City Manager Joe Denen, on behalf of the City of Washington C.H., recently honored the efforts of the Railroad Preservation Society of Fayette County (RPSFC) in restoring caboose-1939 at Eyman Park.
On June 6 in 2010, Paul Febo was approached by Washington City Councilman Steve Jennings, who informed him that the city planned to scrap the railroad display at Eyman Park. The city council felt that the display had become “unsightly” due to a lack of upkeep. In the following days, a meeting was arranged with council and Denen about the problem.
A month later, Dean Waddell, Kert Larkin and Febo met with the city council at a “parks and recreation” meeting to discuss the future of the display. Council was asked to reconsider scrapping and to help appoint a citizens’ group to clean up the display. Denen suggested a meeting the next morning at the park to evaluate the situation.
At that morning meeting, the display was evaluated and it was decided that the caboose was the most unsightly part of the railroad display. Following that meeting, Denen helped form the RPSFC, a non-profit organization. The first organizational meeting was held on Oct. 12, 2010 with the intention of historically preserving local Fayette County railroad memorabilia, specifically the existing static train display at Eyman Park. Restoration of the caboose began in spring of 2011.
“We removed three layers of siding, including what remained of the original tongue and groove siding,” RPSFC President Martin Rennison said. “We found extensive rot to all wood framing. We cleaned and primed all metal framing. We received a promise of funding from the City of Washington Court House for materials only. This funding was through a grant to the parks.”
In the summer and fall of 2011, the group ordered and received the materials needed. These materials were 3/4 inch tongue and groove Cypress wood for the siding, one inch cypress lumber for windows, etc., two by fours for framing and a quarter-inch laminated safety glass.
In 2012, Febo built 18 new windows which were exact replicas of the original windows. Safety glass was installed including the four original windows that the group decided to keep in the metal ends. The framing for the cupola side windows and the long edges of the roof became the challenge for the next two seasons.
“We decided the side windows in the cupola would be non-opening so we could keep them water tight and for the sake of our sanity,” Rennison said. “The sides of the roof which would normally had been folded over and nailed to the trim board had been altered to accommodate the additional layer of plywood. Also in the area of the cupola, the metal roof had completely rusted away. We finally decided upon cutting away the bad edging of the roof and creating a drip edge out of galvanized sheet metal. The sheet metal for the small area between the bottom of cupola windows and sills to the edge of the roof were also replaced.”
By the end of 2014, the caboose was water tight and did not require a tarp over it to keep out winter weather.
Beginning this year, RPSFC started on painting the exterior. The red and green colors were matched to samples found on the original siding. This was accomplished thanks to Sherwin Williams donating approximately 30 gallons of paint. In August, a meeting was held to decide on how to proceed with lettering.
“We reviewed several paint and lettering schemes that could have been appropriate for C-1939,” Rennison said. “We reached an agreement that the 1955 scheme of red body, green windows and doors, yellow grab handles, railings and ladders along with the ‘Linking 13 Great States’ emblem looked the most attractive. Around that point in time I had made contact with Dwight Jones, who was of tremendous assistance with teaching us how to do the lettering, loaning stencils and precise painting details. The final touch was to build a roof walk which was completed just as fall began to settle in.”
On Oct. 29, city council and Denen visited the caboose and presented each member of the organization with a proclamation of thanks for a job well done. The total project cost was approximately $7,400.
In addition to the main portion of funding from the City of Washington park’s grant, financial support has come in small increments from individuals as a result of presentations at the local Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club, local newspaper, radio station interviews, etc., as well as donations from the individual members of the RPSFC.
Rennison said he could not have gotten a better group of people to help with the project. Not only did they work together and accomplish this task, he also said that they really bonded and friends were made throughout the process. The main volunteer workers for the project included: Rennison, Waddell, Victor Carranza, Butch Williamson Sr., Dick Waters II, Tim Graham and Febo.
Volunteer support has also come from: Butch Williamson II, Rusty Stevens, Larkin and Mark Hiser. Steve Jennings has also been a loyal ally, serving as photographer and helping to rally the group.
The RPSFC’s work is still not complete though and the group has already discussed future projects to continue making the city park that much nicer. These plans include: continuing to restore the interior of C-1939 and make it presentable to be open to the public on some type of limited basis, restore the B&O crossing shanty, which was located originally on West Court Street in Washington C.H. and protected the B&O, DT&I, and PRR crossings, paint the C&O #2776 2-8-4 Kanawa steam locomotive once funding becomes available, and clean, paint and erect a “home signal” purchased from a Chillicothe caboose group.
“It is a relief to be done with the work so far,” Rennison said. “It has really been a rewarding experience and we still have a lot to do. It really is looking good and we hope to continue working on Fayette County’s railroad history in the future.”
Anyone interested in donating or would like to volunteer for future RPSFC projects can contact Rennison at (740) 636-1307.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy