ST. FRANCISVILLE — The old caboose has new purpose.
The iconic orange caboose on Ferdinand Street was rededicated Friday with a small crowd enjoying a brief lesson about the caboose’s history by Cliff Deal, who supervised its restoration.
“This is a great artifact, and it’s doing a good job for you telling an important story about this area,” shared Deal, who said the total restoration project cost less than $35,000 and took a little more than a year to complete. “I hope you appreciate it over the years because it is part of a wonderful and complex part of this parish’s history.”
To restore the ICG 199328, Deal said the caboose was moved forward on its new tracks, then cleaned, the old paint removed, rusted areas repaired, windows fixed, new paint applied and new steps added. New landscaping from Ins and Outs Nursery was provided along with a brick sidewalk by John Thompson. Two signs detailing the caboose’s historical legacy also were placed at either end of the caboose’s walkway.
Mayor Billy D’Aquilla spoke briefly, recognizing the contributions of former alderman Richard Holcomb and former Main Street Director Eleanor Beattie, who were instrumental in bringing the caboose to St. Francisville in 1995. Aldermen Rucker Leake and Susie Tully also were on hand along with Main Street director Laurie Walsh and a handful of local residents.
Commissioned in 1831, the West Feliciana Railroad ran successfully from Bayou Sara to Woodville, Mississippi, until 1888. The railroad was the engine for commerce that the region’s cotton growers needed to deliver their crops to market. Later, it was sold and the line would be consolidated with the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley.
Eventually, it was absorbed by Illinois Central Railroad in 1892, where it remained until 1978, when it was finally retired from service.
Kenwood Kennon, who operates the Shade Tree Inn, remembers watching the train rolling on its tracks in the 1970s.
“From my home, I watched the engine come by as it would go to the mill in Hardwood,” said Kennon. “I’m glad to see the caboose restored so people can understand the significance and history of the railroad to this area.”