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Before and after: Railroad museum’s Little Red Caboose gets big restoration

Restoration went ahead thanks to funding from Epiroc Canada and provincial grant

The Northern Ontario Railroad Museum & Heritage Centre in Capreol (NORMHC) is looking forward to the spring of 2021, as it will be the organization’s first opportunity to show off its latest restoration project.

Over the course of the past few months, caboose No. 79231 has undergone a full cosmetic restoration thanks to a donation from Epiroc Canada and a grant from the provincial Rural Economic Development program. The restoration was completed by Lakeshore Construction. 

The unit will be badged as Inco No. 79231, indicative of its time with the local mining company. 

Built in 1967 by Hawker Siddeley, the caboose was originally employed with the Canadian National Railway Company. With the removal of the caboose from regular railway service during the early 1990s, the unit was sold to Inco Ltd. where it was utilized as an auxiliary car primarily to store equipment for re-railing procedures and helped to transport employees to various worksites across Inco’s vast property in the Sudbury region.

Deemed surplus, the caboose was donated to the museum in 1998, where it would eventually be put on display in Prescott Park.

“It was a challenging year for the museum in 2020 with COVID-19 restrictions in place,” said Stu Thomas, president of the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum. “Our visitor season was obviously cut short, but it afforded us the opportunity to move ahead with some critical projects, such as the restoration of the caboose. We are eager to welcome visitors back next spring and share another exciting new exhibit with them.”

This is the second major project that Epiroc Canada has supported at NORMHC, recently assisting with the restoration of a retired hot metal car in 2016. 

“Epiroc is proud to have supported the museum with its efforts to restore caboose No. 79231,” said Sylvie Dumais, Business Controller for Epiroc. “This is another important piece of our local mining history and it allows us to reflect on the mining operations of years’ past.”

This is also the second time in recent history the museum has received funding from the Rural Economic Development program. It contributed to the restoration of a 1907 steam locomotive during the Town of Capreol’s centennial celebrations in 2018.

“This is exciting news for the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum and Heritage Centre,” said France Gélinas, MPP for Nickel Belt.

“The caboose has special ties to Sudbury and surrounding communities and it is so wonderful that future generations will be able to enjoy the rich history brought to life with its restoration.” 

While the caboose had previously been on display for more than a decade, its recent restoration will now allow visitors to tour the inside of the unit and gain a better understanding of the role the caboose played not only during its time with CN, but also with Inco.

“We’ve really grown as an attraction over the past 10 years into a top visitor destination for the region,” added Thomas. 

“The ability to open up the caboose to the public ensures that we have another great exhibit for next year that refreshes the patron experience at NORMHC. We are incredibly appreciative of the support we receive allowing us to preserve and promote our region’s rich mining and railroading heritage.”