Morehouse Parish has many portholes into the past, with its historical buildings and tales passed down through time.
Thanks to Bastrop resident John Nelson, individuals can take yet another trip back in time, viewing a large red 1972 Missouri Pacific Railroad caboose, now parked near historic downtown.
“It came from a gentleman in Hamburg [Ark]. He had planned to refurbish it back in 1989, but he never got around to it,” Nelson said. “It was starting to deteriorate because no one had cared for it.”
Nelson said it seemed like fate that the caboose was slated to be scrapped at the same time he was searching for one to bring to Bastrop.
“I'd been looking for a caboose for about a year now to bring here,” he said. “I went to Jackson, Mississippi about four months ago to look at one. That's when I heard about the one in Hamburg, only 30 miles away.”
Nelson said the process to bring the caboose to Bastrop was not an easy one.
“I can't tell you the hurdles and challenges I had to go through to bring it here,” he said. “Getting through the red tape with the new zoning law and code enforcement was very difficult.”
Nelson said due to an oversight in the wording of the new zoning law that went into effect last year, a secondary structure clause prevented him from having an additional structure behind his building in the downtown historic district.
“We were told to submit plans and go to several council meetings. We did that,” he said. “We had to go through the historic district. We did that.”
Nelson said two women at the city hall were “instrumental in guiding” him “through the process.”
“Mrs. [Sandra] Goldman and Mrs. [Charissa] Holmes were so helpful,” he said. “We would not have been able to bring caboose here if not for them giving us suggestions on what to do next.”
The caboose was brought in Friday and parked behind what is known as the “Jax Building” on South Franklin Street. Nelson purchased the building and began renovating it in 2009.
Nelson said he has plans to “fix up” the caboose and turn it into an overnight guest lodge.
“We're going to put a couple more coats of paint on it and put decals on it. We're going to make it look like its original state,” he said. “After we fix up the outside, we're going to put in electrical work, a toilet and a shower. It'll be somewhere nice that people can come and stay the night.”
Nelson said although the caboose is still a “work in progress,” he plans to have it complete in approximately two months.
“We still have a ways to go before it's looks like it did originally,” he said. “We thought it would bring something interesting to the town of Bastrop.”