Fort Wayne Group Rebuilds Century-Old Wabash Caboose

Wabash Railroad Caboose 2543 at the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society. Photo Courtesy of FWRHS. 

Fort Wayne Group Rebuilds Century-Old Wabash Caboose

By Railfan & Railroad Staff

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society (FWRHS) has completed an extensive rebuild of a historic, century-old Wabash Railroad caboose, one of only two wooden Wabash cabooses in existence.

Wabash 2534 was put on display in Fort Wayne’s Swinney Park in 1957 along with a steam locomotive. In 1984, the caboose and locomotive were moved to FWRHS’ worksite in nearby New Haven. While the caboose was used occasionally, its condition had deteriorated after 60 years of exposure to the elements. In 2018, project manager David “DJ” DePanicis, a school director from Ohio, decided to tackle a restoration. 

What Wabash 2534 looked like prior to its restoration. Photo Courtesy of FWRHS.

With donations from members and the general public, in addition to assistance from the Wabash Railroad Historical Society, DePanicis and a team of over a dozen regular volunteers steadily disassembled and rebuilt the caboose over three years and committed over 5,000 hours to the effort. About 90 percent of the wood structure was replaced with new lumber. 

“We have such a great variety of people at the Society. Whether you have carpentry skills, are just providing general labor, or have just a love of history, our projects are the kind that anyone can lend a hand in, regardless of skills,” DePanicis said. “Restoring a caboose is a lot like building a house with your best friends.”

Caboose 2534 will continue to serve in an educational and entertainment capacity, hosting families aboard the organization’s popular Santa Train and other seasonal events. The caboose’s counterpart, 0-6-0 534, is currently undergoing preparation for a restoration of its own sometime in the future.

This article was posted on: February 3, 2021