by Eric Stearley
Last week, the Wabash Valley Saw Dust Gang began restoration work on the Wabash County Historical Museum’s outdoor caboose exhibit.
“The museum received the caboose from Bob McCallen, and he asked our group if we would restore it, so we took that project on,” said Marvin Wright, member of the four-county woodworking club. “We didn’t want to work on it when there was snow on the ground, so it’s finally gotten warm enough that we could begin to do it.”
Three members of the Saw Dust Gang were hard at work Wednesday morning, tearing off the train caboose’s old siding. Wright said that the wood underneath the siding doesn’t look great, but it’s solid.
“We’re residing the caboose, first removing the old siding, which is two layers and is really in bad, bad shape,” said Wright. “Then after we get the siding off and the new back on, there’s a gentleman who’s going to replace the roof, so the caboose will be back exteriorly in very good shape once we get done in hopefully another week and a half or so.”
The small team was able to remove both layers of siding from the east side of the caboose Monday, April 14. The same was done to the west side of the caboose, carefully removing and preserving an original logo, which will be used as part of the exhibit.
“The outside layer was screwed in and it took impact drivers to get it loose,” said Wright. “And the underside was nailed on with so many nails it’s unreal, so taking it off is really the biggest part of the project, and the dirtiest.”
Wright and the others working on the project will cut and paint the new siding before bringing it to the location for installation.
“That should make life so much simpler,” said Wright.
Though efforts are focused on the interior right now, the plan is to restore the interior and open it to the public by late fall or early next year.
“People have really enjoyed the caboose, and I think once it gets finished, it will be even more exciting to see,” said Executive Director Mitch Figert.
The project is partially funded by a place-based investment grant through Wabash Marketplace. It’s a matching grant up to $13,700, so the museum is starting a capital campaign to raise the equivalent sum needed to take advantage of all matching funds available. Figert hopes that community members will take advantage of the opportunity to double their impact.
“It’s a great way to get involved, because we can match them dollar for dollar right now to support the caboose project,” said Figert. “It’s really just going to be a community effort to get this done.”
A conceptual design plan for the completed exhibit, which includes a train-stop-style seating area, can be viewed on the western exterior wall of the museum, just opposite the caboose.