Caboose X101 (the first X101) was built in 1892 at St Cloud, Minnesota. A wreck-related rebuilding in 1897 and again in 1909 resulted in changes to the visual and structural characteristics of the car, but few changes have occurred since then or after retirement in 1935. Conductor Ed Shields of Great Falls retired that year too and asked the company if he could keep the caboose. They obliged him and he used a bull dozer to move the caboose 1.5 miles to his back yard. Fast forward to 1973. Jack Hoover had an opportunity to purchase the X101 and despite its then-deteriorated condition, he acquired it and moved it to his home in Belt. Years of dedicated care transformed it back to its former glory.
Receiving a donation and moving it to the Museum are significant undertakings when the object weighs 33,000 pounds and is located 650 miles from Snoqualmie. The Museum faced similar challenges when Chapel Car 5 Messenger of Peace was donated in 2007 and was able to draw on that experience to plan and execute the move of X101.
Heavy Haul Inc. of Kelso, Washington was selected to move the caboose. (They did an excellent job of transporting the chapel car and specialize in unusual moves including railroad cars.) H & H Crane Service of Great Falls, Montana lifted the caboose and trucks and placed them on the truck for shipping. In Snoqualmie, Imhoff Contractor Crane Service reassembled the caboose on the Museum's rail line. (Imhoff has been involved in a variety of Museum projects including construction of the Train Shed, Conservation and Restoration Center, Bridge 31.3 and with the chapel car move.) With completion of the move, the X101 is sitting on live rail for the first time since 1935.
Jack Hoover was a much beloved man who resided in Belt, Montana, about 20 miles from Great Falls. He was born on April 17, 1923 and lived in the area for his entire 86 years, except for 4 years of military service in WW II. He had strong interests in several fields and was renowned for his collections of guns, railroad memorabilia, western art, books and industrial architecture. Some of his firearms and western art will be perpetuated at the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls; his drover's coach has been preserved at the Minnesota Transportation Museum in St. Paul. A beautiful tribute to his life was detailed by Prairie Mary in her blog here. Mr. Hoover is survived by his wife Karen and daughter Christina, and by countless friends.
The Northwest Railway Museum is honored to have been selected as the recipient of caboose X101 and is incredibly grateful for the family's generosity. The caboose will be placed inside the Train Shed exhibit building in early 2011 and will be placed on public exhibit when that facility opens later in the year. It is a tribute to the late Jack Hoover that the caboose be preserved for this and future generations, and that it be used to interpret the role railroads played in the settlement and development of the Northwest.
Here is a short video of the great caboose move of 2010: