is a culmination of efforts by Tom Latonis and the Pana Historical Society.
Over the past six months, the organization has raised funds to move the caboose the 300-plus miles to its destination in Pana. The former owner of the caboose, the William “Butch” Morez family, donated the caboose to the Historical Society before they sold he property where the caboose once stood. “Butch” was a native of Pana and a railroad employee and a collector
of rail memorabilia during his lifetime. He passed away about five years ago.
The Interlocker Tower
was purchased in 1984 by then publisher of the Pana newspaper, the Pana News- Palladium, Tom Phillips.
For numerous years Phillips and his son-in-law, Tom Latonis, tried to find a railroad car to put on the
property, but to no avail. Latonis purchased the
site from Phillips about four years ago and continued
an on-going remodeling
of the tower. In 2019, the lower level was opened
to the public to view the model train layout which for years had been displayed
in the front office of the Pana News-Palladium.
In January of this year, Latonis heard
that Morez’s wife, Tena, might be interested in selling the caboose. After making contact with
her, he made the trek to Indiana to speak to her about the purchase. But Mrs. Morez told him, the caboose was not for sale.
“We had a family meeting and we decided dad’s caboose belonged in his hometown, so, it’s yours,” she told a surprised Latonis.
Upon his return to Pana, Latonis and Keith Cearlock, both members
of the Historical Society, went to work searching for a company which could handle the move to Pana. A few weeks later, Ameritrac submitted a quote to move the caboose. They immediately set out on a fund-raising campaign to collect donations for the project and set a goal of $40,000. This included a Go-Fund-Me campaign on the Internet as well as donations through the Historical Society’s website (panahistoricalsociety.org). Donations – both large and small – began to pour in to the “Move the Caboose Fund.” Individuals, families and businesses alike helped to grow the fund.
After some bid revisions by the moving company, by the end of March, they had raised enough money to place a new 60-foot section of rail on Mar. 22, 2022. The track was laid on the former New York Central Railroad right-of-way
when it ran through Pana. Arrangements were also made to move the caboose.
Because of the abundance of rain this spring, the move was delayed several times because the movers did not want to tear up the property where the 59,000-pound caboose sat. Finally, on Wednesday, June 1, they were able to access the property and remove the caboose.
The caboose and moving crews arrive in Pana during the morning and afternoon of Thursday, June 2 and by 6:00 p.m., the caboose had a new home.