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Caboose arrives at new home

A crane helps lower the Clinchfield 1111 into place at the Unicoi Tourist and Visitor’s Center on Friday, Feb. 28. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

The historic Clinchfield Caboose 1111 has finally come home to Unicoi County.

The caboose, which will be on display at the Town of Unicoi Tourist and Visitor’s Center, was transported to its new home from the CSX railyard in Erwin on Friday, Feb. 28.

According to Town of Unicoi Director of Communications and Programs Ashley Shelton, the move was a success.

“We are so excited. This came together better than expected and we are done an hour ahead of schedule,” Shelton said. “We are very happy. We had one shot at this.”

Town of Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch, who was on hand to watch the transport of the caboose, was very impressed with the crew doing the work.

“This has certainly been a big deal; it was a hard effort and this crew got the caboose moved quickly,” Lynch said. “CSX has been very cooperative and very helpful. Rocky (Hollifield of the Craggy Mountain Line Railroad Museum) and Tyler (Lynch of Lynch Trucks and Equipment) have made this move like clockwork.”

According to Hollifield, the move went smoothly.

“This is what we love to do,” Hollified said. “We have moved several cabooses in the past.”

During a meeting in November, the Town of Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously to accept the donation of the caboose from the Clinchfield Railroad Museum Board of Directors by way of CSX Transportation.

According to Shelton, who spoke with The Erwin Record on Monday, March 2, the estimated cost for materials and moving was originally $9,150.

“The actual cost was $4,140, but we received donations of $1,050, which brought the total cost down to $3,960,” Shelton said. “We had a savings of $5,010 thanks to Rocky Hollifield with Craggy Mountain Line who gave us a 50 percent discount on his services, Lynch’s Truck and Equipment offered their services for free, Lowe’s donated the cross ties, Valerie Haney with Views by Valerie handled still photography and Allen Tweed from Greeneville did aerial video and photography. Both donated their services for this project.

“We have had other anonymous donors and wish to give a big thanks to Martha Erwin and the Clinchfield Railroad Museum for their generous donation of the caboose – none of this would be possible without them.”

Lynch acknowledged that the next phase of the caboose project would be restoring the more than 40-year-old caboose.

“We hope, weather permitting, to start cleaning this caboose and start the restoration process,” Lynch said. “We have had volunteers contact us and we will take all the help we can get.”

According to Shelton, a six-minute, time-lapse video is on the town’s Facebook, website and YouTube pages for the community to enjoy.

“This video depicts the entire move through the day,” Shelton said.

The Town of Unicoi currently has a poll up with what color to paint the caboose. The options are between the classic bright red that would pay homage to pre 1970s Clinchfield cabooses or the original color of the Old 1111, grey with red and yellow striping. If you are interested in voting for the paint scheme of the caboose, you can do so by following the Town of Unicoi on Facebook.

If you are interested in volunteering or donating for the restoration of the caboose, please contact the Town of Unicoi’s Tourist and Visistor’s Center at 735-0517.