Biking: Community restores Connellsville Caboose
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There had been talk for years about "doing something" with an abandoned rust-streaked yellow caboose that was sinking into the dirt along the Great Allegheny Passage in Connellsville.
How about converting it into a welcome center, suggested Emma Strong, a member of the Student Conservation Association Trail Town Outreach Corps in Connellsville.
And that's what the old bay window caboose has become, thanks to the efforts of Strong and volunteers.
The caboose, now decorated with murals, has been refurbished, hoisted on to a set of railroad tracks and stocked with information.
There are trail maps of the passage and the C&O Canal Towpath, a map and directory of Connellsville, local restaurant menus, brochures of attractions in the area and information about the town's railroad history.
The Yough River Trail Council will have a grand opening of the Connellsville Caboose Welcome Center at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the northern trail head.
Strong said it took "a multitude of phone calls spread over weeks and weeks" before she found "the right people with the right information and the right skills."
Partners in the project:
Karl Butchko, an auto body collision instructor at the Connellsville Area Career and Technical Center, and his students removed rust, puttied, primed and painted the exterior.
Connellsville street foreman Vern Ohler donated his paint sprayer.
Jerry Matthews, a carpentry instructor at the center, helped his students build the stairs.
The Connellsville Street Department prepared the site.
Yough River Trail Council president Ted Kovall mobilized volunteers, helped build the rails and agreed to maintain the caboose.
Gary Wandal, a board member of the Connellsville Area School District, conducted an initial evaluation.
Jim Haun helped to paint the exterior and handled other project details.
Retired carpenter Dave Stupak and his son, David, did most of the interior refinishing and carpentry work.
Bill Baetey, Ed Mascerelli and Jason Lowe of the Hobo Model Railroad Club supplied information about the caboose and did most of the detail painting, provided volunteer support and wrote an historical article that hangs inside the caboose.
Gerry Gabel, CSX Transportation's Connellsville area road master donated the ties, plates and spikes to build the rails and Shawn Lowery helped build the rails.
Trail Town Outreach Corps members helped to rehabilitate the interior and also did some painting.
The city of Connellsville, which owns the caboose and is leasing it to the trail council.
Jonathan Baeckel, a community member, prepared and painted the caboose.
Amy Camp, a former program coordinator for the Trail Town Program.
The project was supported in part by a $4,000 Seed Award from The Sprout Fund. The placement of the caboose on the rails, arranged by The Progress Fund's Trail Town Program, was made possible by the Richard King Mellon Foundation. The project began in May 2011 and was completed in April.
First Published June 2, 2012 12:00 am