Don, the Caboose Man of Hyndman, Pennsylvania
[By Allen Brougham] . . .
The next time you ride Amtrak's Capitol Limited through southwestern Pennsylvania, be sure to look to the north side of the train as you pass through Hyndman. The train doesn't stop there, so keep a sharp lookout. For parked some 30 feet back from the tracks are a couple of ex-C&O Chessie System cabooses. And if you're lucky enough to pass through on one of the days he's there, you'll also get a glimpse - and a friendly wave - from the cars' owner. He is Don, the Caboose Man!
Ever since he was a kid, Donald Stewart has had a dream of owning a caboose. He wanted it as a getaway place. When other kids dreamed of a tree house, Don dreamed of a caboose!
Dreams of this sort sometime fade... but not so for Don. He kept his dream alive, and he even devised a way to finance it. In 1968, he gave up smoking. The money he saved he put into a jar. Originally it was 30 cents a day, but he kept adjusting the amount for inflation, and today it's up to $2.25. With what he saved, he was able to finance the project.
Originally he planned on a spot along the Union Pacific in Evanston, Wyoming, as the site for his caboose. He owned property there. But circumstances changed, and by the time he retired as a Department of Defense meteorologist in 1988, he had selected Hyndman, Pennsylvania, as the place to fulfill his dream.
Don had fallen in love with Hyndman. It is a town (officially called a "Borough") of about 1140 people, nestled at the base of CSXT's (ex-B&O) long westward climb to Sand Patch. Some truly wonderful people live there, says Don, and it was just the right place for his getaway caboose.
Locating and selecting a caboose was easy. CSXT had been retiring a number of the cars, and Don needed only to go to Cumberland, Maryland, and pick one out. He did. It was as though he were shopping for an automobile - but with no fancy showroom! He found the car he wanted, and agreed upon a price, but through a mixup the car got sold to someone else before Don could take possession. But there were many others to choose from, so he went back and picked out another one.
The fruition of Don's dream, then, was cupola caboose 903556, which he purchased in June of 1990. The following month he had it moved by truck to a two-acre plot of land he had leased from CSX in Hyndman. It is just off the route of a one-time interchange track that had connected the B&O with a now-abandoned Pennsy line. That's where the caboose sits today, resting on some track reconstructed from rail salvaged from the old interchange, back up against the concrete foundation for a long-ago-removed water tank.
Once the car was spotted, Don began the loving task of restoring it. He had the help of a local painter. It is accurately restored to the smallest detail using the Chessie System paint scheme which Don prefers.
Then, two years later, Don purchased a bay window caboose - 904115 - which CSXT had retired because of wreck damage. Don had seen the car passing through Hyndman en route to Cumberland after it had been damaged. He saw the car as needing a home. He saw this as an opportunity to double his fleet. Now he had two.
Beef stew was still sticking to the inside wall which had been splattered when the car was wrecked. Don has since given the car a good cleaning, but it still has much the same outside appearance as when it was purchased. By summer's end, though, it should sport a fresh coat of paint - also in the Chessie scheme - appropriately accurate to its tenure of service.
Don eventually plans to modify 904115 by replacing some of the seats located next to the track-side windows with a bunk in order that he can watch passing trains from bed at night.
He also plans to install an air-conditioner. This, however, will be on the side away from the mainline, and out of view from the Capitol Limited. What passengers will see is both cars in their authentic, pristine, service-era condition and livery.
Don, whose home is in College Park, Maryland, spends three or four days about every other week at his Hyndman caboose base. There, sharing time with restorative work, and with his many neighbors, he relaxes and enjoys the solitude. He reads, he writes, or he just sits in the cupola or bay window (depending on which car he is in) and reflects, often to the soothing sounds of classical music. It is then that he can let his mind wonder - "in the eighth notch," as he puts it - and "imagine what it would have been like in the old days and of all the experiences the cabooses had."
During the March blizzard he was there - by his own intention - and he spent his time watching the snow blow all around while he sat in the cozy comfort of the cupola of 903556. The winds were so strong he could see and feel the cars sway. That, he said, was genuine relaxation!
Through it all, there is a rather surprising thing that ought to be pointed out...
Don, the Caboose Man, is NOT a Railfan.
"I'm a Railroad ADMIRER," says he . . . "of its history, and the professionalism of the people who operate and maintain the trains and right of way." To be sure, many of his friends from the area are the very railroaders who pass through Hyndman each day.
