By Tom Ferrall
Staff Writer 

Caboose lands in Fallbrook


Last updated 6/23/2018 at 4:15pm

Andrew Weldy photo

A Santa Fe caboose takes flight – courtesy of Bragg Crane and Rigging – in downtown Fallbrook, June 14. The caboose landed safely at its new residence – just northwest of the intersection of Main Avenue and Elder Street – where it will serve as the main attraction of the new Fallbrook Railroad Heritage Park.

Approximately a month later than Fallbrook Village Association members had planned – thanks to San Diego County permitting processes related to traffic engineered plans – a Santa Fe caboose landed in downtown Fallbrook, June 14.

The caboose's arrival at the intersection of Main Avenue and Elder Street signified the completion of phase one of the new Fallbrook Railroad Heritage Park, a pocket park designed to showcase the town's rich railroad history and attract both locals and tourists to downtown.

"It feels like we accomplished something, so it's a good feeling," FVA President Roy Moosa said moments after watching the caboose being hoisted into place by a giant crane from Bragg Crane and Rigging. "Hopefully it benefits the town."

The arrival of the caboose attracted a large gathering of both community leaders and generations of Fallbrook families. The caboose was transported from Barstow to Fallbrook the night of June 13 and spent the night at Interstate 15 and South Mission Road. It arrived fashionably late to Main and Elder, prompting jokes – "the train's late again."

People – most armed with cameras – began assembling at the intersection prior to 10 a.m. The crew from Bragg Crane put the crane in position at 10:40 a.m. and readied it for its heavy-lifting assignment.

"The whole thing overall weighs 59,990 pounds," Michael Stamper of Bragg Crane said. "First you put the bogies (four-wheeled trucks that provide support for the caboose) down and then you put the car on top of the bogies."

Stamper said Bragg Crane of Long Beach has a long history with trains.

"We've had a lot of contracts with Southern Pacific over the years," Stamper said. "We've done locomotives; we've done a lot of derailed cars and lifted a lot of antique stuff for them. When the locomotives get off the track, they call us and we go put them back."

The crane, working smoothly and efficiently under the direction of its operator, placed the first of the two bogies onto a l39-foot track panel – positioned just northwest of the intersection – at 11:43 a.m. and the second at 11:48 a.m.

The truck carrying the caboose moved into position at 11:56 a.m., and the crew from Bragg Crane went to work rigging it up. The caboose was lifted into the air at 12:14 p.m. and landed safely on the tracks at 12:18 p.m., prompting applause from the spectators.

"This is pretty exciting," said Fallbrook native Paul Brydon, who brought his whole family out for the event. "This is one of those big Fallbrook moments that you don't get to experience very often, so it's exciting to come out and see a part of Fallbrook's history being placed in the middle of town."

Brydon's 7-year-old son Austin didn't hesitate when asked what he was most excited about seeing.

"The crane," Austin said.

Some people viewed the festivities from the balcony of Restaurante El Meson, located across the street. El Meson owner Ellie Martinez watched the action while simultaneously serving customers.

"I'm really excited about this event," Martinez said. "I think everybody is. You can see – people have really big smiles on their faces, and that's a great thing. This a nice, new attraction to downtown Fallbrook, so hopefully this will bring new people here. That's what we need. I think everybody that's a business owner really appreciates this."

Lila MacDonald, CEO of the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce, joked that it was nice of the FVA to honor her.

"Thirty years ago today I graduated from high school, so it's nice of them to put a train in," MacDonald said with a laugh.

MacDonald then described the event as "truly epic."

"We just made history in Fallbrook," MacDonald said. "It's super exciting, it actually brings tears to my eyes. It will bring a lot of traffic downtown, and that's the exciting thing. People will see it and hopefully stop and check out the caboose and then shop the stores and check out what else Main Street has to offer."

Jason Springston of FVA is one of the key players behind the Railroad Heritage Park, and he celebrated the arrival of the caboose with his family. Springston said the concept for the park originated "a little more than a year ago."

"It (the project) has moved right along," Springston said. "If you get something the community really supports and falls in love with, it moves a lot quicker than some of the other projects that we've done. I told my son, you'll remember when this thing was placed, and hopefully it will still be there where you're an old man and telling people the story."

The Railroad Heritage Park project is being funded by donations, and FVA board member Jerri Patchett was passing the hat at the caboose event while informing people of phase two of the park.

"Phase two is going to cost $130,000," said Patchett, who collected $5,150 in a little more than two hours. "That will include building a replica train station here on the property where all of the history will be showcased. It includes fencing, bringing it all up to grade, irrigation, landscaping and lighting. This all cost money, but we're going to do it right. It's going to be something that Fallbrook is going to be very proud of, and if everybody in the community gave us $5, we would be able to reach our $130,000 goal."

To donate to the Fallbrook Railroad Heritage Park project, write a check payable to Fallbrook Village Association – a nonprofit – and mail it to FVA, P.O. Box 2438, Fallbrook, CA 92088.

Julie Reeder photo

The Santa Fe caboose makes a rest stop at Interstate 15 and South Mission Road during its road trip from Barstow to Fallbrook. Enjoying some time on the caboose are, from top left to right, Noah Jordan and Aaron Reed, and bottom left to right, Paige Fitzgibbons and Tristan Reed. The kids' fathers work for A & D Logistics, a heavy haul transportation company.


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