Phippsburg caboose settles into retirement as railroad museum
Community to celebrate Saturday with picnic
July 8, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Modern-day trains no longer need cabooses.
Today, railroads have technology to detect hot axles and fallen cars, so there's no need to send a conductor and watchmen to the bunks in the back of the train to keep an eye on the track and the load.
But that doesn't mean there's no use for that familiar symbol of the railroad.
In Phippsburg, that symbol comes to life in the form of a retired caboose that sits in the local park, celebrating the town's heritage and that of many current and retired railroaders who live in South Routt County.
"It's a relic," said Phippsburg resident Dutch Ebaugh, who spent 45 years as an equipment operator on local railroads. "I hope they don't forget what it used to be."
The caboose has resided in the Phippsburg Park for the past two years, and an event Saturday will celebrate its restoration by local volunteers.
Starting at noon, the Oak Creek & Phippsburg Historical Society will provide a picnic and musical entertainment for community members and visitors, who may take a walk through the restored train car and peruse the historical railroad display.
Ebaugh said several railroaders plan to attend.
"They just have a good time," he said. "A lot of them haven't seen each other in years. They'll talk old times, the railroad men."
The crummy — the railroad term for caboose — was built in 1959 in the Burnham rail shops in Denver, where the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad built and serviced its rail cars.
The caboose made its way around the West, and at one point it was loaned to the government to haul missiles around the country. It's not known what year the car was retired.
When Phippsburg received it as a donation in 2009, it was painted black, and the inside had been gutted for government use.
It had been sitting in storage for years before it was moved to Phippsburg Park, where Ebaugh and fellow railroader Marvin McCall, of Kremmling, finally got their hands on it to restore it to its original state.
Most of the materials were donated, and funding was provided by the Oak Creek and Phippsburg Historical Society.
The most noticeable part of the restoration is the new orange and white paint job, a throwback to its D&RG days, complete with the railroad's logo.
Oak Creek Historian Mike Yurich said the caboose was the perfect fit to help Phippsburg celebrate its heritage. He said he hopes someday to move an old railroad depot to the same location and provide materials and memorabilia for a railcar museum.
"We wanted a caboose in the park, and because it was a D&RG, it fit in with what we were trying to preserve and save with regard to our railroad history in the area," Yurich said.
"It's going to be a fabulous piece for us out there in Phippsburg."
— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com