Another surprise is that Don, for all his love of cabooses, has only once in his life ever ridden one... and that was 20 years ago. He never got to ride in his own cars, either. (But his imagination has done that for him on many, many occasions!)
Don makes it a special point on the days he's there to light the markers so they can be seen from the Capitol Limited, and he always gives a wave to those in the dome car.
So watch for him on your next trip through. If he's there, you will get a wave!
And be sure to wave back!
Photo above .. The Borough of Hyndman recently renamed the road leading to Don's cabooses as Caboose Lane
Photo below .. Tom Cunningham, the mayor of Hyndman, stands next to his ex-B&O Royal Blue observation car 3303 which is parked a few steps from the cabooses. He is a retired B&O railroader and one of Don's closest neighbors.
Still Reporting Weather...
- Don Stewart worked 36 years as a meteorologist - six years with the Army, and 30 years at BWI Airport for the Department of Defense. But he still keeps his hand in it. Those calling the recording for Weather in the Washington, D.C., area might just hear his voice. He is one of several who records forecasts for Bell Atlantic. But with such a kind and gentle voice, one would be hard pressed to hear Don give anything but the most optimistic prediction.
The Cabooses' Legacy (Source: C&O Historical Society from collection of Donald Stewart)...
- 903556, class C-15A, was built of steel construction by AC&F in 1947, originally numbered 90167, rebuilt in 1969 and renumbered 3556, and finally renumbered in 1982 to 903556.
- 904115, class C-27A. was built of steel construction by Fruit Grower Express in 1980 as part of a 160-car order, 66 of which went to the C&O.
24 Hours at Point of Rocks
[By Chris Hash] . . .
After a period of about three decades, the former site of KG Tower at Point of Rocks, Maryland, was once again open for the recording of train movements. The occasion was another 24-hour vigil by members of the Baileys Wye Railroad Club. Earlier vigils at the sites of BY and CX towers in Baltimore have previously been reported upon in the Bull Sheet.
Left to right .. Baileys Wye Railroad Club members Ed Hess, Chris Hash, John Acton, Bob Jacobs and Paul Cockerham
On April 3, 1993, at 0900 hours, members of the club assembled. The first train was eastbound Q378 with four units and 87 cars. Amtrak's eastbound Capitol Limited finally passed at 1030 hours, over an hour late, with three units and 11 cars. (The Capitol Limited usually rates two F40PHs.)
At 1640 hours an unidentified man with camera and tripod in hand proceeded to set up his equipment directly between numbers 1 and 2 tracks. I quickly went over to the man, who was preparing to photograph the station. I politely told him, "I really don't think that this is a good place to set your tripod and camera!" He replied, "It suits me just fine." I then advised him that a train was expected very shortly, and suggested that the safer confines of the eastbound passenger platform, just a few steps away, would work for his photo just as well. His response was a grunt, and a nasty look, and he went to the platform. Then, a couple of minutes later, E107, with CSXT 8701, rounded the curve.
Westbound P029 - also over an hour late - passed at 1819. It had two units and 13 cars, and its delay in Washington had been due to the late arrival of its connection from Florida.
The following morning, at 0732, R349 passed with Conrail units 6045 and 6789, a C40-8 and an SD50. These would be the only foreign freight diesels spotted during the 24-hour period.
The last train to pass was the returning westbound helper units at 0907, although club members remained on the scene until 1000 due to the overnight time change.
Totals for the 24-hour vigil were as follows: 33 trains, 105 units, 2095 cars, one caboose, six Southern Pacific Golden Pig trailers, 22 Garvey Grain cars, and 13 sets of double stacks. The average train would have 3.18 diesels, 63.4 cars, and trains would pass on average every 45 minutes.
At least some portion of the total vigil was attended by the following club members: Paul Cockerham, Chris Hash, Pete Sprusby, John Acton, Tina Thompson, Ed Hess, Joe Shlabotnik, "Railroad Rob" Brzostowski, Allen Brougham, Bob "Telephone Pole" Jacobs, and others.
Also, many thanks are extended to CSXT Baltimore Division Superintendent Bill Minnick for his permission to stage the event.
Railroad Fares - 40 Years Ago vs Now
How much has the cost of passenger train travel risen over the past 40 years?
Probably less than you think...
