The City of Tenino celebrated 150 years of railroad history by unveiling a newly-restored Great Northern Railway caboose originally constructed in 1923 to begin festivities at the first Tenino Railroad Day.
Tenino Mayor Wayne Fournier kicked off the unveiling for around 100 people in front of the Tenino Depot Museum on Saturday morning.
“Tenino Railroad Day is a day in remembrance of an event that occurred 150 years ago, the day that a new and cutting edge technology reached this portion of the Pacific Northwest, changing it forever, bringing new people, cultures and ideas to a historic crossroads used by Indigenous people for generations,” Fournier said.
He provided a brief history of the city, which was originally settled by Scottish and German immigrants. It wasn’t long after they settled that they discovered rich sandstone deposits and began mining the sandstone to construct both Tenino and other surrounding communities.
“In Tenino, we are not afraid of bold ideas and we love the people who step up and meet the challenge and inspire us to take on great things ourselves,” Fournier said.
While the caboose wasn’t originally used on the tracks that run through Tenino, it was used for decades in Washington on the rails around Spokane before it was decommissioned in 1967.
Fournier then introduced the “caboose gurus” Don Bowman, of Olympia, and Jan Wigley, of Centralia: the two men who worked for more than the last two years restoring the Great Northern Railway caboose. The work that went into the restoration included not only custom metal fabrication and lumber work but historical research, engineering, welding, craftsmanship and artistry.
“What they have created is something that will teach for generations and inspire people to make their own bold moves. Don, Jan, the City of Tenino and the people of its community, one which you are now forever a part of, owes you a debt that we could never repay,” Fournier said. “We offer you our thanks and gratitude and you are forever welcome to stay in the caboose if things get rough at home.”
Bowman and Wigley then took the stage to speak before the ribbon-cutting ceremony. They focused on the more than two years of work that went into the restoration.
The caboose was constructed in 1923, meaning virtually all of the original wood had rot or insect damage and many metal components had rusted or been cut off entirely, such as the original ladder rungs.
“I had no idea at the time the involvement it was gonna take, and I was fortunate enough to have a man like Jan to come along after reading an article in a newspaper, wondering whether or not he could give me a hand,” Bowman said. “When he told me he knew which end of a hammer to use and he was a fairly good welder, I said, ‘You’re hired.’”
Bowman thanked the City of Tenino, Fournier and the South Thurston Historical Society for the opportunity to take on the massive restoration.
“Jan and I had a great time reconstructing this caboose as we all wanted our own. This is about as close as we’ll ever get, but we had a lot of fun doing it,” Bowman said.
The Great Northern Railway caboose now sits in front of the Tenino Depot Museum. It is fitting given Tenino’s history is directly tied to the railroads that originally ended there 150 years ago, Tenino City Historian Richard Edwards explained.
“In October of 1872, the Northern Pacific Railroad coming up from Kalama reached the valley of the scattered peaks where they built a temporary depot and named it ‘10-9-0’ and that was our origin,” Edwards said. “We were at the end of the line for a year but then (Northern Pacific) went through some financial restructuring before they then drove the line up to Tacoma.”
The Great Northern Railway caboose can be seen in front of the Tenino Depot Museum located at 399 W. Park Ave.
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