Erwin board considers Clinchfield caboose project

Sue Guinn Legg • Oct 14, 2019 at 9:58 PM

ERWIN — The Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen is exploring the cost of rehabilitating and maintaining a Clinchfield Railroad caboose offered to the town for placement near the renovated Clinchfield Depot that serves as the county library.

“It’s something we’ve tried to get for years and years,” Mayor Doris Hensley said in a discussion of the caboose at Monday’s night board meeting.

Hensley told the board the caboose was secured by Martha Erwin, curator of the Unicoi County Heritage and Clinchfield Railroad museums.

According to Hensley, Erwin has offered to pass along the donation to the town and provided information on the $8,250 cost of having it moved from Erwin’s CSX rail yard and placed on rails on a town-owned site located between the library and the neighboring Erwin Skate Park.

According to Hensley, the library would like to use the caboose for children’s programming and Erwin Communications Director Jamie Rice has other town uses in mind.

Town Recorder Glenn Rosenoff said Rice has looked at a similar caboose rehabilitation project in Jonesborough and estimated the cost at between $25,000 and $30,000.

Rather than paying for the renovation, Hensley said the caboose could possibly be renovated by Unicoi County High School Vocational Technical students.

Alderman Mark Lafever said that after seeing a caboose and steam engine on display in another town, he realized the project would also come with the cost of continual maintenance on the caboose.

Lafever said placement of the caboose adjacent to the library would also impact the town’s consideration of constructing restrooms on the site.

The board tabled the discussion on Lafever’s request for time to study the costs further and determine who would be responsible for maintaining the caboose.

In other business Monday, the board gave final reading approval to an ordinance that sets out mandatory drive lane widths and distances for off-street parking areas that Rosenoff said had been requested by developers.

The board also approved an ordinance amendment that will allow the town to participate in an annual safety grant program that this year will be used to place security cameras at the skate park and at The Gathering Place park downtown.