The Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum proudly debuted its replica of the Elkmont Observation Car Saturday September 30, 2023.
The original car was the first purpose-built tourist vehicle for seeing the Smoky Mountains long before the modified jeeps, side-by-side UTV, and three-wheeled motorcycles. While the original vehicle was built from a flatcar in the Townsend railroad shops, the replica was built from a caboose.
The Museum acquired a Louisville and Nashville Railroad “Woody” caboose in the mid 1980’s. The caboose had originally been a boxcar and was modified by the L&N. Time had taken its toll on it and when a windstorm about twenty years ago damaged its roof, museum members decided it was time to rebuild it.
The caboose was moved into the museum’s shop building and work began. It was soon discovered that there was more damage and deterioration than expected causing the project to grow in scope and subsequently, come to a halt. It languished in the shop for many years in a partially disassembled state. Professional estimates on repairs began at $40,000. This was beyond the museum’s financial means, and it was offered for sale or trade without success.
In 2021, Board Member Ed Waigand came up with the idea of converting the caboose into the Elkmont Observation Car replica. The Museum Board enthusiastically agreed, and plans were drawn up and work began. When Waigand left the Board in early 2022, Mark and Janet Snyder assumed responsibility for the project and performed much of the work assisted by Dirk Chandler and Steve Lorren.