Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Editorials

April 30, 2014

Good addition

Old caboose promises to be nice little tourist attraction

ASHLAND — Those who are unimpressed by the appearance of the 1949 C&O Railroad caboose the city of Ashland has received as a gift from Kanawha River Terminals should take a few minutes to look at the caboose that now stands by the old railroad depot in downtown Catlettsburg.

After all, when Catlettsburg received that caboose a few years ago, our first impression was the Gate City had moved a dilapidated eyesore into the heart of Boyd County’s seat. From our uneducated eye, the caboose was in such poor condition the chances of restoring it to look like the cabooses we remember from our younger days seemed long. 

But thanks to some gifted craftsmen for whom restoration of the old caboose was a labor of love, that old caboose now is beautifully restored and is a source of community pride in Catlettsburg. Its fantastic restoration provides a challenge for Ashland to do the same with its 1949 caboose.

If anything, Ashland’s caboose is in better condition than the one Catlettsburg received, but it certainly is no thing of beauty. Let’s just say a real estate agent trying to sell the old caboose would list it as a “fixer upper” in its “for sale” ads.

However, we’re confident the 1949 caboose will be completely restored and soon will be a beautiful addition to Ashland’s Transportation Center housed in a beautifully restored historic building where Greyhound buses and Amtrak’s Cardinal now arrive and depart on 15th Street in downtown Ashland.

We also like Ashland Mayor Chuck Charles’ plans for the caboose. As other communities have discovered, old cabooses are not really conducive for other uses. They tend to be too small for city offices, meeting places or even for small museums. 

Recognizing this,  Mayor Charles says Ashland plans to use the caboose as “a little tourist attraction” where children will be allowed to go through it and play on it. What an excellent idea! Because they once were the rear car on virtually all trains, old cabooses are not rare and none is particularly historic. To most, cabooses are just old train cars that have outlived their usefulness. Modern technology has replaced what railroad employees who once rode in the cabooses did to promote safety.

While neither the caboose in Ashland nor the one in Catlettsburg have historic value on their own, they both represent an important piece of railroad history in two cities where the railroad has always played and important role. After all, many who now are young adults cannot remember  a time when cabooses were the last cars on trains.

For that reason, we can envision grandfathers and great-grandfathers taking their grandchildren to visit one of the restored cabooses and saying, “You know Grandpa used to ride on one of these back in the day when there was a caboose on every train …”

That alone makes the acquisition of an old caboose an asset for every railroad town. We look forward to Ashland’s 1949 C&O caboose soon joining Catlettsburg’s caboose as something of a minor tourist attraction. We thank Kanawha River Terminals for the gift of the old caboose. We’re confident it will be put to good use.

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