Let me get this straight; there's a 44,800 pound, 104-year-old caboose, and two similarly-gigantic boxcars, that have been sitting in the same place for half a century and you're trying to unearth them, crane the caboose out, and salvage the two boxcars in ~5 weeks, at the onset of winter, before they all get demolished. Am I understanding this correctly?
Sorry to ask again, but I just need to get this straight: Why are you doing this? Do you have some sort of problem with sound reasoning that prevents you from making wise choices in life?
While there’s been no shortage of people that have met us with deer-in-the-headlights, somewhat confused stares when we tell them what we hope to do in digging out and rescuing one old caboose and salvaging two boxcars that have been returning to the earth for half a century, we’re only a little bit crazy (not full fledged, all-the-way-crazy, to be clear).
We love our town. We love this old caboose, in particular, that’s become an icon to the downtown Louisville area over the last 50 years. It’s a piece of our local history; recognized-by-all and loved by many despite its recent fall into disrepair. We just can’t bear the thought of it get demolished in December.
And when it comes our family’s own story, we strive to be intentional in creating a story we want to live out. And we love the idea of a real, actual caboose being part of our larger story arc. Whether it’s next year or 50 years from now, I want our boys to remember that legendary time that we dug out and saved a a 104-year old caboose from being demolished…and what we did with it afterwards (perhaps something awesome to benefit our town!).
We hope to see the caboose, and its salvaged sister cars somehow live on as part of Louisville’s charm. We want to hold onto this significant piece of our small-town roots.
Yes, it’s true that raccoons declared the caboose their own special palace at some point, and then went on to essentially create a new layer of the roof out of their fecal matter. Notwithstanding that, here are the high points on the condition of the caboose:
- Overall, it is in perfectly restorable, saveable shape. Yes, it’ll absolutely need work (keep reading), but structurally and otherwise, it’s stood the test of time well.
- A 12-foot section of the East wall was cut out to build it into the restaurant. Bummer – yes – but we’ve already had the three necessary steel ‘Z’ beams fabricated to weld back on to shore it up structurally. We’ll also replace the wood of the wall relatively easily (fingers crossed) with new boards when the time comes.
- There are a few other sections of rotted exterior wood from the caboose being so long-neglected, which we’ll replace when we do the open section of the wall as well. Depending on how things go, we may just replace the walls wholesale with new wood, but we need to wait until we separate the caboose from the building to better assess that whole situation.
- There will certainly be lots of odds and ends to address as well – replacing windows, fixing doors, etc, but we’re taking things one step at a time at this point. But hey…the ceiling looks *really* nice!
The good news is that overall, she’s a beaut! And she’s worth putting the work in to save as an amazing, 104-year-old Louisville landmark.
Don’t tell Tate, Reid and River (our three sweet boys), but if we don’t meet the fundraising goal we’re planning to use what we have in their college fund to still get the caboose moved out of the wrecking ball’s path.
And yes, I feel your judgment right now. So listen Judgy McJudger, give us a break!! It’s a century-old caboose and we can’t let it get demolished! And we still have at least 11 years before Tate starts college, so we’ll have time to catch back up so he can at least buy books…if they’ll even exist then. Or a holographic iPad 72 tablet at that point.
Wise financial decision to move a caboose instead of save for college? Definitely not!
Hope we can raise enough money? For sure. Save a piece of Louisville history from being demolished, help us out so our kids can still afford an iPad 72 for college someday, and back the campaign!
Thank you so much!!
We’re motivated to restore the caboose and ideally turn it into something that everyone in Louisville can actually enjoy someday – experiencing the magic of it first-hand. Our ultimate goal is to renovate it and somehow see it live on as part of downtown Louisville’s charm and character, but since we literally walked into this whole little adventure like a week and a half ago our timeline is so urgent we haven’t had time to figure out anything beyond the essential pieces to just get it out of the wrecking ball’s path.
We feel strongly that things like this are best enjoyed – and our history is best carried on – through avenues where they’re put into regular use again in some capacity (not just left as another relic to look at from a distance, for example).
Beyond working to save and ultimately renovate the caboose, we have no real idea yet what we’re going to do with it. We’d love your ideas, however!
TL:DR, 100% of what you contribute goes directly toward the costs to extract, relocate, and ultimately renovate the caboose as well as salvage its sister boxcars.
We’re not real estate developers. Or train…estate…developers, whatever that might mean. We’re just a small Louisville family trying to grassroots this whole crazy idea to save the caboose and salvage what we can from its sister cars because it’s something we care about.
After ~three phone calls into this whole project, we realized that this undertaking is going to be no small feat. Executing it is going to take one giant crane…two heavy-hauler trucks…a small army of people…a giant excavator…a cutting torch…chainsaws…a welder…a carpenter…and a myriad of other tools and resources.
While we have enough experience to coordinate the project, and we’ve already poured in a significant amount of our money and time toward it because we just believe in it, we can’t afford to bear the full costs involved in saving The Louisville Caboose and salvaging its sister cars.
