HEYWORTH - More than two years' effort by Heyworth railroad buffs has come to fruition with the placement of a caboose on abandoned tracks north of Main Street.
A small group braved a frigid winter chill to watch the unloading and set up of the 1953 caboose that eventually will house a museum dedicated to preserving the legacy of the railroad in Heyworth.
"I could almost cry," committee member Nancy Beveridge said. "We've worked so hard for this."
Beveridge's late husband Jim, former publisher of the Star, amassed a large collection of Heyworth-related railroad memorabilia that will form the foundation of the museum's display.
Moving a problem
The push to start the museum was begun by Jim Beveridge shortly before his death in May 2003. By August, the committee was formed and was working to secure a caboose to house the museum. Committee members finally purchased a caboose from the Monticello Railway Museum for $1, with the stipulation that it be returned to Monticello in the event it is no longer being used.
Transporting the caboose from Monticello to Heyworth proved a bigger headache than anticipated. After several offers to move went nowhere, Nancy Beveridge called on Syl Keller, general manager of the Monticello museum, to see if he could help.
As it turned out, a duo from Indiana was doing some work for the Monticello museum and offered to haul the caboose to Heyworth and set it up.
"If it weren't for Syl's involvement, we couldn't have done this," Nancy Beveridge said.
Volunteers are set to begin interior work on the caboose, which will include replacing windows, refinishing wood and other work that can be performed during the winter. Exterior work will begin in the spring and will include painting the caboose in the color scheme of the Illinois Central.
The group hopes to have it ready for the village's sesquicentennial celebration in May 2006.
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Just a side job
The move was performed by Ron Schlatter and Doug McGill of Indiana. Schlatter said moving railroad cars is a side job that started when he moved a caboose into his yard and fixed it up as a playhouse for his kids.
"Later, I got a call from the Indiana Transportation System," Schlatter said. "They had 20 cars they needed moved. That's kind of how we got started."
Schlatter, who runs a drainage equipment business, estimates he and McGill have moved 70 to 80 railroad cars over the years.
Schlatter and McGill brought the caboose's wheels in on a flatbed truck and the caboose hitched to a semitrailer with a set of tandem wheels under the back. The flatbed truck was equipped with rails to allow them to tilt the bed and roll the wheels onto the track.
After the wheels were on the track, McGill maneuvered the caboose into place over the tracks and raised it with a pair of large air jacks. Village superintendent Tony Foster used a backhoe to roll the wheels under the caboose until they were correctly aligned, then Schlatter and McGill lowered the caboose onto the wheels.
Railroad spurred growth
The growth of the village was directly influenced by the Illinois Central's decision in the 1850s to locate its main north-south line through land owned by Campbell Wakefield, who is considered to be the founder of Heyworth.
The village grew around the train depot and Lytleville, a town established in the 1830s and located to the northeast of Heyworth, vanished as the railroad passed to the west. Later, the electrified Interurban Transit System also located a line in Heyworth that ran until the ITS was disbanded in the 1950s.
Trains passed through Heyworth daily until the 1980s when Illinois Central abandoned the line north of Heyworth. Today only an occasional train is seen when cars are being loaded at the elevator on the south edge of town, and the tracks through town have been removed except the stretch that now houses the caboose.