Caboose Project

Get Involved! Join us for the Caboose Project!

From the Desk of Museum Collections Manager, Sarah Baylinson

You may have heard, we’re adding our largest artifact yet to the Bowman Museum, the City of Prineville Railway caboose! As with most trains they live a long life before coming to their final stop, our caboose is no exception. The City of Prineville Railway caboose began its life in Sayre, Penn. When it was built for the Lehigh Valley Railroad (LVRR) around 1945. The LVRR was originally built to haul anthracite coal in the mid 19th century and became known as the “Route of the black diamond” because of its cargo. When the company’s founder died in 1879 LVRR was shipping 4.4 million tons of coal annually.

The LVRR survived through economic downfalls and bankruptcies and by 1944 had gross revenues of almost $100 million. Eventually, the highways stretching across America in every direction would be the demise of the LVRR. In its heyday, LVRR built engines, boxcars, and cabooses. The caboose coming to the museum is from phase 2, lot 6 of the Lehigh caboose builds. There were only 45 cabooses built by Lehigh in phase 2, all were in the distinctive Northeast style with a steel cupola.    The cupola style caboose was invented by T.B. Watson when he was forced to use a boxcar as a makeshift caboose.

The boxcar happened to have a hole in the roof that Watson used as a viewing port by stacking boxes up to the roof. Later he asked for the opening to be enclosed with a glass window in front, which became his pilot house.

The position of the cupola varied wildly depending on the rail line’s preference. Conductors could refuse to be assigned a train if the cabooses weren’t turned to face the direction they preferred.

Our Northwest style caboose was originally painted bright red with white handrails and white lettering that read “Route of the Black Diamond.” The phase 2 cabooses were also distinctive for their rain guards over the side windows. The caboose originally numbered LV 95043 was acquired by the City of Prineville Railway and became the COP #201 sometime between the 1960’s and 1970’s. It was then given a fresh coat of COP yellow paint. We look forward to learning more about the life of this artifact, sharing it with the community and hearing your Prineville railroad stories!

Download the Donation Form here and join us for this exciting new project!