LACONIA — After sitting on a sidetrack alongside Pitman's Freight Room for 16 years, the caboose, long retired from the Maine Central Railroad, was moved yesterday to a nearby, short-stretch of track laid by Richard Mitchell, the owner of the entertainment venue.
The caboose, weighing 69,000 pounds (345 tons) and stretching 49 feet from coupling to coupling, was lifted off one set of rails, jockeyed into position, gently set on the other track and winched into place by two towing companies — John's Wrecker Service of Concord and Coady's Towing of Lawrence, Massachusetts — working in tandem in a confined space. Each firm operated a wrecking truck fitted with a rotating crane capable of lifting 75 tons. "It was like mutual aid between Fire Departments," remarked John Dapergolas of John's Wrecker Service.
Mitchell has dubbed the caboose "The A Train" after Duke Ellington's classic to echo the character of Pitman's Freight Room as a popular jazz venue. He said that he intends to paint it red and renovate its interior then use it for small events, mainly private events, like birthday parties and wedding receptions.
The caboose was moved at the insistence of the Bureau of Rail & Transit of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, which for the past 11 years had overlooked its presence on the state-owned railroad track without a required lease. The bureau was prodded to act by David Gammon, who with his sister owns the abutting property. The two buildings are attached by a brick wall that serves as the lot line dividing the properties. Where the two lots meet, the sidetrack runs to the rear of Gammon's lot, ending at the corner of his property where the caboose has been parked within two feet of his building since 1999.
Off and on since the caboose appeared Gammon has pestered the bureau. In 2004 he reminded the bureau that Mitchell's lease of the sidetrack had expired to no effect and in February renewed his efforts to have the caboose moved. In April Shelley Winters, administrator of the bureau wrote to Mitchell, reminding him that in July 2004 he was informed that his lease of the sidetrack had expired and directing him to remove the caboose from it. Subsequently Winters asked the Belknap County Superior Court to order Mitchell to move the caboose.
"If it weren't for his wizardry, I never would have dreamed of this," Mitchell remarked of Gammon while he gazed at his caboose sitting comfortably and legally on its own track, just a few yards from the old one.
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