1905 "Bobber" Caboose
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Two officers of the Ligonier Valley Rail Road Association were attending a business meeting in October 2006 and one of the advisors, the Rev. Richard Flock, mentioned that there was a caboose located on a hill in Summerhill, PA and asked if we had heard of it. We said we hadn't but we would like to see it and if it was in reasonable condition, investigate the possibility of acquiring it for the Ligonier Valley Rail Road Association. In the Spring of 2007 we traveled to Summerhill to take a look at the caboose. Mr. John Costello, the owner and a lifelong resident of Summerhill, PA, met us and graciously gave us a tour of the caboose and his property. Mr. Costello acquired the 28,000-pound wood-framed car in 1963. At the time, Mr. Costello owned Costello Construction Co. and arranged to haul the caboose from a Uniontown rail yard to his family's home in Summerhill, near Johnstown Pa. Mr.Costello leveled a slope on a hillside on his property and laid rails and ties on about 20 tons of ballast base. The Costello children, John Jr., Susan Lorditch, Margaret Plank, and Amy Suhr, spent hours playing in the caboose along with the neighborhood children.
The caboose is a PRR Class ND cabin car built on April 4, 1905, with a Series Number of 485994. It received United States Safety Appliances Standard at Pitcairn on April 26, 1913. From the old records, the car was not marked as destroyed, so was still in service on that date. The caboose was one of 18 Class ND cabin cars that were eventually sold to the Monongahela Railroad in 1919, during Federal control of the railroads (during and immediately after World War I). The Monongahela had a serious shortage of cabooses at the time. The date of sale of 485944 was February 25, 1919. According to the Pennsylvania Railroad the Class ND cabin car has a steel underframe, four wheels with a 13 foot, 6 inch wheelbase, a length of 29 feet coupler to coupler, and weighs 28,000 pounds. The Ligonier Valley Rail Road owned at least one of these cars, built in March 1907.
When we broached the idea of acquiring the caboose Mr. Costello said he would consider it. When the Costellos were preparing to sell their home and move to Mechanicsburg, PA, Mr. John Costello Jr. and the Rev. Richard Flock, contacted the Ligonier Valley Rail Road Association to tell us that Mr. and Mrs. Costello would donate the caboose to us. We gratefully accepted the donation and arranged for the Ligonier Construction Company of Laughlintown, to move the caboose from Summerhill to a temporary storage location in Laughlintown. This occurred just before Christmas, 2007. On February 16, 2008, the caboose was moved from Laughlintown to an area behind the Darlington Station where we had installed a section of track to hold the caboose. The caboose's interior will be refurbished and it will be equipped with a handicapped-accessible entrance. The car will be used as an attraction for children and their families visiting the Ligonier Valley Rail Road Museum at the Darlington Station. The association will adorn it with a plaque that states: "Contributed by The Costello Family of Summerhill."
The donation stipulated that we had to remove the caboose from the Summerhill property by December 31, 2007 or the caboose would revert to the Costello family. In order to get things moving we contacted Ligonier Construction Company of Laughlintown to conduct the move and also grade an area behind the Darlington Station where could build a pad to display the caboose. We needed two rails and a few ties once the pad was constructed. The track was installed on February 12th, a snowy, wintery day. The move from storage in Laughlintown to the station took place on Saturday, February 16th. The first problem was getting the trailer hauling the caboose into the parking lot. Idlewild Hill Road is only two lanes so the trailer had to be uncoupled from the cab and a piece of heavy equipment was used to drag the trailer into the parlinkg lot. The next problem was maneuvering the trailer into place so the caboose could be moved from the rails it was on to the rails on the pad. This took some time as the alignment had to be exact and one end of the caboose had to be lifted as it was moved from the trailer to the tracks. Once the first two wheels were on the tracks on the pad, the caboose rolled easily into place. After a final bit of alignment the caboose was centered on the tracks and the job was complete.
The project took seventeen months from its inception in October of 2006 to February 2008. The next phase of this project was to seek some funding to restore the caboose, add a handicapped-accessible ramp to one side on the caboose, and perform the restoration with some volunteer help.
February 2008 - Ligonier Valley Railroad Association
Thanks to Bob Johnson who provided the research and A.J. Panian of the Tribune-Review for background information
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