A longtime fixture at the Nampa Train Depot and Museum — a 1942 Union Pacific train caboose — is getting some well-deserved attention and restoration. The work, which has begun, will include a full rebuild of the caboose, wood floors, bunk beds and more.
“When the restoration is done, our caboose will look like it did when it rolled out of the factory in Mount Vernon, Ill.,” said Eriks Garsvo, a local train enthusiast and Canyon County Historical Society board member. That means a coat of “freight car” red paint and new white lettering.
The caboose, said Garsvo, is one of the first built with steel exteriors and wood interiors. It’s a CA-3 class of caboose.
“Only 99 of them were built, and we have number 76,” said Garsvo. He believes just 34 CA-3s remain in the U.S.
Aside from its rarity, the caboose is notable because its type became the standard design for Union Pacific cabooses until the 1970s.
Garsvo, manager of the restoration project, estimates the restoration will cost around $20,000. He has applied for a historic preservation grant from Canyon County. The Idaho Heritage Trust has awarded a $3,000 matching grant to the project. Local companies, including Norco, have donated cash and supplies. Northwest Lineman College also has committed volunteers to the effort, said Garsvo. He has been in contact with the Illinois Railway Museum which has restored the same class of caboose. The museum has offered to share its photos and blueprints.
The Nampa restoration began with the removal of old flooring and walls. Removal of a plywood floor revealed the original tongue and groove wood floor. Any part that is reusable will restored and replaced, said Garsvo. The good news for the public and lovers of old trains is that the caboose will remain open for tours during the restoration.
The caboose at the end of the train was the office and living quarters for conductors and rear brakemen. The caboose also stored “all the things that train needed to run,” said Garsvo, including oil, lanterns, flares, shovels, brooms, coal for the coal store and more. The CA-3 did not have electricity, so the coal stove provided heat as well as cooking. The old caboose in Nampa still has its original ice box — just that, a box that held a block of ice for refrigeration — and its toilet flushed directly onto the train tracks.
Union Pacific donated the caboose to the Canyon County Historical Society in 1988. It’s sat at the depot ever since.