CSX Launches Coal Business Unit in Cumberland
CSX Transportation has announced it is launching a separate business unit for coal marketing and operations to be based in Cumberland, Maryland. Its territory will include the former B&O and WM lines on the Baltimore Division. Ray Sharp, formerly assistant vice-president of utility coal, has been named general manager of the new unit.
Coca-Cola Constructing Rail-Served Facility in Dorsey, Maryland
Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc., has announced that its sister company, Coca-Cola USA, has decided to join it at its new site at Dorsey, Maryland, to be served by CSXT. According to the CSXT Employee News Service, Coca-Cola USA will incorporate a new syrup production and packaging operation with Coca-Cola Enterprises' planned bottling plant. Construction of the facility is scheduled to begin this summer and be completed by the fall of 1994. When completed, this will be the largest single Coca-Cola facility in the world, and should produce about 3000 cars of new traffic annually for CSXT.
New CSXT Control Point in Service at Buck Lodge, Maryland
Dispatcher-controlled power crossover switches and signals are now in service at Buck Lodge, Maryland, on CSXT's Metropolitan Subdivision. Bi-directional CTC is now in service on the Metropolitan Subdivision between that point and Washington.
CSXT Still Has One Wreck Crane in Active Service
According to CSXT, there is now only one company wreck crane remaining in active service. It is CSXT-991256, currently headquartered in Erwin, Tennessee.
CSXT Opens New Engineering Shop in Baltimore
CSXT opened a new engineering shop facility at Riverside yard in Baltimore on April 16. It is now the headquarters for 40 maintenance of way, electrical and signal employees on the Baltimore Division, replacing a facility located in the basement of the shop building at the B&O Museum.
CSX to Expand Terminal Facility in Jacksonville
CSXT and CSX Intermodal have announced plans for a major expansion of the terminal facility at Jacksonville, Florida. The plans, expected to be completed in two years, call for additional container and trailer ramp space, and an increase in the loading area from 80 to 162 rail cars. There will also be a 1000-foot-long heavy-car repair facility.
Amtrak Extending its Ban on On-Board Smoking to More Trains
Amtrak has announced it will extend its ban on smoking to all trains with origin-to-destination running times of less than four and one-half hours, plus several other trains with slightly longer runs. Smoking will still be permitted in designated areas of long-distance trains.
I don't know if it is news or not, but will try to fill you in on a few things around here...
From what I gather from Amtrak sources, the new GE units (800-845) will include the Auto Train as recipients therefore... as early as early May! This is to allow two units instead of three, also CSX has plenty of experience and facilities along the D.C. to Florida corridor for servicing them.
I was down to the area of the old Brown Street yard here on a recent weekend and what is left is a double track portion of the old SAL main, and a single track, with one siding on the old C&O line to Charlottesville, with two crossover tracks between these two lines... all other tracks have been taken up. What appeared to be an old C&O enginehouse was demolished, and much of the former yard area is now fenced in. Further south on the old ACL line, the switch shanty at Falling Creek (Walmsley Boulevard) was also demolished. Those persons familiar with Richmond will note we should have open for traffic shortly a new overpass over the ex-ACL mainline, with the improvements to Hopkins Road, it will pass over the tracks, at a good location for photography. While not yet finished, it is believed it will have a walkway thereon, as this appears to be a state statute which requires walkways on overpasses and bridges.
The trips mentioned over the Buckingham Branch will use two coaches from the Old Dominion Chapter, which were previously used in NS excursion service, plus two converted flats with railings installed around them, called Moo-1 and Moo-2 as they resemble cattle pens on wheels! At the present, these four cars, plus ex-RF&P loco 101, will comprise the trains.
I have recently, and finally, sent in Collier Yard at Petersburg, Virginia, to Trains Magazine as a "Trains Hot Spot" having previously done this once but had to update it with the CSX changes, and due to the submitted slides being slightly too dark for reproduction. This time everything should be "go" on this.
Four-axle Conrail and GT power has been showing up in South Richmond, at the NS yard here... on service to Richmond from Crewe, Virginia.
I understand that CP Rail will run trains into Manassas, Virginia, for interchange with NS... using rights over Conrail and Amtrak from Perryville, Maryland, south.
I understand from a fellow in Lynchburg that CSX 7812 has been returned to that number (from 1992) having been used by former President Bush in his campaign. While the presidential seals have been removed from the unit, it otherwise is still painted the same, with the large American flag on either side, on the long hood. The unit was seen recently in coal train service at Lynchburg.
- GERRY GROSSHANS
- Richmond, Virginia