A history of Kosciusko’s little red caboose

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Why is there a little red train car just off the square in downtown Kosciusko?

It’s a reasonable question considering the car isn’t located near the railroad tracks or the old Illinois Central Depot.

There are no signs of dedication or commemoration on/near the car to explain why it is where it is.

Instead, the car just sits quietly on W. Washington Street near the Kosciusko Police Department and the central office for the Kosciusko School District.

The train car is a wood cupola caboose, named for the area located at the top of the car that railroad workers used to survey the track without having to get out of the car itself.

Referencing Louis Salliard’s book “Delta Route,” Ralph Hawkins of Hawkinsrails.net says Kosciusko’s little red caboose was built in 1894. It made its way to Mississippi in 1915 to be used on the Southern Railway, where it was christened SOU X1323.

The Southern Railway was sold in 1920 and reformed into the Columbus and Greenville Railway. The caboose would then come to be known as Columbus and Greenville #506 (C&G 506).

C&G 506 and other cabooses like it were used on the railroad into the late 1960s.

After they were retired, many of the trains cars sat in rail yards and abandoned tracks throughout the state into the early 1970s (Pictured left).

In the early 1980s, Kosciusko businessman William “Bill” Stewart found the Kosciusko caboose on an abandoned sidetrack near Oxford. He bought the car for $2,000 and had it shipped to Kosciusko on a lowboy trailer.

Before it arrived in Kosciusko, Stewart and his brother Dean set out to create a place to house the train car. The brothers wanted it to have a natural setting, so they built the trestle and platform that the car still sits on today.

Charles Stewart, Bill’s son, says great effort was taken to get the car placed on this newly built platform.

“A large crane came in to remove the caboose from the trailer, at which time the city made arrangements to remove some utility wires that were in the way,” said Stewart. “Fortunately, the caboose settled right on the trestle, which had been outfitted with regulation track, and was secured in place. Much rehab was required to sturdy the wooden structure of the caboose and make sure the trucks, as sets of rail wheels are called, were fastened well to avoid mishaps.”

Once the caboose was in place, it was wired with electricity, given an address (202 W. Washington St) and rented to a tax firm.

Several other tenants would occupy the caboose during its heyday.

The City of Kosciusko took possession of the caboose in 2015. Work was then completed on the western side of the car to repair the damaged wood and peeling paint.

Kosciusko Mayor Jimmy Cockroft says the city has discussed adding signage to the train car at some point in the future.

Other cabooses from the Columbus and Greenville Railway can be seen on display in Columbus, Greenwood, and Winona.

Special thanks to Charles Stewart and the Stewart Family, Darren Milner, Jewette Battles, and Ralph and John Hawkins of Hawkinsrails.net for their contributions to this article.

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