- Associated Press - Saturday, April 15, 2017

BEND, Ore. (AP) - Moving thousands of pounds of cargo isn’t typically an issue for the trains that use the City of Prineville Railway in Oregon, but what about when the cargo is the train itself?

That’s the question the city-owned railroad is trying to answer. Railway Director Matt Wiederholt said railway staff members are considering their options for moving a 30-ton caboose to the Bowman Museum in downtown Prineville. The trip between the railway and the museum is less than a mile - practically nothing compared to the long trips the 70-year-old railway car used to make in its heyday. But since the city’s orange caboose will have to be taken off the storage tracks where it currently sits and transported on the highway to make it there, the journey seems a little bit longer than it actually is.

“We’re just trying to figure out how to get it down there,” Wiederholt said. “Hopefully we’ll have it done in the next couple months or so. It’s a little challenging, but it’s doable.”

The caboose, which Wiederholt said the Prineville Railway bought in the 1970s, has seen a lot of use over the years, but it’s been out of work for nearly a decade.

Originally used for hauling and housing railroad employees, the caboose is outfitted with a generator, a stove, a desk and bunk beds for the crew members, conductors and brakemen who used to have to travel with a train. When federal safety laws that had required the use of cabooses and large railroad crews were relaxed in the 1980s, Wiederholt said, Prineville’s caboose was moved over to the Prineville Freight Junction - via tracks, not the highway - to be used as office space. After that it was used to give kids rides, but it was retired in the mid-2000s.

Rather than let the caboose sit on storage tracks at the railway, where Wiederholt said it would slowly deteriorate, the decision was made to donate it to the city museum. The 100-year anniversary of the railway is coming up in 2018, and Wiederholt said the caboose would make a great historical exhibit at the Bowman Museum.

“It’s worth more historically at the museum than it would be if we scrapped it or sold it to someone who would use it as a hunting cabin,” he said.

Which brings the Prineville Railway staff back to the question at hand: How should they transport the caboose?

The issue isn’t actually the freight car’s weight, but its height. For a train car, 60,000 pounds is “fairly light,” Wiederholt said, but at 13 feet, 8 inches tall, the caboose’s height would exceed 14 feet - the maximum height allowed on Oregon roads - when it’s loaded onto the back of a truck.

“The height is giving us some challenges,” he said.

Probably what’s going to happen, Wiederholt speculated, is that the railway will use a crane it has to lift the caboose so its wheels can be removed and it can be loaded on the back of a lowboy trailer. Then the trip to the museum can be made without smashing into the top of any bridges or power lines.

But what happens when the caboose arrives at the museum is a different matter.

Bowman Museum Director Gordon Gillespie said that since the museum is located in the middle of downtown, it could be a little tricky to get a mobile crane close to where the caboose is slated to be displayed behind the museum.

“It’s right on the busiest street in Prineville,” he said, adding that railway staff members are looking into using a ramp to get the caboose off a truck so a crane wouldn’t be necessary. “It would be a lot easier to run it off a truck than to crane it off.”

Whatever ends up happening, Gillespie said the caboose is a great way to tell the story of Prineville’s railroad - the oldest municipal-owned railway in the country. It will be set up on train tracks railway employees are building for the exhibit, and it’s big enough that people will be able to see it from the street.

“We’ll definitely get it done as long as nothing gets in our way,” he said. “It’s going to be really fun getting it here, and maybe a little scary.”


Information from: The Bulletin, https://www.bendbulletin.com

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