The Caboose

Have you been up to the Uniondale, PA trail head lately? A sight that my family and I always enjoy is The Caboose. We have enjoyed seeing the refurbishment project as it has progressed over the couple of years. The Caboose has had quite a long journey in addition to having been operational on the D&H Railroad. Lynn Conrad of the Rail Trail Council was kind enough to give me some information about how The Caboose came to be settled and restored at the Uniondale trail head.

For many years The Caboose sat on a siding in Mayfield all alone. An unfortunate few visitors turned out to be vandals as tends to happen to unoccupied and unused structures. A group of former employees of the Steamtown National Park who owned The Caboose had plans to restore it but were unable to pursue the project. In 2017 the Rail Trail Council purchased The Caboose from this group. Then began the incredible journey from Mayfield to Uniondale.

Before the restoration

First they moved to Carbondale via rail. Two cranes were used to lift it onto a flatbed truck for the trip from Carbondale to Uniondale. Such a great cargo doesn’t travel easily by roadway. The Rail Trail Council had to acquire special permits for an “oversized load” and phone wires had to be lifted with special poles along the way to allow passage of The Caboose. Once at the Uniondale trail head, where a cozy bed of rebuilt rail siding was waiting, there was only room for one crane to remove The Caboose from the flatbed. According to Lynn, an expert crane operator saved the day and settled The Caboose on its final resting place.

But don’t think that the phrase ‘final resting place’ means a sad ending for The Caboose. Now the restoration project could really begin. The Rail Trail Council hired a local carpenter who directed the restoration. He brought in many volunteers and consulted with caboose and railroad buffs to help plan the improvements. The project is almost complete with only about 50% left of the inside to refinish. The Caboose is almost ready for her biggest debut yet. For now, visitors can enjoy the outside of The Caboose and marvel at the fact that this caboose ran on the very rails that used to occupy this trail!

Beautiful lettering on The Caboose. It’s almost finished!

I asked Lynn if the COVID crisis affected the project at all. I was pleasantly surprised by her answer. “The project I believe was only positively affected by Covid—more trail users became aware of our trail, organization, and the caboose project. We have many new members, donations and especially caboose donations. The work continued as a one-man project.” 

If you haven’t visited the Uniondale trailhead to see The Caboose and enjoy that section of the D&H Rail Trail, I encourage you to take a walk, hike, or bike ride up there soon. Get some fun pictures of you, your family, and this wonderful piece of local history. If you share them on Instagram be sure to tag trailfamilylife and railtrailnepa because we would love to see them!

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