of Cameron help remove the siding from the east side of the caboose.
August 24.
Work continues on the inside and outside of the caboose.  Here volunteer Greg Egan helps scrape paint in the cupola.

August 27
Joe Lewis and Arlyn Colby removed the quarter round between the ceiling and wall before painting primer on the rafters.  A good start on refinishing the ceiling!
September 5
Today we completed the restoration of the rafters inside the caboose.  They were in tough shape.  First we scraped off as much of the old paint as possible.  Then we put primer paint on them and then put putty in all the spaces between the paint chips that wouldn't come off.  Next, all these areas had to be sanded smooth.  Another coat of primer was applied before the final green paint.  We are happy with the way they turned out.

Rafters Before Restoration:
Rafters After Restoration:
Next, the spaces between the rafters will be restored and then the ceiling will be done!

October 4, 2016.  Time to work on the east side of the caboose.  Gary Larson of La Crescent, MN drove up and stayed 3 days to help with the project!  First step was to remove the rotten support pieces--and some didn't even exist as they had completely rotted away.

It turns out that we would have to remove almost all the support pieces on the south end as what remains was so poor that it wouldn't provide stability for the new siding.
October 5, 2016.  That meant we had to build a new framework for attaching the siding.

October 7, 2016.  We hung OSB on the framework.  This will give good support to our new siding when we put it on.
After the OSB was hung, the side was wrapped to prevent moisture from getting to the OSB.

October 10, 2016.
Gary Larson and Arlyn Colby put the new siding on the east side of the caboose.  It certainly isn't done but now the caboose is enclosed and ready for winter.  When the 3 windows are rebuilt, they will be cut in and another coat of red paint will be added, maybe this fall yet!
October 11
Arlyn Colby applied a coat of red paint over the red primer paint.  Here's what it looks like with the paint applied!

 With the caboose fully enclosed, it will be tarped in preparation for winter.  Next spring restoration will continue!

October 17

With the pleasant fall weather, painting continued in the cupola.  Part of the cupola has been cleaned up and the wood sanded.  The white paint is primer.
Keith Kolpack helped apply green paint over the primer.
The cupola is going to really look sharp when it is fully restored!

November 5

Mark Knapp welded wheel stops on the track so the caboose cannot be rolled off the track.

November 11, 2016

More ties needed to be added to the track.  Museum member John Peter and Arlyn Colby inserted 10 ties into the spaces between the existing ties.  They need to be better spaced and rocks added, but that will happen next spring.

 November, 2016
Museum volunteer John Peter offered to take the brake valve that will be located in the cupola and restore it.  This valve was given to us by Terry Grace.  It was covered by layers of green paint and John did an excellent job of removing the paint.

Now he will prime it and paint it and we'll install it next summer.  These brake valves were located in the cupola so the crew could put the train into emergency braking in case of a problem. 
The finished air brake and gauge.  THANKS John Peter!
 January, 2017.  Restoration of the caboose doors and windows begins in the Museum shop by Museum volunteers.  Here John Peter uses a heat gun to remove layers of red paint.
 Arlyn Colby and Jack Nedland scrape LAYERS of old paint off one of the caboose doors.
Arlan "Giggs" Giguere was the main repair man for damaged windows and doors.

 At the same time, John Peter wanted to restore the hardware for the windows.  Here are before and after pictures of these pieces.

April 23
Greg Egan and Arlyn Colby removed the grab irons from the top of the cupola in preparation for a new roof and also to paint the grabs.

Greg Egan, Joe Lewis, and Arlyn Colby then wire wheeled the grab irons to remove paint and rust in preparation for painting.

 May 5-6

Lee Wohlk and Arlyn Colby removed roofing from the caboose in preparation for putting down a rubber roof.  

Part of the roof was very rotten so they decided to add two 
4' x 8' OSB sheets to glue the rubber roofing to.  But first, Lee removed some very rotted areas where there would be nothing solid to attach the OSB to.
 In July, 2017, professional railcar (especially cabooses) restorer Fred Bauers arrived to give advice on our project.
He also spent hours "Needle Scaling" to remove old paint and grime from the caboose trucks. 
The trucks (wheel sets) are primed with anti-rust primer.
The trucks are then painted black and look MUCH better!
The original oak end beams have seen hard service and have deteriorated.  
After much TLC (Tender Loving Care) they come out looking great.
Before the rubber roof can be installed, the cupola must be restored.  Removing the plywood that the Soo Line Railroad had nailed on reveals the original wood on the ends to be in good condition.  With some 'elbow grease,' these will look very good.
But the boards on the sides of the cupola have rotted and will need replacement.
Also, the Soo Line Railroad had nailed plywood over the ends of the caboose and painted it yellow, for visibility.  Removing the plywood reveals original wood that can be restored! 
First, a heat gun was used to remove as much paint as possible.  Some of the yellow has been removed in this photo.

Then the wood was sanded, followed by filling holes with wood filler.  It was then sanded again and painted with red primer.  (This is NOT the final red color).  The yellow boards at the edges are rotted and will be replaced.
137 milled and kiln-dried boards were purchased for replacing the wood on the sides of the body and the cupola.  First they had to be primed.  Here Amber, Cyrus, and Jesse Elmer are shown priming some of the boards.
And Gary Hinrichs helped paint (until we got rained out a few hours later!!)
Glen Olsen replaces rotted boards on the side of the cupola.
Gary Hinrichs then climbs the ladder to paint the new boards (and the old ones that were not replaced)
Next, new authentic width boards were placed on the side of the caboose.  Here Lee Wohlk poses after helping nail boards to the side.  The brown color is a primer.  It will be painted Caboose Red later.
On September 28, Lee Wohlk and Keith Kolpack finished siding the front of the caboose.
Then the side boards are cut off flush with the bottom of the caboose.
And now it is really starting to look like a Soo Line Wood Caboose!!!
Lots of hours of painting result in a great looking caboose.

It's not done but significant progress was made in the summer and fall of 2017.  Many hours of work remain, especially restoring the inside.  With winter upon us, work will continue during the spring of 2018.

After a LONG winter, spring finally arrived in May and it was time to start work again on the caboose.  Glen Olson spent 3 days removing the old plywood siding on the backside of the caboose.
Unfortunately we found lots of rotten boards and supports which will have to be replaced!
We think the caboose was last repainted on June 25, 1964, before the plywood sheathing was put on.

 Funds are needed for continued restoration and building a canopy over the caboose to protect it.  Individuals, businesses, and organizations are encourage to make a donation.

Donate Now

The Barron County Museum is a 501(c)(3) and all donations are tax-deductible.  Any donation will be greatly appreciated.  Donations of $100, $500, and $1,000 or greater will be recognized on a plaque in the caboose.

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Donate by mail

Please write a check to Barron County Museum and put Caboose Fund in the memo. Checks may be mailed to:
Barron County Museum
P.O. Box 242
Cameron, WI 54822