The Spartanburg City Council could vote tonight whether to approve the move of an old caboose to a train museum in the city, which organizers say is a critical step for the relatively new museum’s growth.
The Hub City Railroad Museum is asking for permission to move the donated caboose to a spot in its parking lot. The former Southern Railroad caboose would eventually feature a model train layout, video theater, and an observation deck to watch active Norfolk Southern trains pass by the former station on Magnolia Street.
The caboose would be the first rolling stock car in the two-year-old museum’s collection. “It’s hard to find a genuine railroad caboose anywhere, certainly one that serves multiple purposes for the public,” Frank Ezell, the museum’s general manager, told South Carolina Radio Network.
The caboose was built in Spartanburg in 1947 and worked out of Southern’s Knoxville division. However, it was acquired by the Cleveland family and brought back to their land in Spartanburg– where it has sat for the past four decades. Ezell said he was approached by Dexter Cleveland in February about donating the car after the family sold the property.
If the council approves the move, it would only be the first step before the caboose could open to the public. Ezell said the museum hopes to raise up to $30,000 to refurbish it. Most of the costs would go towards replacing its lead paint and cleaning asbestos from its roof. He said much of the rest would pay for the observation deck and a handicapped-access ramp.
The museum is applying for some additional money from the city’s accommodations tax fund.
The two-year-old Hub City Railroad Museum is hoping to attract more train enthusiasts from outside the Upstate. Ezell said 15 percent of their visitors who have signed Hub City’s guestbook are from more than 50 miles away.
“The goal of the museum has been to expand our presence where possible,” he said, “Unfortunately, in the museum we do not have anything for children… such as a running train. The caboose will provide that.”
Ezell expects City Council to approve the project, saying he had gotten mostly positive feedback after a presentation to its members two weeks ago.
The Hub City Railroad Museum is run by the Greenville chapter of the National Rail Historical Society and showcases how trains shaped the Spartanburg area’s history.