By Nancy Lindsey
Every depot needs a caboose.
Or you could amend that statement to “every downtown that once had a railroad and a train station, which has been called ‘the depot’ for many years since the last train pulled out of town”—needs a caboose.
That’s what the Stuart Town Council is thinking about, anyway.
Town Manager Terry Tilley told the council May 18 that he and town employees Susan Slate and Billy Gammons have been working on getting a caboose for 10 or 12 years, since the idea was mentioned as part of the downtown revitalization program.
They found cabooses in Roanoke, Georgia and other locations, but the cost of getting one to Stuart was prohibitive, Tilley said.
Now they have found one in Madison, N.C. that is “in real good shape but needs to be repainted,” Tilley said.
Tilley said the potential seller knows a crane company that would bring the caboose to Stuart for $9,400. The cost of the caboose is $13,000.
He said he has been talking with county officials about sharing the cost with the town.
“It sounds like tourism to me,” Town Attorney Chris Corbett said.
Tilley said the concept would be to use the caboose as a visitor center and small park for children, with electronic features telling the story of the Dick and Willie Railroad that used to come through Stuart.
“In addition to getting it here, the question would be where to set it,” Mayor Ray Weiland said.
Tilley said the town parking lot would be a good place, but the caboose would take up too much room needed for business parking.
Another possibility would be to locate it near the kiosk for the Mayo River Rail Trail, which is in the vicinity of the former train station, Tilley said.
It could also be located closer to the trail or near the site of the planned new station for the Stuart Volunteer Fire Department on Commerce Street, he said.
“We’re very interested in getting something like that,” Tilley said.
Vice Mayor Rebecca Adcock pointed out that next year will be the 75th anniversary of the train leaving Stuart in 1942.
Council members also discussed getting some sections of track for placement of the caboose.
“It would be a nice shared project with the county,” Weiland said.
The Dick and Willie went through most of the county, Corbett said, adding that the Patrick County Tourism Advisory Council should see the caboose as a good opportunity to increase tourism.