Museum renovates iconic caboose

By Ben Olson
Reader Staff

The Bonner County History Museum is excited to announce that the newly-curated caboose is now open to the public for viewing. The yellow Spokane International Railway/Union Pacific caboose that has become a town landmark has been brought back to life.

The iconic caboose in Lakeview Park. Photo by Ben Olson.

The 27-ton steel caboose was built in May 1942 for the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) 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 (SI) in July 1963 and later re-lettered for the Spokane International Railroad (SIRR) after the original company went bankrupt. It was retired Jan. 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 it exists 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 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.

Visit the caboose and check out the Bonner County History Museum Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors, $1 for under 18. Members and children under 6 get in free.

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