GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — Nearly a year ago, an old freight train station on Third Avenue was little more than an empty building left to decay but now is finally seeing revitalization efforts steam forward with a vintage caboose set on genuine train rail Friday outside of what is expected to become a new train museum.
The last man to turn the key and lock on the station before it was officially closed was former telegrapher Cecil Sargent. He was present to see the laying of the caboose.
“Home,” Sargent said that was how the freight station made him feel. “I was with the railroad for 33 years. I worked at the Kanauga Depot and I’d come down here one day a week. “
Sargent said he would inspect cars as they would come into the freight station while also serving as a railroad telegrapher. He started working with trains in the 50s. Sargent said he had learned how to operate a radio while serving as a radio operator in the military oversees in Germany. Sargent said he felt fortunate to have been a part of the regional railroad’s history.
“We feel great,” said Gallipolis Freight Train Station Museum Board President Jim Love. “I am well satisfied with the progress that we are making. It exceeded my expectations for the first year.”
“I’d have to second that,” said Museum Board Vice President Jerry Davis. “The community response has just been fabulous. We never thought we’d be this far along this year and the caboose is just awesome, beyond words.”
Love first approached Gallipolis City Commission about turning the aging station into a museum in April 2016. According to him, the station was an old freight house and built in 1901 by Hocking Valley, a rail company of the time. The building at the time was considered 115 years old and Love was considered a telegrapher of the building as well. He learned beneath Sargent and Love said the experience made them lifelong friends.
The caboose placed along rail line laid by RJW Construction was used as a station for the train conductor and brakeman to sit on the side of the caboose and look up along the train to see if there was dragging brake rigging or a hot box where bearings might fail and be smoking. Rockmill Machinery Transfer assisted with placing the caboose on the track using a crane. Mike Northup as well as Ohio Valley Bank recently contributed monetary donations to support the museum as it seeks to repair an estimated $25,000 of damage in the station’s roof.
“(The conductor and brakeman) watched for problems on the train,” Love said. “This caboose was built in September of ‘69. It was given to Wheelersburg in ‘82 so it didn’t have much road time from the time it was new to time it was in Wheelersburg Park.”
The caboose was eventually donated by Porter Township around Wheelersburg. Davis at one point had heard the caboose was available to be transferred to interested parties.
“We started asking questions, ” said Love. “We met the criteria to (acquire) it. It had to stay in the state of Ohio, we had to be tax-exempt 501(c)(3), had to be a corporation. We met all the requirements.”
“They were interested in converting the area that the caboose occupied into more park space and were upset that it was falling into disrepair and they didn’t want to see that happen,” said Davis. “I think they were extremely pleased that it was staying in southeastern Ohio as opposed to going out of state. They have been fabulous and have worked with us from the very beginning.”
The museum board plans to bring an engine to the museum site somewhere in the near future. Once the station building has been rehabilitated, the board intends to fill it with railroad artifacts and potentially model train sets.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103. For more on the process of placing the caboose at its new location, find the video at www.mydailytribune.com.