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Unpopular repaint of Sicamous caboose sparks push to restore piece of local history

Community group takes on task of restoring donated CP rail car
After being painted white by the District of Sicamous, a community-driven effort is underway to restore the yellow facade, logo and other markings of a CP Rail caboose donated by CP to the district in 2004. (Andrea Horton - Eagle Valley News)

The Sicamous caboose has become a rallying point for residents keen to preserve a piece of local history.

In 2004, CP Rail donated caboose number 434731 to the District of Sicamous.

According the district’s 2005 corporate report, the rail car was “sandblasted and repainted and vandal proof windows were installed.”

The yellow caboose was put on display by the entrance to Finlayson Park, where it has been a community attraction since.

Recently, the old rail car was painted white, including all identifying marks from when it belonged to CP.

This prompted resident Cori Miller to ask on a Sicamous Facebook page if anyone else was confused “why the district would put their cover wrap logo over top on such a historical piece…”

“This old CP Rail caboose is such an amazing piece of history why would our district want to change this instead of leave it as it is,” said Miller, noting she had family roots with CP.

The post sparked numerous comments directed towards the District of Sicamous, which painted the car.

Though the district didn’t respond, Deb Heap, chair of Sicamous’ Communities in Bloom committee, did.

“Blame me instead of council and staff,” commented Heap. “The caboose looked sad with rust and mismatched paint.

“I spoke to CP and they were not willing to help with the restoration and they estimated it would be about $40,000.

“I talked to the museum and they are looking at grants for restoration but it will take a few years.”

Heap said the caboose was painted white in preparation for it to receive a wrap promoting the district.

She was concerned with the caboose’s state and appearance, and included it in plans she brought forward to the district at the beginning of the year.

“It was certainly me that brought it forward and it was part of my plan for the coming year for council and I guess they liked it,” said Heap, stressing she is not in any way against preserving local history, and recognizes the community has strong ties to the railway and CP.

Read more: Volunteer spends hundreds of hours restoring piece of railway history

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“I’m very interested in history and, on a purely selfish standpoint, Communities in Bloom has a historical component that I would actually like to rank higher in.

“But that means being respectful of the historical things we have in our town and not letting them deteriorate to the point where they look embarrassing.”

Heap said she would like to see a plaque made up acknowledging the donation of the caboose.

Miller and Tia Ciseralla-Lemieux have banned together to form a committee or society to restore the caboose.

Ciseralla-Lemieux said she’s been told by Mayor Terry Rysz the district has halted its plans to wrap the caboose. She is optimistic funding opportunities can be found to support the restoration.

“There are all kinds of ways we can raise some money for it, to do it properly,” said Ciseralla-Lemieux, who thinks the district should be respectful to CP for the donation.

“Why couldn’t there been a little bit of a different approach, just maintain it instead of going to that,” continued Ciseralla-Lemieux.

“Even a wrap. I don’t know what a wrap costs but that’s got to cost some money.”

In a more recent Facebook post Miller urged, “Enough of the blame game let’s show community efforts and support the save the caboose committee.”