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Cathy - bringing up the rear 3

Bringing up the rear: Encountering a real caboose

My two grandsons, despite being six years apart in age, both love trains. As a matter of fact, their two sisters do too.

The four of them grew up with Thomas the Train toys, books and movies. Of course their exposure to trains can also be blamed on their father. My son-in-law has always been a train aficionado resulting in a train being the focal point under their Christmas tree.

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I thought their obsession with trains was extreme, until I met my boss and host. His father and grandfather both worked with the railroad so he also suffers from an obsession with trains. In fact, since establishing Mainly Marathons, he uses an antique toy train caboose as a reward.

Most marathon organizations recognize the fast runners by awarding the top racers in their age group, not so with Clint Burleson. Clint recognizes the slowest participant with a caboose for bringing up the rear.

Mr. Burleson recently took his obsession to an all-time new high by locating, purchasing and relocating a Rio Grande caboose to his home in Organ, N.M.

Of course if you are going to own a caboose, you need something to set it on, hence the necessity of a railroad track. The long, arduous hours of laying track was worth it when the caboose finally arrived.

I do not claim to be a train aficionado in the least, however, after this experience, I can honestly say I have learned a lot. For example, the “wheels” the caboose sit on are called trucks. They were placed on the track first, hoisted off the bed of the semi by a crane.

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Once the trucks were secured in place, the crane then hoisted the caboose off the bed of a second semi and placed it on top of the trucks.  And the next thing you know, you have a caboose as a yard ornament.

There are a few things that make this caboose unique. First, it is yellow instead of the traditional red. Next is the graffiti that graces the outside yellow panels. Lastly, the caboose sits right next to our RV. I never dreamed I would wake up in the morning, look out the window and see a caboose as my next door neighbor.

In the three weeks the caboose has been here it has already undergone changes. The graffiti is being covered up with the traditional red of a caboose. The process is slow, but is a labor of love. The rough patches are sanded, patched, and then sanded again before being painted. Eventually, the inside will receive the same tender loving care.

This Wisconsin girl is lucky to be hanging out in Organ, N.M., for the winter. I would have hated to miss this up close and personal experience with a true to size Mainly Marathons caboose.

About Cathy Duesterhoeft

Cathy and her husband, Norm, travel throughout the United States in their Brave Winnebago working for Mainly Marathons. When home in Westfield, Wis., their RV is parked on a gravel pad while they finish construction on their new home. Cathy documents their many adventures on her website at

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