THE INTER-MOUNTAIN - A 1937 Baltimore and Ohio Railroad caboose that once graced the back campus of Davis & Elkins College has made its way back to its former home.
The caboose was most recently stationed on area residents Jim and Pat Schoonover’s lawn before being donated to Sid and Sue Gillispie, who worked with college officials to get it on the lawn of the Eshleman Science Center.
“We received the caboose, Sue and I did, from Jim and Pat Schoonover. We were thinking about using the caboose at the (Elkins Depot Welcome Center) area and had some other ideas for the caboose in downtown but those things didn’t work out so we decided to reach out to (D&E Vice President for Student Affairs) Scott (Goddard) to get some ideas,” Sid Gillispie said.
“That caboose originally, back in the day, was in the back campus of the college so I worked with Joyce Allen of J.F. Allen Company and we were trying to think of something to do in the community to make it nice,” he continued.
Gillispie added that through his conversations with Goddard, the idea of turning the caboose into a coffee shop was kicked around.
“(Goddard) was wanting the students at the college to make a coffee shop, maybe have a deck to it and have a place for the students to gather in the middle of campus,” he said. “It was just a great fit.”
Students in the college’s art program are going to be decorating the caboose to make it look authentic to its 1937 style as well as representing the school.
“The college is going to put some nice lettering on the caboose like the old B&O caboose from 1937 and then also Michael Doig (chair, Division of Creative Arts at D&E) and the art students are going to have a design for Davis & Elkins College to be on it,” Gillispie said. “We just think it’s a great fit for the college.”
“J.F. Allen, myself and my family felt it would be nice to have something in the Elkins area that gives it a history of being a railroad town,” Gillispie said. “It’s just a really cool vibe to have an old, cool caboose on campus and it’s a cool place for the students to hang out.”
D&E President Chris Wood stressed the historical significance of the caboose both to the college and the community.
“As an institution founded by a railroad pioneer, it is appropriate that this historic caboose grace a prominent spot on our campus. Our soon-to-be campus coffee shop is a wonderful new addition made possible through the generosity of several special donors,” Wood said. “Davis & Elkins College wishes to thank Jim Schoonover, Sid Gillispie and J.F. Allen Company for their thoughtfulness to return this caboose to our campus to serve as a gathering place for students, faculty, staff, alumni and visitors for many years to come.”
Goddard said that earlier this year he attended the Nelsonville Music Festival, on the campus of Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio, which featured a train boxcar that served as a stage for performers. He added witnessing that event served as inspiration for the possibilities for the caboose on D&E’s campus.
“I had the pleasure of attending the Nelsonville (Ohio) Music Festival this past summer with a friend. A centerpiece of that event is the Boxcar Stage,” Goddard said. “When Sid Gillispie mentioned the idea of the caboose on campus, I went to the Nelsonville Music Festival in my mind’s eye — Caboose Coffeehouse, Caboose Stage, etc. While the details surrounding the new caboose on campus remain hazy, there are definitely ideas circulating and in motion. It’s exciting.”
Gillispie said J.F. Allen Company General Manager Steve Sherrard supplied the pieces of rail for the caboose to sit on and a crew from the company helped place the caboose.