(Ease side of Rice in Depot Town)
Ann Arbor News - By Seth Gordon, News Staff Reporter - 2006: When the caboose rolled to its current resting place on the east side of Rice Street on a snowy Valentine's Day 27 years ago, Depot Town was a very different place.
Mirroring the transformation of Depot Town itself, the Depot Town Association is one step away from restoring the caboose to its former glory.
"It's really quite pretty and we want it to look good for the Heritage Festival this year," says Depot Town Association President Gary McKeever. "We had painted it red and it was getting to be pink. Red turns pink in the sun."
Gary and Carolyn McKeever also are being honored as grand marshalls of the Heritage Festival Parade, which will make its way through downtown Ypsilanti starting at 10 a.m. August 19.
McKeever enlisted the help of local railroad enthusiast Dave Wheeler, who tracked down the caboose's history and chose the red-brown paint to match its history as part of the New York Central Railroad.
"That's a 1922 caboose and all those were built in the St. Thomas shops in Ontario," Wheeler explains. "They originally belonged to the Michigan Central Railroad, but the Michigan Central was bought out by the New York Central. That was a typical color for their cars."
The restoration also included repainting the caboose handrails yellow and its wheels black. Radford Roof Repair of Ypsilanti did all of the painting and also installed a new roof.
"It just came from my love of doing historical restoration, expecially when it's in the neighborhood where I grew up," owner Radford Greaves says. "It's a pretty special thing."
The last step of the renovation will be to paint the lettering and logo of the New York central Railroad on the caboose, which Wheeler said will be done sometime in the next two weeks by Cal Sign Co. of Wayne.
The Depot Town Association bought the caboose from and executive at Ford Motor Co., who kept it indoors and on tracks at a Ford property in Melvindale.
"For all those years, it was out of the weather," said association member Tom Dodd, who also pens the group's newsletter, The Depot Town Rag. "We could tell from the carpeting on the floor, that the only piece of furniture in there was a king-size bed, just from where there were indentations on the carpet."
Having formed in 1975 and incorporated two years later, the Depot Town Association didn't have the funds to purchase the caboose outright in 1980, but signed a contract to buy it over time.
"We think it was a great investment because it's our image," McKeever says.
"In face, on the side of the building right next to the caboose is a sign that says "Welcome to Depot Town," and there's a faded caboose in the center up there. We're trying to get someone back up there to repaint the caboose in the sign, because like the caboose itself, it turned pink and faded."