Local company helps clean up historic caboose | VailDaily.com

Local company helps clean up historic caboose

Special to the Enterprise
BluSky Restoration volunteers John Corbin, Lorrie Johnson, Scott Smith and Paul Pareida prepare for the task of cleaning up the Eagle County Historical Society’s 1951 caboose at the museum complex in Eagle.
Photo courtesy Kathy Heicher |

The Eagle County Historical Society’s museum complex at Chambers Park in Eagle is looking a little spiffier these days, thanks to some community outreach by BluSky Restoration of Gypsum.

During a recent first-time visit to the museum complex with his young family, John Corbin, managing director of the local BluSky operation, noted that the historic train caboose his kids were exploring could use some power cleaning. He also spotted some sidewalk cracks that were potentially hazardous.

Corbin thought these projects were a good match for his company, which has a philosophy of giving back to the community. He took the proposal to his employees, and they agreed. The next step was to contact the Eagle County Historical Society to propose a bit of donated restoration work.

“The call came out of the blue and the offer was unbelievably generous,” said ECHS Museum Curator John Bronn. The non-profit Historical Society operates on a modest annual budget, depending on volunteers and revenues generated through book sales, special programs, donations and memberships to keep the museum operating during warm weather months. Finding extra funding for capital projects is a challenge, notes ECHS President Kathy Heicher.

Cabooses were phased out by railroads in the late 1980s. Research by the ECHS has revealed that the faded yellow train car, built in 1951 for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, was originally black. At some point, the D&RG painted the car “aspen gold,” an orang-ish color that fades to a light yellow.

At one time, every train had a caboose that served as crew quarters for the train conductor and brakeman. The men at the back of the train watched for problems with the train cars, and used flags and flares to communicate with the engineer, or to warn other trains about their location. Some cabooses were equipped with cooking equipment and platforms for bedrolls, used when crews traveled overnight.

Eventually, faster trains and improved radio communications and monitoring devices eliminated the need for cabooses. These days, the distinctive train cars can be found primarily at museums. The ECHS acquired the caboose in 1990. It has proven to be a popular attraction, particularly for train-loving children.

The cheerful BluSky crew that brought their cement mixer, cleaning equipment and considerable knowledge to the site included Corbin, Lorrie Johnson, Paul Pereida and Scott Smith. The volunteer work took place over several hot summer days. Corbin says it is a productive form of team building.

BluSky ripped up cracked concrete, added stabilizing rebar, and poured new cement to eliminate hazards along sidewalks. The company used its restoration and cleaning equipment to give the caboose the most thorough cleaning it has had in decades. The Historical Society in turn is now exploring re-painting the aging caboose.

“This (caboose) is a part of our community that deserves to be preserved,” says Corbin.

“We appreciate their community spirit. This would not have happened this year without them,” notes Bronn.

The company’s Gypsum operation has been in business for seven years. BluSky’s parent company, based in Centennial, Colo., is in its 12th year. The company has worked on restoration projects throughout the United States. BluSky restoration is located at 770 Lindbergh Drive in Gypsum and can be reached via the company website at http://www.goblusky.com, or by telephone at 328-2223.

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