Friday, June 17, 2011
Years ago, a train was not complete without a locomotive on the front end, and a caboose bringing up the rear end. The locomotive was an attention getter, what with smoke and noise, whistle blowing and bell ringing. Sure it was fun to wave at the engineer, and hopefully see him wave back, signaling to you that such an important guy recognized you down there as a friend.
However, once the locomotive went by, your attention was immediately drawn to that last car on the train, a car like no other, having steps, windows, and even a smokestack on the roof. The caboose was the only train car that had the one unique feature, a cupola on the roof.
A cupola was all windows. Once you spotted the caboose and its cupola, you immediately searched for the next guy to wave at. You didn’t quite know what his job really was, but to you his job was quite simple, WAVE AT YOU.
Your moment was highly anticipated, your timing had to be just right, or the caboose would be past you with no more chances until the next train. Get ready, decide which arm and hand would be offered, and make sure you obtained eye contact with that lucky guy who got to ride on the train all day just to see YOU.
A successful wave meant everything, no eye contact and wave meant you had failed to carry out the agreement. A good wave meant you did not wave like a madman, frantic and unsure. No, your wave had to reflect your confidence and understanding of railroad waves, you were one with him, and you were on the crew, just not on the train. The successful wave lasted all day; you had waved and been recognized, so long, see you on the next trip.
Today, trains don’t provide much chance to interact with the crew. There is no caboose, or friendly crew to wave back to you. Trains are less frequent, and lack the personality of the old trains when you could identify the type of cars and repeat the railroad names. Today’s trains do not present the opportunity to wave at the crew, or look for that caboose on the rear end, a caboose with a cupola and crew. Well, most trains don’t have a caboose, but, your El Dorado Western Railroad has a caboose, a caboose just for YOU.
Yes, your caboose arrived on the El Dorado Western Railroad on Thursday, June 16 at El Dorado. A caboose from the Southern Pacific Railroad, No. 1094, built in 1940 to travel the rails behind steam powered freight trains. A real railroad caboose; a caboose with steps, windows, and yes, a real cupola on the roof! A caboose complete with interior and a ladder climbing up to the seats where the crew sat and waved to you. Did you know the caboose was an office for the conductor with a desk, a coal stove for heat, a bathroom, ice box, lights, and bunk beds? The caboose supported the crew while out on the rails going between cities.
Southern Pacific Caboose No. 1094 is a gift from a very special person; a lady named Anne. Anne received her caboose from her husband on a Mother’s Day, to provide Anne with an art studio. Now, through Anne’s family, her caboose is returning to the rails.
A caboose to ride in, and a caboose from which to wave to people on foot, bicycle, or in the car waiting for the train to cross the road. Anne’s caboose is waiting for you, come out and see her at our Sunday, June 26 fund raiser to support the railroad.
We thank you Anne for giving all of us a chance to ride your caboose, on the El Dorado Western Railroad. Now, let’s all work on our railroad waves; a railroad caboose is coming down the track toward YOU.
Keith Berry for the EDWR where we work to make you smile.