Group looks to keep the Renfrew CP Rail caboose on the tracks
RENFREW, ONT. -- A group in the town of Renfrew is working desperately to try and save the landmark Caboose on Highway 60 from being sold as scrap metal.
It’s hard not to see the big yellow CP Rail caboose coming into Renfrew off Highway 17. The train car has been there at the visitor’s centre since 1994, brought in by former late mayor Howie Haramis. But now 27 years later, the caboose is dilapidated and in need of a facelift.
"Well, we would like to get it refurbished on the outside first to make it look a little more presentable," says Doug Sidock, a member of the Save The Caboose Group.
"It’s our deep history. We had three different railroads in Renfrew; the main line Canadian Pacific Railway, we had the Canadian National Railway, and then we had the Kingston and Pembroke."
Sidock is one of a dozen or so members that have come together over the last two weeks to save the caboose, after hearing that Renfrew town council had plans to potentially sell the caboose for $3,500, after maintenance costs were brought up a budget talks.
"I have to say, I picked up my agenda Friday night and I looked at it and I almost fell off my chair," says Councillor Sandi Heins, who has taken on the responsibility of compiling a report on refurbishing the train car, which will be presented in July.
"I just didn’t know it was going to say refurbish, relocate, or remove the caboose," says Heins. "The only costing that the town was able to get was that it would cost $83,000 to $627,000 to paint this little number. Well that’s way over the top and no councillor would agree with that."
After hearing those estimates, Barry Breen, Renfrew resident and old friend to Howie Haramis, rallied together the group to save the caboose.
"It’s a tourist attraction, it’s a memorial for Howie Haramis, and it’s a focal point in Renfrew," says Breen. "The estimates that they’ve come up with are ridiculously high and we think it can be done for peanuts compared to those prices."
This issue behind refurbishing the car is the paint, and if it is lead-based. The group is offering to strip and repaint the caboose themselves over a weekend, but Heins says the job isn’t that simple.
"We do have to follow municipal rules. I mean if there’s lead paint there is some risk there."
Another member of the group, Bob Emond worked for CP Rail for 38 years and says he also owned his own caboose for 25 years.
"I scraped it and painted it by myself," says Emond. "It looked brand new and in no way did I pay anything what people are talking about it would have cost to refurbish."
"I think that it would be a terrible loss if the caboose was gone," says Breen.