Railroad history enthusiasts are invited on Saturday to tour the NX23 caboose adjacent to the Simon Kenton Trail and the Depot Coffee House at 644 Miami St. The caboose (also known as the Marion W. Parks Railroad Educational Center) will be open for touring 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Earth Day, April 30. The hosts/guides will be Ken Davis, Howard Brust and Gary Salzgaber.
The Pennsylvania Railroad built these railroad cars in 1913 and used them as box cars for hauling freight. During WWII, there was a shortage of cabooses, and the war Production Board would not approve the construction of all steel cabooses. The Pennsylvania Railroad converted 75 wooden X23 boxcars into cabooses in 1943 and added windows and doors, one bunk, a booth, a cooking/heating stove, a coal bin and a set of three lockers. The car was reclassified to class NX23. The inside length is 40 feet, the car weight is 30,000 pounds and each set of trucks – which includes two axles and four wheels, a bolster, springs, and smaller parts – is seven tons. There are only four known NX23s left in the United States.
The car was donated to the Champaign County Preservation Alliance by the Marion W. Parks family in 1999. After years of restoration work, the caboose was dedicated and open to the public in October 2007. The car is open to the public several times a year and is available to student classes, senior groups, 4-H groups and scout troops by appointment.
The car is open on Earth Day in conjunction with the Cedar Bog’s Earth Day Celebration, which includes free admission to the Bog, a plant sale, art show and sale, free guided tours and a “Bike to the Bog” bike tour. The bike tour will have the Depot Coffeehouse as a “turn around” point in the 16-mile ride to and from Cedar Bog on the Simon Kenton Trail.
For more information about the car or how to help with the tour, contact Ken Davis, 937-653-8964. “We can use help in answering questions such as places to eat, the nearest restrooms, what type of shops are in town, etc. You don’t have to be knowledgeable about the rail car to volunteer. We just need help directing the crowd,” Davis said.
Information submitted by Champaign County Preservation Alliance.