A vintage caboose in Old Fort will most likely be closed for good after fire damaged the interior and exterior early Sunday morning.
Old Fort Police Chief Melvin Lytle said first responders and multiple fire departments were called to the Old Fort Depot around 2 a.m. Sunday.
Lytle said the fire started on one of the cushions inside the car, and flames were trapped inside the metal structure until the windows broke. He said fire crews were able to contain the fire pretty quickly, but the cause was still unknown.
“After an investigation, we determined there was no accelerant found,” Lytle said on Monday. He said the fire was most likely an accident, but officials are still seeking information on what happened.
Old Fort had recently received a beautification grant that was partly going to be used to restore the old caboose, but Lytle said now the future of the train car is uncertain. He added the town plans to clean up the outside of the railroad car for the upcoming Railroad Day festival this weekend.
According to the landmark, the caboose was placed in memory of James W. Wilson (1832-1910), “Who as chief engineer and president of the western North Carolina railroad. Planned, surveyed and built this line across the Blue Ridge Mountain. Erected by the Southern Railway as a tribute to a master builder.”
Bob Wilson, the late former mayor of Old Fort, was instrumental in getting the caboose to Old Fort from the Norfolk Southern Corp. in the early 1990s.
If you have any information on the caboose fire, contact the Old Fort Police Department at 668-4244, or McDowell County Crime Stoppers at 65-CRIME (652-7463). Now, you can also text your tips to Crime Stoppers. Text MCDOWELLTIPS and your information to 274637 (CRIMES). With Crime Stoppers, your identity remains anonymous, and you could receive a cash reward.