Preliminary work on renovations to Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad caboose No. 0576 is chugging along, although actual construction will still be a long time coming.

The caboose is on display in the parking lot at the north end of F Street.

In 2018, the State Historical Fund awarded the city a grant to conduct a Historic Structure Assessment, which was completed by Barbara Darden of Scheuber & Darden Associates LLC and presented to city council April 15.

The assessment report included a history of the caboose, a condition assessment, an analysis of components needed for restoration and a preservation plan.

In a memo to city council, Public Works Director David Lady wrote that the assessment will assist the city in preparing an application for a State Historical Fund grant for restoring the caboose.

The city’s 2019 budget included a line item for $80,000 for caboose restoration, which could potentially be offset by a State Historical Fund grant.

Based on the timeline for applying for the grant, Lady wrote in the memo, work activities will likely be pushed to 2020.

The assessment report recommended completing all the exterior work in one phase before moving to the interior work in a second phase.

The total cost for exterior renovations, phase 1 of the project, is estimated at $279,583, which includes a $51,019 contingency.

The report notes that the estimates should not be considered “all inclusive” and recommends further cost analysis of the project.

Cost estimates for phase 2 (interior work) were not included in the report.

According to the report, average composite construction costs are projected to rise by about 6 percent per year.

The caboose was constructed in 1886. It was removed from service in 1950 and purchased by D&RGW engineer Henry Gill, whose family donated it to the city of Salida in 1954. It was displayed in Centennial Park from 1954 to 2014, when it was moved to the parking lot at the north end of F Street, where it is today.

Former Salida Mayor Jim Dickson, who presided over the caboose’s move to F Street, said he’s really glad to see the renovation project moving forward with the report.

“It’s a wonderful project and I’m really excited about it,” Dickson said.

Earle Kittleman, secretary of the Salida Museum Association board, said he’s happy the city has taken up the project and is looking to move forward.

The museum managed the caboose before it was moved to F Street.

“On behalf of the museum,” Kittleman said, “we’re very happy that the city got this grant and got the report done.”

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