To the delight of some Bowie-area train enthusiasts, the city’s Railroad Museum is receiving a newly restored caboose car that will help preserve the city’s extensive railway history, and unlike the museum’s current caboose, the new car is one that would have actually run through Prince George’s County.
Pam Williams, Bowie’s historic properties manager, said the Railroad Museum’s current caboose is nearly 100-years-old and has long needed replacement. The train piece, which sits on the property outside the museum, was installed to accommodate curious visitors as well as children’s programs and is both rusting and rotting, Williams said.
“It’s falling apart,” Williams said. “It’s reached a point where there is sufficient rust and wood rot and the roof leaks. The simplest thing to do is replace the caboose.”
By early spring, the city will replace the car with a refurbished Chessie system caboose from the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Williams said. Bowie just has to pay the $50,000 renovation cost, she said.
The museum’s current caboose used to run on the Norfolk and Western line, a direct competitor to the Pennsylvania line that ran through Bowie, said Tom Dixon, chief historian at the Virginia-based Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Society. But the new car is from the Chessie system, which consisted of the former B&O and C&O railways and ran trains through parts of Prince George’s County such as Laurel and Hyattsville, Dixon said.
Wayne Sherwin, 80, of Bowie said he worked for the Pennsylvania line for nearly 20 years and thinks it is more authentic for the museum to feature a car from a local line.
“[The railroad museum] is a museum for Bowie and the people who live in Bowie should be able to see a caboose that actually worked in this area,” Sherwin said. “I just think that the most appropriate possible caboose would be a [Pennsylvania line car] but the B&O caboose is much closer to us and a much better caboose for us to have.”
Sherwin, who remembers running trains through Bowie and calling out to his wife on the train’s scanner, said he has collected around 7,000 photograph slides of trains and around 400 railroad books — two of which are his own published work. Sherwin said the railroad is integral to Bowie’s history, and that a caboose from a local system is better than no caboose at all.
“It’s nice to have a caboose,” he said. “For the kids in Bowie, they don’t know any different.”
Charles Siegman, 83, of Bowie is a self-proclaimed lifetime train enthusiast and said he also believes a local caboose would be a better choice for the railroad museum.
“That would be the best, wouldn’t it,” he said. “In principal, there’s no question that that’s better.”
Siegman, who said he has taken several scenic railroad trips in Maryland and Colorado, said he realizes not all Bowie residents are concerned with preserving the city’s railroad history.
“I don’t think many of them know about [the railroad history in Bowie],” he said. “I don’t believe it’s generally well-known by residents. But that’s their business — some people are interested in railroads and some people aren’t.”