Caboose #C356 - FCVRRHS.org French Creek Valley Railroad Historical Society, Meadville, PA 16335

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Caboose #C356

Caboose C356 on long-term loan from the Erie Lackawanna Historical Society, has been fully restored to it's EL livery and is located in the park alongside rte. 322 in Meadville near the east end of the overpass over Meadville Yard. The caboose will be open for tours but no set schedule is set for the rest of the year. Any members interested in volunteering, please contact Carl Timko. Please give a date of preference, so we can plan for the caboose to be open.

          THE FAMILY HISTORY OF CABOOSE C356 (Taken from the Valley Express 2006)
 
    When the merger of the Erie Railroad and the Delaware, Lackawanna & ‘Western Railroad occurred in October 1960, the caboose roster was made up of cupola cabooses, both wood and steel from both railroads, and a group of steel bay-window units from the Erie. The Erie’s last wood cabooses, numbers 04926-04950 and 04951-04975 were built by Magor Car Corp.of New Jersey,starting in 1929. Although the numbers had diminished to a handful by merger time, they were still used in local service.The Lackawanna also had gone to Magor in 1925 for wood cabooses, but only one survived into the merger, number 849.
   The Erie, by 1941, had begun building steel cupola cabooses of their own design,with many of the units using wheel sets from former milk cars. What followed were numbers C170-C221 and C 222-C269.  These cars were set apart from the first group by use of welded car-body construction, instead of riveted, and they rode on boxcar wheel sets. All these cars were built in the railroad’s Dunmore shops, near Scranton, PA.       
    Meanwhile the Lackawanna began in 1948 building a group of steel cupola cabooses, numbers 850-910, at their Keyser Valley shops, using retired steam locomotive tender frames for construction. These cars, at the time of the merget, had number changes by the addition of a "C" in front of the number, a practice of the Erie cabooses, June, 1952 marked the last time the Dunmore shops built a caboose for the Erie, number C300, This was no ordinary caboose, but was a test bed for a new bay-window design the Erie had developed. Collecting comments from the crews helped design the best features for this unit. Finally, in 1953, the Erie went with its design to the International Car Company of Kenton, Ohio for an order for fifty units, numbered C301-C350. Built on milkcar wheelsets, these wete the newest cabooses on the roster, and thus were assigned most mainline train duties for the Erie and the new Erie-Lackawanna Railroad.                        
    The Erie-Lackawanna began to look at replacements for the wood cabooses by the late 1960s, so the railroad placed an order in 1969 with International Car for twenty new bay-window cabooses, numbers C351-C370. With this order came our caboose, C356. These units were the first cabooses on the roster equipped with roller bearing wheel sets. In 1970 the EL returned to International car for the last group 0f cabooses they would ever buy, numbers C371- C380. The most striking difference with these cars was the lack of roof walks and end ladders,the result of an AAR safety ruling of eliminating crew members from walking on the tops of cars.
      
Gallery below shows exterior and interior.

Our caboose, C356, spent it's career working the entire mainline of the EL from Jersey City to Chicago. Delivered in the red car-body scheme, with black roof and yellow handrails, she carried the EL logo and number in white. Then, sometime after August 1973 she came back to the Meadville Car Shops and received a new paint job of maroon,gray and yellow, a reversal of the diesel paint scheme.
  In April, 1976, C356, and the test of the EL roster, was about to see change with the takeover of the railroad by Conrail, re-numbered 21152 in the Conrail fashion, she saw changes during her shopping, including removal of the roof walks and end ladders and replacement of the window glass to bullet-proof type. Once out of the shop she would venture the mainline of Conrail, riding rails never before traveled by C356. Then in 1988 an action by the Erie-Lackawanna Trustees would change the history of this special caboose. Bought by the trustees from Conrail, she would be donated to the Erie-Lackawanna Historical Society and delivered to the Morristown & Erie Railway in Morristown,NJ. There C356 would be restored to her maroon, grey and yellow paint scheme, and see active duty on the M&E.
    When the FCVRRHS reorganized, the new officers received an offer from ELHS for use of C356 for display purposes. After deciding on the site at the lower end of Meadville along the arterial highway, negotiations began.
  Like all stories, this one has a happy ending. The negotiations are complete; the paperwork is signed; and caboose C356 is getting ready to ride the rails again, this time back to her home town and the employees who lovingly took care of her during her life on the Erie’ Lackawanna railway. -    Dennis Mead    
 
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