Exeter sells dilapidated caboose to Midland Railway

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

City accepts $11,300 offer from Midland Railway Historical Association

Because of the cost of upkeep and persistent vandalism, the city of Exeter decided to sell the caboose stationed on Main Street for the past 27 years.

Officials accepted an offer of $11,300 from the Frisco Railway Historical and Modeling Society for the caboose. The Midland Railway Historical Association will restore and operate the caboose on the Midland Railway, a privately-owned, non-profit tourist railway that runs from Baldwin, Kan., to Ottawa Junction, Kan.

According to Exeter officials, the society raised the $11,300 through donations, and the city had to make a decision by April 11 or the donations would be returned.

The Association is asking the city for six months to schedule the removal of the caboose, which the city uses to store Christmas decorations.

"We either had to get rid of the caboose or spend a lot of money fixing it," said Rusty Reed, mayor of Exeter.

Per the donation agreement, the city is required to keep the caboose in good condition, and that has been a challenge over the years.

Rhonda Scott, Exeter alderwoman, said vandalism has been the main culprit in keeping the caboose from being in top shape.

"Vandalism happens, and we have to spend a lot of money to constantly fix it and keep it fixed up," she said. "The windows have been busted out several times, and I think it's wise of us to accept the offer so the caboose can be restored and serve people."

The caboose was donated to the city in 1987, under former Mayor Marjorie Hopkins.

Paul Slater and Bob Turner, of the Midland Railway Historical Association, visited the caboose to make a recommendation to the organization about the price and physical condition.

According to Slater, the caboose weighs 64,000 pounds and would be worth about $7,360 in scrap metal. Slater said the caboose was built in 1969 and is No. 1291 of the last series built for Frisco Railroad. Only eight were made that year, and five have been scrapped.

Over a two-year period, Slater said the association would sandblast it, repaint it, fix the brakes and restore all the mechanical parts for use on the Midland Railway.

Midland Railway is a nonprofit historical association that operates excursion trains on a line originally constructed in 1867 by the Leavenworth, Lawrence and Fort Gibson Railroad. The line from Lawrence, Kan., to Baldwin City, Kan., was abandoned in the mid-1970s and purchased by investors in 1987.

The Midland Railway now offers train rides, featuring an over-20-mile round trip from Baldwin City to Ottawa Junction, Kan. If purchased, the caboose will be part of that route.

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