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Historic caboose arrives at Carrie Furnace site

Madasyn Czebiniak
| Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016, 9:06 a.m.
Scott Becker (left), executive director of the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Chartiers, watches as a wooden caboose built in 1916 is lowered onto a trailer Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016, for its journey to the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area in Rankin.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Scott Becker (left), executive director of the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Chartiers, watches as a wooden caboose built in 1916 is lowered onto a trailer Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016, for its journey to the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area in Rankin.
The caboose, which was bought in 1953 by coal hauler Unity Railways for use in eastern Allegheny County, arrives Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016, at the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
The caboose, which was bought in 1953 by coal hauler Unity Railways for use in eastern Allegheny County, arrives Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016, at the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area.
A wooden caboose, built in 1916 for the New York Ontario & Western Railroad Co., arrives at the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area Carrie Blast Furnace site in Rankin on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016. The caboose was donated by the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
A wooden caboose, built in 1916 for the New York Ontario & Western Railroad Co., arrives at the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area Carrie Blast Furnace site in Rankin on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016. The caboose was donated by the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum.
Rick Rowlands, historian for the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, stands in front of a wooden caboose after it arrived at the Heritage Area's Carrie Blast Furnace site in Rankin on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016. The caboose, built in 1916 for the New York Ontario & Western Railroad Co., was donated by the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Rick Rowlands, historian for the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, stands in front of a wooden caboose after it arrived at the Heritage Area's Carrie Blast Furnace site in Rankin on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016. The caboose, built in 1916 for the New York Ontario & Western Railroad Co., was donated by the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum.

Cliff Snedeker hitched a chain attached to a long fluorescent yellow line to the underside of an old wooden caboose in Washington County on Wednesday morning.

"Take him up easy," a man said shortly before a 75-ton crane lifted Unity Railway 53A onto a flatbed truck.

"You just got to be really careful and cautious and watch what you're doing," said Snedeker, a driver with Brownlee Trucking of West Middletown who conducted the caboose on the three-hour trip to its new home: the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area in Rankin, site of the Carrie Blast Furnaces.

"It rode nice," Snedeker said when it rolled into the site. "It wasn't too bad."

The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Chartiers has been taking care of the caboose since 1965, having acquired it to give volunteers a place to sleep overnight. Donating the historic end piece to Carrie Furnaces frees up indoor display space at the museum for trolleys.

"We said if we could find a good home for it where they would display it inside and utilize it, that would be the way to go," said Scott R. Becker, the trolley museum's executive director. "We thought this would be an ideal piece for them, and they agreed."

Built in 1916 by the New York Ontario & Western Railroad, the caboose, one of 40 in its class, will be used as a gift shop and a check-in for visitors at the furnaces. Three are still in existence, the museum said.

"It's going to be functional and help us out, but it's also going to be interpretative," said Ronald Baraff, director of historic resources and facilities at Rivers of Steel. "We can tell this story of railroads and coal mining and that interconnectivity. It just seemed like a perfect match."

The Unity Railways Co., a short-line coal hauler in eastern Allegheny County, bought the caboose in 1953. It operated on a line that ran from North Bessemer to the Renton Mine, which produced metallurgical coal for coking, said Dave Hamley, manager of mobile equipment at the trolley museum.

The caboose wouldn't have transported coal to Carrie because it was a blast furnace, not a coking operation. "The coking coal would have gone to some other steel mill somewhere around the Pittsburgh area," Hamley said.

Baraff said the caboose will help tell the story of the region and the impact it has had on the industry of the world because "it is a really fine example of the tools that were being used within this industry. ...

"This region, which was so dominated — and I mean that in a positive way — by industry for over 150 years, has very little left that people can physically see and touch and explore. Carrie Furnaces is really one of the sole pallets left in which to paint this picture. It's incumbent upon us as stewards of this history and of this story to have as many tools available as possible."

Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7822 or mczebiniak@tribweb.com.

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