The Friends of the Railway group a work day on Saturday to get a Prairie Village caboose up to snuff before school tours begin in May.
The group, which holds monthly meetings to plan activities for the locomotives at Prairie Village, also performs repairs and renovation on the train cars. Last year, the group fixed up a turn of the century yellow passenger car, said Laura Palmer, a former Prairie Village board member and a volunteer with the Friends of the Railway. This year, they’ve chosen the caboose as their main project.
Fixing up the caboose will add another attraction to Prairie Village and give attendees a more authentic, in-depth experience, Palmer said.
“It’s all part of a total package. The railroad draws people who are interested in trains and railroads, and specifically that our Engine 29 is the only coal-fired steam locomotive that operates anywhere in South Dakota, so just being able to see that is inspiring,” Palmer said. “And you’ve got the buildings that will draw a lot of people for the history of that timeframe.”
The Saturday work day’s main goal was to get the inside of the caboose painted, Palmer said. The painting needs to be completed before they can move on to other projects, like adding window trim, installing new seating and redoing the floor, ceiling and siding. The caboose also had four new windows put in, Palmer said.
All work is completed by volunteers, and Prairie Village wouldn’t run without their help, Palmer said. Those interested in volunteering don’t have to be train experts; people of all skill levels and age ranges are welcomed, she said. Currently, the main group has volunteers ranging from college students to retirees, along with two pre-teens from Rapid City and Yankton who volunteer as junior conductors in the summer.
“It’s important to involve kids and younger people if we want this to continue,” Palmer said.
Those interested in volunteering can attend Friends of the Railway meetings and work days. For more information, people can contact firstname.lastname@example.org, the group’s official email address.
Palmer became involved in Prairie Village in 2009, and she started working with the Friends of the Railway about six years ago. She has also served on the Prairie Village board of directors. While she didn’t know much about locomotives before joining the Friends of the Railway, she said she felt it was her responsibility to learn more about a key part of the Prairie Village experience.
“I don’t have the knowledge to do the locomotive stuff, and I don’t have the muscle or the knowledge to do some of the woodworking, but I can paint and I can upholster,” Palmer said. “I try to fit in wherever I can.”