Museum opens train caboose to public

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(Daily Bee file photo/CAROLINE LOBSINGER) A youngster “drives” the historic train caboose at the Bonner County History Museum during an event earlier this year. Renovations of the old train car are now complete and it’s available for viewing.

The yellow Spokane International Railway/Union Pacific caboose that has become a town landmark has been brought back to life and area youngsters of all ages are invited to take a step back in time into the rolling office of the conductor and brakemen.

The Bonner County History Museum announced this week that renovations of the newly curated caboose are completed and it’s now open to the public for viewing.

The 27-ton steel caboose was built in May 1942 for the Union Pacific Railroad in Mt. Vernon, Ill. It was the ninth off the line as UP began a program to replace wooden cabooses and was acquired from Union Pacific by the Spokane International Railway in July 1963 and later re-lettered for the Spokane International Railroad after the original company went bankrupt. It was retired January 27, 1984.

Cabooses are no longer used by American railroads, but before the 1980s, every train ended in a caboose, usually painted red, but sometimes painted in colors which matched the railroad’s corporate paint scheme. This caboose is painted in Armour yellow, the signature paint color of Union Pacific.

The caboose was donated by Union Pacific in 1986 to the Bonner County History Museum. Track was laid on May 3, 1986 by Gus Barfus, Wes Osborn, Ron Cassock, and Don Samuelson and the caboose was trucked in from the railroad along Highway 200 and placed on this section of track. Over the years, many community volunteers have contributed to the restoration and display of the caboose as what you see today. This group includes: Bus Walson, Norm Lippert, Earl Chapin, Ron Costich, Paul Rechnitzer, Tim Fitzpatrick, Bill Kendall, and Arie Poelstra.

Visitors are welcome to enjoy the caboose during regular business hours (admission fees apply). Curator Heather Upton, with the help of our railroad expert, Will Valentine, has created a historical masterpiece for the community to enjoy. The renovation and curation of the caboose was paid for by a generous grant from Union Pacific Railroad.

Founded in 1972, the Bonner County History Museum has been collecting and preserving the Bonner County region’s significant stories for over 40 years. The museum is located in view of Lake Pend Oreille in beautiful Lakeview Park. The park has many amenities including picnic areas, a playground, tennis courts, and the Native Plant Society arboretum. Adjacent to Lakeview Park is Memorial Field which has a boat launch and is home to the Festival at Sandpoint every August.

The Bonner County History Museum is a private, non-profit educational organization (I.R.S. 501 (c) 3). The museum is a membership organization, open to all. We operate thanks to community support, membership fees, gifts, retail sales and donations, and grants from private foundations

Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; first Saturday of each month, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (free admission for everyone). Admission is $4, adults; $3, seniors; $1, 6-18 years; free, members and children under 6.

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