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"TACAboose" Moves to Frisco!

FRISCO, TX:  The Little Red Caboose that Keeps on Giving! 

There was a time, not long ago, when the passage of a freight train was punctuated by a caboose and a friendly wave from a railroader.  While cabooses have been relegated to the history books, their lore lives on. 

One caboose in particular has endured to enter a new phase of its life.  Santa Fe Railway #1618 has long been a patron of the arts, if you will.  Now it joins the Musuem of the American Railroad’s collection in Frisco and continues its role as a cultural arts piece. 

The caboose is a recent gift of the Ron Carter Family of Denton who has done an outstanding job of providing for its stewardship for the nearly 50 years following its retirement from service.  The caboose resided on the family’s ranch property, serving as the ultimate play house for kids and grandkids, generating fond memories along the way. 

Its acquisition by the family adds even more richness to the history of the caboose.  The car was a gift of the Santa Fe Railway to The Arts Community Alliance (TACA) in 1969, an organization benefitting the performing arts in North Texas.  The caboose was auctioned as part of TACA’s annual fundraiser which aired on local television.  Prior to the auction, it was painted in TACA colors and displayed outside the station’s broadcast studios for three weeks.   

Santa Fe had a large public relations presence in Dallas during the 1960s.  L. J. Cassell, head of the local office, also served as president of the Dallas Press Club.  The caboose was the Railroad’s gift to the arts community.  John C. Davis, then Vice President of Santa Fe Railway, assisted with the caboose’s televised auction.  The winning bidder was Don Carter, a well-known Dallas businessman and founder of several athletic organizations.  Through Santa Fe’s gift and Mr. Carter’s generosity, the TACA auction earned over $200,000 that year.  The caboose was moved to the Carters’ Denton ranch and became a family favorite.      

The Carter family eventually repainted the caboose in its original Santa Fe red and yellow livery.  Through their care and diligence, ATSF #1618 is now arguably one of the most complete and original examples of cabooses anywhere.  Built in 1927 and weighing 30 tons, the steel caboose with wood interior is complete with a coal-burning stove, bunks, a conductor’s office, and raised cupola for viewing the train. 

After two generations of fond memories, the Carter family decided to donate the caboose to the Museum of the American Railroad to inspire and entertain a new audience.  Following transportation by truck and reassembly, the caboose will soon be featured on walking tours and educational field trips.  It joins the Museum’s Historic Santa Fe Collection, which now numbers 15 pieces.

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