Last updated: August 26. 2014 3:23PM - 354 Views
By Travis McMullen Contributing Columnist

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I generally like the people at the Sedalia Heritage Foundation. But nobody gets it right all the time and I don’t know if I agree with their recent initiative. SHF wants to raise thousands of dollars in order to renovate the old pink caboose and they want to physically move it to the Katy Depot, so it can be closer to their headquarters and potentially draw more people to the depot and the east side of Sedalia.

It makes sense, initially — the Katy Depot does still have some decommissioned railroad tracks next to it and the caboose would look highly appropriate perched upon them as if it could begin service tomorrow. And I also understand that because of the Trail’s End project, that space in and around the Missouri State Fairgrounds is going to have a lot of railroad components. What do they need with a caboose down the street when the corner of 16th Street and Limit Avenue is going to have a train engine and an elaborate cattle trail scene?

The entrance for the media lot at the Missouri State Fair is pretty close to the caboose and each time I passed, I couldn’t help but think about it. And it was during one of those passes when I decided I would prefer they didn’t move it to the other side of town. I live on the east side, and I want nothing but good things for it but I think Sedalia as a whole is better with the caboose exactly where it already is.

I think we’ve been approaching this whole caboose thing all wrong. For years, we’ve joked with each other about the need to paint the old caboose. Look, it’s pink for Pete’s sake! Cabooses are red, don’t you know?

The faded pink caboose is a Sedalia landmark because it is pink. We talk about it in its current state more than we ever would if it had a more traditional color. Now I’m not saying we should leave it as is and let time continue to have its way with our caboose but I think what we should do is embrace the pink.

Yes, that’s right: Embrace the Pink! Let’s fix up the caboose and paint it neon pink instead of fire engine red. That’s our caboose — cities all over the country have a caboose or other train component that is roped off and painted exactly like it would be when it was in service. When all the roadside cabooses are red, they probably blur together in the minds of travelers and tourists. That discoloration is history and, apparently, the color Mother Nature prefers. Let’s be the home of the loud, pink caboose!

When we first received the Statue of Liberty from France, it was dull and copper colored. As copper is exposed to the elements, it begins to turn light green. (Verdigris is the official given designation for this color.) They could have invested serious money and resources into making sure that Lady Liberty stayed brown for the rest of her existence but at some point they went, “Well, the green isn’t so bad.” Now the statue’s unique mint green coloration is just as iconic as the statue itself. It’s calming, it’s welcoming, it’s the Statue of Liberty and now we wouldn’t want it any other way.

I think that natives and tourists are probably used to seeing the caboose at this point. Kids, sitting in the back of a car during a trip to the Lake of the Ozarks, put their hands against the window and stare at it in awe, dreaming of distant train adventures and their train set at home. Sedalians head to work, smirking at the pink caboose outwardly but deep down they regard it fondly. Grab a Guberburger at the Wheel-Inn, cruise down Limit and stop and see the caboose.

We live in a time when many families and individuals are just starting to really recover from the recent recession and I could see it being tough to find the donations to raise the funds to restore and move the caboose. Of course, that thing down the street from the caboose proves that relatively large amounts of private money can be raised for the sake of a city landmark. Maybe the iron is hot and begging to be struck.

The only thing we know for sure is that it’s going to take money, a whole lot of spending money. A lot of paint, some patches, a little welding, sanding and cleaning will all be required. It’ll need some surface treatment, at least a couple layers of color and an overcoat to make it last. They make the refurbishing part seem easy and relatively cheap, but I’m not so sure.

And I don’t know if we can even raise enough to get all of it done, much less the additional cost to move the whole thing to the other side of the city. That particular project might be a little too ambitious right now considering the circumstances.

But I won’t have any hard feelings if they do succeed. If you can pull off a project like that with a budget like that then maybe you deserve to pull it off. And now that they own the caboose, it’s only fair that they get to decide where to put it, but it might be hard to get the public to help fund the move.

Do you smile when you catch a glimpse of the caboose? Do you think it would be a boost to Katy Depot tourism?

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