WEST JEFFERSON-The train – or at least a portion of it – could be returning to West Jefferson in the near future.
A local group is raising funds to purchase and transport a caboose that once called the rails of the former Norfolk & Western home.
“We have a signed contract with the current owners, Bart Long & Associates, Bristol TN, to complete the purchase in 60 days (by 13 May) and deliver to West Jefferson by the end of June,” according to a press release issued by the West Jefferson Business Association.
Built in 1969, the caboose was retired after a quarter century of service in 1994. Its current owners purchased the rig in 2006 and moved it to Bristol, TN, according to the release.
“Due to technological advances, most railroads in the US quit using cabooses in the late 1970s and except for those in private hands, the vast majority of them were scrapped in the ensuing years,” according to the release. “Like the steam locomotives, this caboose, No. 518 644, represents a piece of railroad history that is gone. During its years of service, it likely made it to West Jefferson as it is said to have been used on virtually every mile of track serviced by N&W during that period.”
But the WJBA said it needs community assistance to bring the caboose to town.
“We have a very short time period in which to raise the money to bring this caboose to Ashe County,” according to the release. “Funds will be needed to purchase the caboose ($16,500) transport it to West Jefferson, prepare the site of display, repaint the exterior, and restore the inside of the caboose to its original condition (an additional $13,500 estimated for all but purchase of the caboose).”
The group hopes to raise the necessary money by May 13, and said the Ashe County Historical Society will act as the holder of the money raised to enable the project.
“During its time in Bristol, Virginia, the present owner indicated that there were frequent visitors who came to town to just to view the caboose,” according to the release. “While most were train enthusiasts, there were also many who came just to have their photo taken on or in front of the train. The caboose will be one more attraction for West Jefferson that will generate interest and another reason to visit our quaint and vibrant town. It will be a constant symbol of the origins of West Jefferson and will serve to celebrate the 60 plus years that the Virginia Creeper Railway was part of the town history.”
To support the project, send checks to the Ashe County Historical Society, P.O. Box 1361, Jefferson, NC 28640 and indicate the monies are for the WJ Caboose. Alternatively, you can drop a check made out to the Ashe County Historical Society at the Hotel Tavern or Carolina Country Wines.
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058.