WHITE DEER — Reading Railroad caboose #82896 is in the middle of a makeover. After four months of scraping and painting, Andy Brouse of Lewisburg and volunteers have the rail car’s exterior gleaming yellow and green again as it did about 70 years ago when it was an active member of the rail line.
“We got it this far,” Brouse said, and in the coming months they’ll take the “hotel on wheels” further: cleaning and repainting walls and lockers, replacing windows and cushions, possibly finding an iron stove to take the place of the kerosene stove Conrail insisted cabooses use in the 1970s.
For Brouse, restoring the caboose is a labor of love but also a cause for celebration: this year is the 40th anniversary of the central Pennsylvania chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.
Headquarted in Lewisburg, the local 80-member group owns and maintains what once was the White Deer & Reading Railroad Station, built in 1912. The caboose is one of two on the grounds at the end of the aptly named Depot Road.
But behind the gate is a railroad enthusiast’s wonderland. With the cabooses are about five passenger cars, a chicken boxcar, three hoppers (one of them for coal) and a switch engine. The air has a hint of creosote. There are countless railroad ties, piles of track, some wheels and assemblies, a couple handcars and a lot of ambition to bring these old rail cars back to life.
The rail cars all have seen better days, but just their presence is awe-inspiring. The passenger cars, all from the Pennsylvania Railroad, were built in 1912 — 100 years ago. The chicken coop car, mostly wooden, goes back to about 1920s, Brouse said.
It’s not often to meet such a young train enthusiast, but 19-year-old Brouse caught the railroad bug when he was about 9-years-old, he said, thanks to his dad Reuben “Scott” Brouse, who’s been a club member for years.