The X-5 WI&M Wood Caboose


The X5 is a wood-sided caboose typical of early 20th century railroads.  The X5 was built in 1907 for the Northern Pacific Railroad, and later became part of the rolling stock of the Washington, Idaho & Montana Railway, a short-line railroad which served the white pine lumber industry in northern Idaho.

The WI&M sold the X5 in the late 1960’s to the mother of Connie Rambo, of Farmington, WA.  Connie’s husband, Gene, moved the X5 onto their property.  The caboose remained essentially intact, except for Gene’s addition of an electrical panel to power AC lighting and his mother-in-law’s ceramics oven.

Gene Rambo first learned of the WI&M History Preservation Group (HPG) by attending a presentation of WI&M history given by HPG founder Jim West at the Center for Art & History in Lewiston ID in February 2001.  Gene approached Jim after the presentation to say he enjoyed learning about the WI&M because “Every day when I go out my back door I look at a caboose that says Washington, Idaho & Montana Railway and I’ve always wondered what the heck was the Washington, Idaho & Montana Railway!”

WI&M historian, Tom Burg, knew the WI&M had owned two “shorty” wood-side cabooses.  The X4 had been made into a summer cabin on Coeur d’Alene Lake, but the whereabouts of the X5 had been unknown up to that point.  When Tom and Jim visited the Rambos in April of 2001, they fully expected to find a decrepit X5.  They were amazed by what they found.

The X5 was in excellent shape.  The Rambos had allowed their children to play in the caboose on the condition they painted the exterior every other year.  Gene had put roofing over the long roof and cupola.  The original framed instructions, brass gauges, and caboose air valve were still in place.

In 2003, Connie Rambo offered the X5 to the HPG, provided we could get it moved to Potlatch.  The X5 was covered with visqueen to winterize it, but it would be many more winters before the X5 was retrieved.  Gene Rambo delivered a set of freight trucks and a section of display track from Farmington to Potlatch in 2008.  After receiving an Idaho Heritage Trust Grant, the X5 was moved to Potlatch and placed on the trucks behind the depot by Wasankari Construction of Moscow, ID, on December 3, 2009.

The X5 caboose is finally back on its home rails, an achievement greeted with enthusiasm by the public during the 7th Annual Depot History Day & Speeder Rides on July 10, 2010.  Many who toured the X5 remembered when a caboose had brought up the rear of every train.   Most had “always wondered what was inside of there” and were entertained to see this original mobile home.

HPG Vice President Brian Magelky, who is also a professional wood worker, has volunteered to be in charge of the restoration.  The rot in the short roof and wood siding are the first items slated for replacement.  A batch of tongue-and-groove siding has already been donated for this project, but he would appreciate a volunteer or three to help with this exciting historical project.