By Kemone Moodley/Special to The News
A call for a contractor has finally been answered and Maple Ridge’s historic caboose will be getting a new roof.
Heritage and locomotive buffs are rejoicing.
After years of uncertainty, and a COVID-19 hiatus, a contractor has finally been found to repair the roof on an historic CP Rail caboose parked at the Maple Ridge Museum & Community Archives, announced executive director Shea Henry.
With repairs and maintenance traditionally handled by Dewdney-Alouette Railway Society (DARS) during the past 31 years, construction and fitting of the roof was identified some time ago as a safety issue that required the right expert for the job — someone who wasn’t afraid to take on the unique challenge this job posed, Henry explained.
Morgan Jensen, owner and contractor at JBS Home Improvement, stepped forward to work with both the museum and DARS, to “roof the caboose.”
“I started thinking that we [could] probably get this done for a reasonable cost, and possibly even no cost to the museum.,” Jensen said.
“And that got me excited, because I love projects like that. And then it just kind of grew from there, and I think this would be a great community project.”
The contractor, who has been working in the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows area during the past 32 years, said he is excited to be preserving such an important part of Maple Ridge’s history.
Donating his time and skills to the project, Jensen has been talking to fellow contractors, roofers, electricians – even the owners of a mill – to help with repairs and costs.
His involvement, which comes after an arduous search for a contractor, is a huge relief for those invested in the caboose, said Henry.
Only just starting to open back up to the public, the suddenness of COVID-19 forced both the museum and DARS to put repairing the caboose on the backburner.
And while DARS and its volunteers have done an amazing job at keeping the railroad car standing, there is no denying that its current tarp covering has been an “eyesore” over the past few years – one easily noticeable by those driving on the Haney Bypass, she elaborated.
Now, with Jensen at the helm of the repairs, both the museum and DARS members are hopeful that the caboose will soon be available to the public, again.
“We’re really excited to be working with [Jensen],” Henry said.
“He’s been a huge help. And he’s huge into community work and community improvement. So, it’s been great, and hopefully we’ll get [the roof] done this season.”
Part of both DARS and the museum’s exterior display, the 80-year-old railroad car is an impressive sight of steel and wood – despite the obvious repairs it needs.
Donated in 1991 by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), the caboose is a staple of the community and highlights a time when railroads and clay mining dominated Maple Ridge, said Henry.
Since its installment next to the museum, the caboose has been used as an interactive exhibit to teach people about the importance of the railway system and how it shaped Canada itself. It has been available for school programs, tours, and community events.
And it’s also had the support of DARS, locomotive fans, and community members who have rallied behind the caboose with donations and volunteers throughout the decades, Henry explained.
It is this support that the museum hopes will continue as they look to restore the train car back to its former glory.
“People are able to actually climb into the caboose and be in that history. To feel it, sit down, to explore – to really have fun with history. So that’s why the caboose is such an amazing and unique tool,” she said.
“The caboose is a historic part of our history because the railroad is such a big part of [Maple Ridge’s] history. In those early settler years, the railroad coming through is really what brought the towns. It’s what brought the people, what brought services, goods, everything through,” Henry elaborated.
“It really centred around the railroad for those early years.”
Which is also something that Jensen agrees with.
“It’s like the CPR was saying [by donating the caboose] that Maple Ridge was an important place and is an important place in their company and for their company. It was a gift from them… and when someone gives us a gift we’re supposed to take care of it and maintain it.”
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