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Relic caboose gets new home
Railroad artifact has been filmed with Clint Eastwood and Brad Pitt
reprinted from Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley) May 21, 2013

Beskowiney CNor caboose Advocate photo
Ernie Beskowiney watches as his historic caboose is carefully lowered into place on its wheels at his farm near Eckville on Saturday. Simon Pollock, of Hammer Head Oilfield Services Inc. is guiding the caboose, which was transported from Big Valley and lifted onto its tracks by Sharpie's Picker Service, of Red Deer.

Photo by Paul Cowley,
Red Deer Advocate


A century-old relic of Canadian rail history was hoisted up and gently swung into place at its new resting place on a farm near Eckville on Saturday.

Once known simply as #78366, the caboose is now the prized possession of Ernie Beskowiney, who plans to turn it into the control booth for a scale rideable railroad he has envisioned for his land a few kilometres southeast of Eckville.

The caboose was donated to him by the Canadian Northern Society, which is dedicated to preserving Prairies railroad history and oversees railway stations sites at Big Valley, Meeting Creek and Camrose.

For years, it sat next to the Big Valley station. But time and the elements have taken their toll, and the caboose was donated to Beskowiney, who plans to undertake a full restoration and make it the centrepiece of his miniature railroad.

His caboose comes with a movie star pedigree. It was seen in the Clint Eastwood Oscar winning Unforgiven among a number of big screen appearances. Brad Pitt was also filmed in it.

"I've been looking for years for something," Beskowiney said, shortly after his new acquisition was lowered onto its wheels on a short piece of track he had put in place to receive it just a stone's throw from his home.

"One day I was told the caboose was mine."

He wanted to make a donation to the society, but they wouldn't take his money, he said.

The society was just happy that it went to someone with both the enthusiasm and the restoration know-how to restore the caboose to its former Canadian National Railway glory.

Beskowiney was trained as a journeyman and has been involved in a number of ventures including owning his own business manufacturing precision downhole measuring instruments.

As a hobby, he became an expert automobile restorer taking top prizes at car shows, before turning his attention to creating scale steam engines fit for a seven-inch (38 cm) wide track.

He is currently building multiple versions of the 6060 series U1F Mountain type 4-8-2 locomotive that is operated by the Rocky Mountain Rail Society out of Stettler. It was one of the engines used on the popular train trips offered through Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions.

He has recently been working with the society on the full-size 6060, which is in need of some repair work.

The caboose was built by Canadian Car and Foundry, a Montreal-based company formed in 1897.

It manufactured rail cars out of Montreal and Amherst, N.S. and Beskowiney's was made sometime between 1910 and 1913.

In 1942, it was refitted as a caboose and served for several more decades. At one point, it wound up in a siding in Jasper as an exhibit before being moved to Big Valley.

Beskowiney estimates restoring the caboose will be a two- to three-year project. All of the original wood siding, which has rotted and the red paint has faded and peeled, needs to be replaced.

The interior remains in good shape, right down to its original potbelly stove.

Once restored, he hopes to build a shelter above it to protect it from the elements.

His long-term plan is to lay out 1,500 metres of track and to give the public rides on the miniature train similar to those found in amusement parks.

Two big fundraising events would be held each year to benefit Alberta's two children's hospitals.

Outside those events, the site will be open to the public on a drop-in basis and for educational purposes.

He expects to begin laying track this summer and hopes to have the railroad open in three years.

       News article: Big Valley station banks on restored roof (Stettler Independent Apr.2013)
       News article: Trains still roll for some (Red Deer Advocate Nov.2012)
       Blog: Big Valley Canadian Northern Station Celebrates 100 Years
(RETROactive Sept.2012)
       News article: Back yard model railway track okayed (Red Deer Advocate Aug.2012)
       Feature article: 6060 turns 66
(Red Deer Express Sept.2010)
       News article: A work in two golden ages: Ernie Beskowiney (Red Deer Advocate July 2010)
       News article: Stettler group wants to convert grain elevator into museum
(Red Deer Advocate May 2010)
       News article: New exhibits call Historical Village home (Innisfail Province May 2010)
       News article: 'Sleeper' village grand opening set
(Red Deer Advocate May 2010)

Canadian Northern Railway in Central Alberta (CNR) - Camrose to Drumheller
Canadian Northern Western Railway Brazeau sub (CNR) - Mirror to Red Deer and Nordegg

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