If you have a train enthusiast in your life, Melvern, Kansas, is the place to be. Off the main street in Melvern, is located on Kansas 31 highway four miles north of Interstate 35 (exit 160) and three miles east of US 75.
The caboose is located in Melvern Railroad Park, where you’ll also find the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Pratt Truss Bridge, which was built in 1909 to carry vehicular traffic over the hand dug cut.
In 2013, the caboose was donated to the Railroad Park by a Topeka couple, Gary and Marcia Ross. Melvern searched for 10 years for a caboose to add to their park. According to an article by the Osage County Herald-Chronicle, a member of the Melvern PRIDE Committee,Larry Salisbury, spotted the caboose off of Interstate 70, west of Topeka. The committee approached the couple and were informed they would donate it to the park.
The caboose was built in 1979 and valued at $10,000. It was moved to Melvern on Oct. 2 . Relocation and installation work was donated by Criqui Construction, of Melvern.
The caboose sits next to a platform that was built for people to view the trains going by — a fitting addition to the park.
Inside the caboose are a few chairs, a sink and a refrigerator. Writing on the walls still give instructions the former crew had to adhere to: “nothing should be put in toilet other than human waste and toilet paper” and “use crushed or cubed ice only” to keep things cold in the refrigerator. The crank on the paper towel holder still turns.
A quick history lesson: the use of cabooses goes back to the 1830s when railroads housed trainmen in shanties built onto boxcars or flatcars, according to an article on the Union Pacific’s website. According to the article: “the caboose served several functions, one of which was as an office for the conductor. A printed “waybill” followed every freight car from its origin to destination, and the conductor kept the paperwork in the caboose. The caboose also carried a brakeman and a flagman. In the days before automatic air brakes, the engineer signaled the caboose with his whistle when he wanted to slow down or stop.”
Today cabooses have been largely replaced by technology, automatic air brakes, which took away the need for manual brakes. “End of Train” devices are installed today to monitor whether the end of the train is moving.
It’s places like Melvern’s Railroad Park that keeps the cabooses alive. Melvern’s little caboose transforms visitors to the days when it still traveled the rails and the rhythm of the train can almost still be felt as it glided down the track. Melvern is a small town with lots to offer in addition to the train including a cafe, a skateboard park and a nice playground which includes facilities.
So, if you’re a train lover, this is the small town to swing into and spend a few moments. Here is a link to the city’s website, where you can also find information about the community and all it has to offer.