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Century-old red wooden caboose is home in Ellenboro

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Caboose is lowered onto the wheels.

The Clinchfield Carolina and Ohio (CC&O) caboose 1021 came to its new home in Ellenboro from Erwin, Tennessee last month to a crowd of well wishers cheering its arrival.

Neighbors, townspeople, grandparents and children gathered nearby to witness the arrival of the historic caboose.

It was purchased by Ellenboro native Edward McCurry and transported to Ellenboro via large transport trucks, then lifted by a crane and placed onto designated tracks not far from the Ellenboro Depot. (The Depot is under renovation with a grand opening June 1).

The wooden caboose was built in 1920 and served the CC&O and later the Clinchfield on the route from Elkhorn City, Kentucky to Spartanburg, said McCurry, who stood by as the caboose arrived in his hometown. He was seen at times standing on the railroad tracks where modern trains run today, capturing the arrival of his historic caboose.

The 104-year-old caboose is one of the oldest CC&O cabooses that still exists. It passed many times through the Bostic yard, Forest City and Harris on its way to Spartanburg.

Over the next year or so, the caboose will be restored to its originality. When work is completed, it will be open at times for visitors.

"I want it to be as original as possible," he said, adding there is a similar caboose at the NC Train Museum in Spencer. At some point he will travel to Spencer to see exactly how it was built for ideas for refurbishing his caboose.

McCurry said he has been looking for a caboose for several years because he loves old things and especially those with historical significance.

"It just seemed appropriate for a caboose to be in Ellenboro since it is a town that was founded because the Seaboard Air Line came through," he said.

McCurry looked at several cabooses but they were too far away to move or were in such bad shape that restoration would be a major challenge and they had no historic connection to the area.

Rocky Hollifeld who owns Craggy Mountain Railroad in Woodfin had been helping McCurry look for a train and last fall he found one in Erwin, TN.

"I went to look at it and knew that it was the one that I wanted. This caboose was very original inside having the coal stove, water containers and ice box," McCurry said. The seats and access to the cupola were there as when the caboose was in use.

"This part was very important to me in that I wanted a caboose that looked like a caboose when it was in use, not one that had been gutted and made into something else," he said.

There is a lot of work to do on the inside and outside of the caboose. McCurry believes this can be done over the next year or so.

McCurry said when he decided to buy the caboose he had to wait to move it to Ellenboro after the tracks were ready and longer daylight hours were important for the transport and delivery.

"This caboose fit what I wanted in that I was in search of a wooden caboose because they are older and more rare than the metal cabooses. Buying a caboose and moving it to Ellenboro took a lot of planning and "it was expensive" he said.

The move was made possible with Hollifield's expertise.

"There was a large crane and two support trucks to load it. The caboose was loaded on a lowboy and the wheels on a second flatbed truck," he said. From Erwin it was transported via I-26 to Asheville before having to exit to avoid some low underpasses and then back on I-26 to Highway 74 to Ellenboro.

Upon arriving in Ellenboro, a large crane was waiting to unload it onto the railroad bed and tracks. Only minutes before, the train wheels had placed on the tracks, carefully guided by a large crane and Hollifield's crew.

"Thankfully Rocky oversaw all the details in the moving," McCurry continued. "Over the past 30 years he has moved many railcars and cabooses and knows exactly what to do."

The historic 104 year old caboose now has a permanent home near the railroad track in Ellenboro.

"Sitting inside it, you can watch the modern trains go by without having a caboose attached, but in it there can be dreams of those bygone days when a red caboose was where the conductor rode and followed trains wherever they went. I was most fortunate to locate such a special caboose and get it moved to Ellenboro. It will eventually be a small museum to share the history of the CC&O and Clinchfield Railroad," McCurry said.

"If there is any railroad memorabilia out there, I would be interested in obtaining it for this caboose museum," he said.

When the renovation work is completed, the caboose will be open to the public near the area where Rutherford Bound and a host of community partners are leading the restoration of the old cotton gin property.

McCurry, who spent his career at Spartanburg Methodist College teaching physics and physical science, maintained his home in Ellenboro throughout his teaching career and is now enjoying researching local history.

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