It all started with Bill Waller's photo of Alaska Railroad caboose 1019 on the alt.binaries.pictures.rail newsgroup in January 2001. Is it real? Or is it an impostor? When it comes to the Alaska Railroad, I can be quite a demon researcher, so I began pulling on a multitude of threads to see what would unravel. As it turns out, number 1019 is located in Titusville, Pennsylvania and is a member of a 21 caboose motel. Additionally, I uncovered another Alaska Railroad caboose 1019 in Wasilla, Alaska. It looked pretty dim for the Titusville 1019, but a visit would make for a nice road trip. The Combs Family Unit (CFU) was excited about the prospect of escaping the home front for a getaway weekend so a date was chosen and reservations were made.
On Saturday October 20, we made a six hour trek through beautiful rolling autumn spattered hills. The travel time should have been much shorter, but after a recent encounter with a North Dakota state trooper, I've been sticking pretty close to the speed limit. But that's another story... Anyway, we arrived in Titusville late that afternoon and quickly located Molly's Mill (restaurant) and Casey's Caboose Stop (motel).
Before we go any further, let me share a little history with you. Titusville is the location of Drake's Well. Here "Col." Edwin Drake struck oil on August 27, 1859 and gave birth to the petroleum industry. Blame Col. Drake the next time you have to change the oil in your vehicle.
Casey's Caboose Stop started in 1994 with cars from Renovo, Pennsylvania. The 21 cabeese were built between 1929 and 1954 and were purchased from Conrail. In a previous life, the cabeese represented Erie Lackawanna, Pennsylvania , New Haven, Reading, New York Central and Lehigh Valley railroads. Each of the 21 renovated cabooses have a bed, air conditioning, cable TV, toilet, shower and outdoor deck. Not bad for $70 a night and plus the opportunity to catch an occasional passing train. Luck was with us as we caught this Oil Creek and Titusville switcher soon after our arrival.
During the check-in process, my wife Terry made an inquiry and discovered the Alaska Railroad caboose was indeed an impostor. One of the two couples that own the business currently live in Eagle River, Alaska and had this caboose painted to represent their residence railroad. After Terry made dinner reservations at Molly's Mill, we rolled into the caboose compound and located our caboose, number 1019. As revealed by this photograph, the accommodations were adequate and the kids loved playing in, on and under the caboose.
I gave my digital camera and voice recorder to the kids and sent them on a recon mission. They photographed cabeese in groups as well as individually and recorded all important information. At our appointed time, we hit the restaurant for good food and a game of checkers. Returning to our caboose, we watched "Honey We Shrunk Ourselves" on the Disney Channel before turning in for the night.
Morning came all to soon. With our showers taken, our bags packed, and the van loaded, we headed to the mill for a free continental breakfast. Before leaving town, we went to the train depot and watched as the Oil Creek and Titusville passenger train departed for a two and a half hour tour. We made a brief train chasing run which yielded at least one decent photo.
While returning home on Interstate 76 West, the ever vigilant railfan saw a magnificent sight at mile marker 25 - a small rail yard for the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad. Several of the locomotives used a very striking blank and orange paint scheme that I immediately fell in love with (sorry, but my digital camera makes the orange look rather pink). There were also two other paint schemes on various locomotives plus a leased unit on site. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to take massive amounts of photos or get some digital video. Maybe next time.
All in all, it was a great trip.