National

Forlorn train cabooses idle, awaiting new life

On a rusty track tangled with vines, nine cabooses wait in a lonely line, dreaming of whistles, conductors and a cross-country chug.

For years now, they've sat parked on a hill overlooking Capital Boulevard, listening to crickets, watching the Wednesday-night shag lessons at Reds of Raleigh across the street.

Once they crossed the Rockies. Now they gather graffiti. Buy one, please, if you have $15,000 and a fondness for oversized obsolescence.

"These are special," said David Thebodo, owner of Rail Merchants International. "I sold one in Atlanta recently and it became an ice cream shop."

Cabooses represent the VHS tapes of the transportation world, a technology deader than Casey Jones. Consider that the crewmen who lived inside burned oil lamps for light and warmed themselves around coal-burning cast-iron stoves bolted to the floor.

They're scarce, almost completely replaced by an impersonal electronic doodad known as a flashing rear-end device. Most likely, the last time you saw a caboose was inside a Little Golden Book, drawn with a toothy smile and nicknamed "Li'l Toot."

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