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New home for local landmark caboose : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
New home for local landmark caboose
Vintage railcar stood for four decades along Rt. 34 between Oswego, Yorkville

by Tony Scott


A vintage train caboose that served as a local landmark along Route 34 between Yorkville and Oswego has been moved to a private property in Kankakee County.

The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad train caboose sat for more than 40 years in the front yard of the late Sen. Bob Mitchler's home at 7542 Route 34. Mitchler died in April of 2012, and his widow, Helen, now owns the property.

The caboose has been moved to Lake Shannon, a manufactured home recreation community built along a man-made lake in Reddick, Ill., about 15 miles east of Dwight in Kankakee County.

Brendan Meredith, whose family owns the development, said his 81-year-old father wanted the caboose to add to his collection of antiques, and plans on restoring it. Meredith said his father has artifacts related to the early days of the area, including a former mining town called Clark City that was located where Lake Shannon is now.

"Clark City was mostly tents, and some houses where all the underground miners stayed," Meredith said.

One of the Mitchlers' sons, Kurt, said Monday that the caboose was "iconic."

"It's an antiquity, really, and requires constant maintenance," he said. "We realized it wasn't going to get that attention in our hands."

Helen Mitchler said Tuesday that the caboose had been battered by several years of winters.

"It was sitting out in the weather and was getting in bad shape," she said. "We knew it would need repair; windows were breaking and that type of thing. It was a concern."

Helen Mitchler said she remembered going with her husband to purchase the caboose in the late 1960s, after he learned that the old cabooses were being destroyed. Bob Mitchler worked for the CB&Q before joining the U.S. Navy and serving in World War II.

The CB&Q Railroad merged with the Burlington Northern Railroad in 1970.

"(Bob) found out that they were becoming available, otherwise they'd be destroyed or burned up because they were no longer being used," she said. "So we went out to the (railroad) yards, and looked at them and picked one out. And he was so happy, because that was part of his life, you know."

Helen Mitchler remembered her kids and grandkids using the caboose for camping, and it served as entertainment during family picnics.

"They all had their sleeping bags there," she said. "At all the picnics we had, everyone wanted to go in the caboose and see it."

Kurt Mitchler said multiple generations of children and grandchildren used the caboose for sleepovers.

"Three generations of kids enjoyed sleeping overnight in the caboose," he said.

The Mitchlers' other son, John, also had fond memories of the caboose.

"That used to be our clubhouse when we were kids, and we'd have a lot of school friends come over and sleep out there quite a bit," he said.

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