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The little train that couldn't find a home

The owner needs to move it. The city thought about buying it. No one has bid on it on eBay.

By JODIE TILLMAN
Published January 31, 2007


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NEW PORT RICHEY - Caboose No. 12408 was a lonesome red railcar from Missouri, a 30-year track traveler that retired in 1982 and ended up a boutique.

Just over a year ago, people got to thinking about No. 12408, which had since become a vacant box just off Seven Springs Boulevard. Maybe it still had a place in the railroad world, at least in the one imagined for downtown New Port Richey: Could No. 12408 be the centerpiece of the proposed Railroad Square streetscaping project?

But that idea tanked recently, over timing and money, and No. 12408 has hit a modern-day highway. It's on eBay, the Internet auction block, and it's yours for $20,000.

The auction concludes at 3:30 p.m. today. As of Tuesday evening, no one had made a bid.

The Missouri Pacific caboose, built in 1950, is owned by downtown landlord Mike Ryan.

Ryan had talked about selling the caboose to the city as it planned its streetscaping project, which aims to celebrate the city's railroad heyday in the 1920s and 1930s.

Sticklers for historical accuracy, take note: The nearly 57-year-old No. 12408 would have been a little young for the part.

But Railroad Square chugged along slowly, with the city not yet in the engineering stage. And Ryan needed to get rid of the caboose quickly, because he is selling the property on Seven Springs where it sits, said Mayor Dan Tipton.

Ryan, who did not return a phone message, asked the City Council members at a recent meeting if they'd be interested in buying it for $20,000.

But the city doesn't have anywhere to put the caboose while the project gets underway, said Tipton, meaning it would have to pay to move it at least twice: once into storage, then again to the finished Railroad Square.

Tipton said Ryan told them the cost of moving the caboose from Seven Springs to the downtown would be $10,000.

"I don't think it was the (sale) price," that soured the city's interest, Tipton said. "I think it's the timing."

Deputy Mayor Marilynn deChant said, however, the sales price was an issue for her. Residents are having problems paying their property taxes and insurance, she said.

"As much as I think that caboose would be fun for the downtown ... I'm afraid it would come under the category of frivolous spending," she said.

And so No. 12408 has waited on the Internet for nearly seven days. The city will be on the lookout for another caboose, said Tipton, or maybe an engine.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at (727) 869-6247 or jtillman@sptimes.com.

[Last modified January 30, 2007, 23:16:04]


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