Caboose moves to new home in downtown Red Bay
Visitors and community members alike came together in downtown Red Bay May 4 to watch as Jeremy Funderburk and his team transported a caboose from its temporary location at a trucking company lot just up the road to its new home across the street from the Red Bay Museum.
The lot, next door to the Red Bay Hotel, is also the site of Red Bay’s nearly 120-year-old wooden water tank, which was moved there from a couple blocks away July 29, 2021.
In its original location, next to the railroad and the old Red Bay Depot, the water tank was used to fill steam locomotives.
For Wednesday’s big move, Baxter Crane and Rigging lifted the caboose off a trailer onto a section of railroad rails and crossties formerly prepared for this purpose at the site. It’s all part of a plan for Red Bay to have a railroad park.
Red Bay Museum Curator Scotty Kennedy said this new focal point for Red Bay has been and continues to be a group effort, made possible by individuals, businesses, the Civitan Club and the Red Bay Museum.
“This wouldn’t have been possible without everyone in Red Bay working together,” Kennedy said. “Jeremy Funderburk has really been the backbone behind this. He found the caboose that was donated to the museum.”
Kennedy went on to explain that Funderburk is a contractor for the railroad. He put down the rails and crossties, as well as took care of the shipping.
“I’d like to thank John Holt for moving the caboose from Brandon, Miss., at no charge,” Kennedy added. “It takes a lot of people working together to make all of this happen.”
He said although there are cabooses on display in other towns, Red Bay’s is distinctive, being on exhibit alongside the old wooden water tower.
“It’s been almost a year-long process to get to this second stage of moving the caboose as part of our journey in creating a railroad park,” said Red Bay Mayor Charlene Fancher.
The caboose’s relocation drew plenty of onlookers. Red Bay residents Telford and Alice Hamm were among the crowd of folks watching the move take place.
“I think the development of a railroad park in downtown Red Bay is wonderful,” said Alice Hamm. “I’ve lived in Red Bay 54 years. This will be an important and interesting feature of our community, and it’s a good way to help preserve our history.”
Evelyn Bruce and Joe Williams traveled from Lauderdale County to watch the event unfold. Williams explained he remembers watching movies at Red Bay’s old Bay Theatre that used to be located on the lot.
“I remember when I was growing up in Vina, and I could hear the blowing of the train whistle coming from across the field,” Williams said. “Seeing all this brings back a few memories.”
For Kennedy, it’s an event that’s been eagerly anticipated for some time.
“With help from contributors, the museum bought the lot and deeded it to the city,” explained Kennedy. “The railroad park is a joint effort with the city.”
The caboose is from the Illinois Central Railroad, a railroad line that once ran through Red Bay. It is owned by the museum, a situation made possible through a donation from railroad enthusiast and collector Cameron Guild, of Brandon, Miss.
“John Holt was nice enough to let the caboose sit on his lot since last fall,” said Kennedy. “We greatly appreciate everyone who is contributing to making the railroad park a reality.”
Next stages include work to sandblast and repaint the caboose, as well as further develop the park with landscaping, lighting, signage, a depot and other pieces to complement the park.
“This is another monumental day for Red Bay,” said Fancher. “It’s very exciting to see the stages of development of the railroad park being realized. This is just the beginning, and the best is yet to come.”