So far, we estimate the costs for 1) making the caboose safely movable, 2) actually moving it, and 3) protecting it from the elements to be just north of $10,000. And the costs to then make it usable will likely be another $10-15K, if we really shoestring-budget it.
If you’d like to support the project, you can make a contribution or become a sponsor. If you’re interested in volunteering and may have a particular set of skills or resources to help, please check out the ‘current needs’ page, here.
To be clear, 100% of what you give goes directly toward saving and restoring the caboose and salvaging its sister cars.
I'm a local Louisville business, and this campaign is THE BEST THING EVER!! How do I become a sponsor to help save The Louisville Caboose?
Ah! An easy question! Thank you!
Our sponsors are primarily local businesses who have come on board to help carry this project forward. Some of them have simply given money toward the campaign, others have given money and in-kind items (depending on their business), and some have just discounted their services or only given in-kind.
To be a sponsor, you must give a total of at least $250 either monetarily or in kind, or a combination of both. If you go here, you can see our current list of sponsors. Contact us any time if you’d like to become a sponsor, or feel free to go ahead and contribute here.
If you choose to sponsor the project, we’ll put your logo and/or bio on the site and link to your website…and you’ll get to bask in the glow of knowing you helped save The Louisville Caboose (and its sister cars)! Thank you!
After scouring the City’s of Louisville’s amazing website, which catalogs basically every town meeting or initiative ever, we learned quite a bit about the old train cars’ history! If you’d like to read the whole magilla, click here to download the PDF from the city. Here’s the gist:
The train cars were originally placed there in 1972 as part of the new Coal Creek Station development. Here is a photo of Clifford Brock, one of the partners in the original restaurant, on the depot platform.
This photo is of Chuck Saenz, another of the original restaurant’s partners, inside the restaurant: There were originally FIVE cars, which extended the restaurant almost all the way to South Boulder Road. A restaurant, called ‘The Gandy Dancer”, was built featuring the cars (and based on our efforts thus far to extract the cars, the restaurant was built by Paul Bunyan, who used the biggest timbers he could find in constructing it – including the little roof overhanging the cars).
The rest of this is from the City’s report:
“The restaurant in the train cars continued under different names and different management for about 25 years. For at least part of this time, a boxcar could be used for private events for a fee.
Following its years as the Gandy Dancer, it became known as Coal Creek Junction in the late 1970s and early 1980s. A Longmont Daily Times Call newspaper article from October 30 31, 1976 entitled Louisville Restaurant Roundup” stated:
“If you’ d like to dine on a train to nowhere, Coal Creek Junction Restaurant is the place to do it. The restaurant on Boulder Road occupies one end of a string of old boxcars which have been renovated into a shopping and dining center. Besides the atmosphere, the cuisine is different, with buffalo steaks topping the menu. The[ y] also serve prime rib, steak and seafood. To the delight of rushed business people, a full line lunch menu includes a complimentary glass of wine.”
In the 1980s and 1990, the restaurant was called Brothers Three. According to sources, it was next Kaddy Shack BBQ, then Hickory Sticks Smoke House Grill. An exact date of when it closed its doors could not be located, but some local residents believe it to have been in around 2000.”
My friends, gird thyselves for bad news.
The wooden-sided boxcars, likely originally built in the 1920s, have seen better days. This is in part due to the way they were built into rest of the larger building, and in part simply due to their age, construction, and lack of maintenance over time.
The ‘middle’ boxcar’s east wall was removed to build it into the larger building. Because of this, and other factors, there’s no saving it as an intact unit even if we wanted to – at least not on our budget or timeline.
The ‘north’ boxcar is actually mostly intact, but with its similar overall state to the middle boxcar, attempting to even move it would be a, very expensive, likely unsuccessful challenge. Additionally, the added challenge of restoring it to some sort of usable state would be like diving into a three-foot deep money pit…headfirst.
That said, there is, perhaps, a silver lining to this cloud. We’ve decided to try to architecturally salvage everything that we can from the boxcars and turn it into stunning pieces that carry on this part of our Louisvile history in our Artifact Gallery. Let us know if you’re interested in purchasing an Artifact piece!
The entire restaurant – train cars included – is all currently owned by the property owners. Once we relocate the caboose and the salvaged materials from the boxcars off-site, ‘The Louisville Caboose Company” – an LLC our family formed to do all this – will officially assume ownership of them.
The jury is still out on whether owning, storing, and renovating a century-old caboose in need of major restoration is an asset or a liability…but that’s a story not yet written…
While GoFundMe is great, we wanted to maximize the donations that folks give by minimizing any fees associated with the campaign.
So…when we made this site to catalog the journey, we also securely built into it a way to contribute toward the project (Travis does web development, and a after week of late nights, here we are!).
Put simply, 100% of what you give is what’s used toward the project, as we’re covering the nominal processing fees associated with taking credit card transactions on here.
Cindy Lou down the street told me that that old train car restaurant is full of raccoon feces and drug needles and old mattresses and that a ghost named ol' Jim from way back in the mining days lives there and haunts anyone in Louisville who dares utter the words 'choo-choo-caboo' 5 times in front of the bathroom mirror. Is that true?