LUCINDA, Pa. (EYT)—There’s a saying that boys never grow up, their toys just get bigger.
Members of Rail 66 Country Trail, the non-profit group responsible for the creation and maintenance of a 21-mile bicycle and walking trail along the old B&O railroad in Clarion County, are proving that saying true. They just purchased this old caboose and today they need to pick it up from it current location, the yard of Gene “Puffy” Lander, and drop it off at the Lucinda Railroad station, which is the only original station along the trail.
Puffy is one of the many nicknamed characters who are known to most everyone in town. There are a few who probably don’t know his real name. But they know his work. He restored the Lucinda station with the help of North Clarion High School Students and their teacher, Terry More. The caboose has been living on Puffy’s land since 2005. When he bought the caboose, it was sitting in the same spot Rail 66 is working to get it back to. It’ll be a homecoming.
“We bought this car at auction a week ago and we’re hoping to move it today,” said Vince DiStefano, the president of Rail 66. “We’re only moving it less than a quarter of a mile. We have a truck coming up with a special piece of equipment that loads this thing up and hauls it down the road. It’s like a flatbed on steroids.”
It’s about 9:00AM now, and the flatbed on steroids was supposed to be here an hour ago. In the meantime, more Rail 66 members have been gathering to offer their help to get the car ready for transport. As they busy themselves with each task as hand—everyone seems to know what to do without being asked or instructed—you can feel the excitement build. Nobody complains about the tardiness of the truck. They just seem happy to be here.
“We’re going to take the caboose home. This caboose was over at the train station in Lucinda. It was moved from there over to here six or seven years ago,” said Al Lander, Co-Chairman of the Fundraising Committee of Rail 66 Country Trail. “I think it was actually longer than that. It came up for sale, and we just knew that where it belongs is over at the station. We got together and agreed to buy it at auction, and now we’re going to move it back and have it open for display for anyone who comes down the trail.”
The board members don’t really know what they’re going to do with the railcar, according to Landers. He said they have an idea that they’ll lease it to somebody to operate as an AirBNB. But that’s just an idea. Right now, they need to focus on the job at hand.
It turns out that there was a mix-up at the trucking company, and the truck isn’t going to make it over this morning after all. Nobody seems bothered by it. They tell me if you’re not flexible, you’ll just spend your life angry. They’ll try again tomorrow. I ask Vince if he’d please give me a call or shoot me a text when they know when the car will be moved. He promises he will. Sure enough, at about 10:30, while getting ready for bed, I receive word that the truck will be there tomorrow at 8:00AM. I have to say, that makes me happy. I’m excited to see it all unfold.
It’s the next morning and I’ve made my way out to Lucinda, back to Puffy’s property, the current home of the yellow caboose. No sign of a truck when I arrive.
It occurs to me as the same cast of characters from the previous day start showing up for take two of their little scene, that this is quite a coordinated effort to get a 1930’s railroad car from Puffy’s yard to the train station. I wonder if Puffy went through the same thing when he moved it from the station to its current piece of track.
“I’d rather not talk about that,” Puffy says with a chuckle. Then a longer laugh. “I drug it over here with my Avalanche. To the road up here. And then somebody called the cops on us and we had to leave it set up on the road up there.”
He then tells me the rest of the story he’d rather not talk about. Eventually, he got the car over to the property and up on its rails. It’s been here ever since.
As Puffy finishes his story, I look behind and see that the truck has arrived. Vince was right. This is a flatbed on steroids. It’s from Barber Trucking in Shippenville. This particular trailer is specifically used to move rail cars, I over hear Vince telling one of the guys. Apparently, they move a lot of trolleys.
“I’m thinking this is going pretty smooth and we’re going to have that caboose at the train station set up in about an hour from now,” Vince tells me. “Just watching to make sure we’re clearing electric lines right now.”
Vince isn’t going to be wrong. Things are moving quickly now. In just a few minutes, the car is loaded onto the trailer and secured down. A little while after that, the truck is moving up the hill and makes a right turn toward the station. As they make their way down the road, one of the Rail 66 guys hops on top of the caboose to make sure no power lines are hit. The top of the caboose is over 15 feet off the ground. There’s only one set of lines that is lower than the top of the car. The lines are carefully lifted up with a broomstick.
Over at the station, the unloading process goes quickly. I can’t imagine very many people on this crew have all that much experience moving a railcar, but they look like they know what they’re doing. The car rolls off the tilt bed trailer, right onto the tracks. Then a pickup truck appears and a chain is attached to its hitch. The other end is wrapped around the caboose’s coupler. With little effort, the car is rolled down the track and stops right where everyone thought the best spot would be.
And now, Puffy’s little yellow caboose is sitting next to the Lucinda train station along Rail 66 right where it started. And who knows what will come next for the 85-year-old steel and wood railcar? Maybe it’ll be turned into an AirBNB. Maybe it will be a spot for adventurous travelers to stop and take a picture. What is certain is that it’s in the hands of men who will care for it. They’ll give it a scrub, and new coat of paint, maybe. And eventually, it will become exactly what they decide they want it to be. Whatever that is.
For now, this group of old boys that, apparently, refuse to grow up have a real big toy.