Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas!

No real news to post, and trying to move the caboose is on hold until after the holidays. It's safe sitting at the marina and I've paid for storage there for a month. I did contact the company that the KY electrical inspection sticker was issued through, their records show that it was issued for a 2002 16x80 mobile home!  Neither they nor I have any idea how the sticker came to be affixed to the rear of the caboose, but they did give me the name of the person the mobile home was registered to at that time, so perhaps I can track them down and they can shed some light on it's previous owner(s). In the meantime I have been reading through several RV forums and drooling over the quality of the builds and rebuilds some of these talented folks have done. It gives me hope that the Caboose will some day be on the road again.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ups and downs

Well, there's been a HUGE setback today. I drove up to KY again up to see about getting new tires etc, and noticed the tongue was angled upward quite noticeably, to the point it is bending the base of the siding.

I went inside to see what the interior looked like, and the whole front end is coming apart. There's a massive crack in the passenger side wall behind the front window, and where there was a  gap yesterday with an inch of daylight showing through is now about a gaping hole about 4 inches wide. There's also a crack in the bathroom on the driver's side, not quite as big but still bad bad bad.

These discoveries led to me crawling underneath to look around, something I wasn't able to do when it was sitting in the woods at the campground. The frame is rotten. Really rotten. The worst visible areas are actually at the rear, not the front where the cracks have formed, but the wood frame is also in far better shape at the rear so maybe that's holding it together.

Frankly I'm surprised it didn't all come apart yesterday when I was towing it to the marina.   I'm going to have to find someone to haul it on a flatbed or something, I don't see any other way to get it home. The folks at the marina are great and I gave them a month's storage fee so I don't have to rush to get it out of there. Any comments and suggestions would be extremely welcome!

On a more positive note, after what seemed to be a futile 20 minute chat with the folks at the courthouse in KY about getting some sort of tag/title/permit to pull it home (this obviously was before I discovered the damaged frame) I mentioned there was a KY electrical inspection sticker on it. They gave me the name and number of the fire marshall who keeps track of such things, and he was very helpful. He searched for the number and said if it was inspected there must be a title or registration for it. He said according to their records it was sold in January 2009, and gave me the sellers (a business) name and phone number. When I called got a recording saying they are closed Sunday and Monday so I'll try again tomorrow. I don't want to get my hopes up too much but I have my fingers crossed tight, since I would LOVE to get it titled as what it actually is and NOT as a homebuilt.

Also, the blog has 1000 page views, and hits are coming from RV and camper forums I didn't even know existed! Does this mean I'm almost famous??  LOL

Sunday, December 16, 2012

An epic journey, of sorts

WOOT!!  The Caboose actually went down the road today, for what was probably the first time in about 40 years!! OK, so it's not really an epic journey, but I thought it was pretty exciting just the same. I had stopped at the marina Friday to ask if I could park it there for a few days since they're pretty slow this time of year. The campground folks have been getting a bit antsy about getting out of there, and today was the day.  I got the tires aired up again (the left side ones don't want to hold air, not sure if the tires are bad or if the rims are just that rusty), stuck the magnetic towing lights on it, got it hitched up and hauled it out of the campground and down the road about 6 miles to the marina.  Top speed was only about 40 due to the very narrow, windy, twisty and hilly  road but it seemed to do just fine. No trailer brakes on it yet, so the slow speed was fine with me especially going down the steep hills to the lake/marina.

Here it is enjoying the sunset at the lake.  It sure sits higher on pavement than it looked in the woods at the campground.

I'm going back up tomorrow and see if the guys at the marina will jack it up and remove a wheel for me which I'll take into town and get 4 new rims and tires that I know aren't going to blow out on the highway going to TN. I may ask them what they'd charge to wire the brakes for me too, they'd sure be nice to have on the hills going into Nashville.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Identity issue

I found the trailer on Craigslist where it was advertised as a 1974 Semaphore Caboose. I didn't get a title for it, only a Bill of Sale, and have been unable to find any identifying information on the trailer itself such as a serial number or VIN. 

It seems that my vintage travel trailer is not really what it had been claimed to be. I was searching the internet yesterday and came across the website owned by the son of one of the owners of Semaphore Industries. There he posted that what I have is actually a Caboose Travel Trailer built by American Leisure Time Industries, a prototype of what would become the Semaphore Caboose, and as such, there were even fewer of these made, perhaps 10 or less.The full story can be found on his website.

The link he provided to the Life magazine article from August 1970 has just a short caption under the photo of the caboose, stating the travel trailer slept from 6 to 11 depending on which of 3 floor plans you had, and the original purchase price was $5400.

Life Magazine article

Patent filed in August 1970

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What have I done?!

Yep, I'm crazy. That much is certain. LOL I'm a full-time RV'er who has consigned my nearly new 30 foot travel trailer and purchased what surely must be the most decrepit trailer around, but I absolutely fell in love with the poor thing. I was looking to downsize to a travel trailer that was a bit friendlier to haul around the country so I was searching Craigslist and stumbled across the ad for a 1974 Semaphore Caboose located in western Kentucky. (I was sitting in southwest Minnesota at the time.) After a flurry of text messages the previous owner agreed to hold it for a couple days until I could drive down and pay him for it.

A bit of background on the trailer: It was built by Semaphore Industries in Williamsburg, Ohio. There were approximately 800 of them made, and very few are still in existence. I have found photos or references to just 6 or 7 of them although there must be at least a few more lurking out there somewhere, so if anyone knows of one PLEASE let me know about it! I'd love to contact some other Caboose owners!

My Caboose is in very rough shape. I believe it spent most of it's life as a cabin at Kentucky Lake but has changed hands a couple times in recent years but no repairs have been done to it, as you shall see. WARNING: This blog will be photo heavy! I should probably mention that I tend to get a bit long-winded as well.

The following photos were taken Oct  27. This doesn't look soooooo bad, does it? lol

That's a bunk that slides out up in the cupola above the dinette. Amazingly, what may be the original ladder is stashed in the bunk!

Residential refrigerator that will have to be replaced with a 2-way or 3-way fridge. The trim piece on the floor was attached to the front with only 1 screw holding it so off it came.

Closer view of the cupola and bunk. Lots of water damage everywhere inside although it's not extremely visible in the photos.

 The high headroom in the cupola really makes the interior space seem larger than it is. A ceiling fan could easily be installed with no worries about hitting your head on it.

 Lots of counter space for a travel trailer, especially for one that's only 20 feet long inside!

 The mice obviously approve of the Caboose, there are nests in every drawer and cupboard!

Bedroom area, this is perhaps going to be an issue as I want a double bed and the current floor plan has the bathroom door opening into the bedroom so there's not enough room for anything other than the single that's there. Notice the daylight visible at the base of the wall under the window.

The plastic liner on the ceiling has come down in most of the front of the trailer, that's the white stuff seen hanging in some of the photos.

A large (by today's TT standards) NON-plastic bathtub! The exterior of the Caboose will be kept as close to original as possible, but the interior, especially the bedroom/bathroom area, may have to be reconfigured slightly so I can have a double bed.

The original tires were still on the trailer so it now has "new" used tires for the trip to south central Tennessee where I am wintering. The tongue jack was frozen but after the application of a couple gallons of WD-40 and some persuasion with a BIG hammer the jack has been removed and a replacement ordered. There are no safety chains on it so they have been ordered. The wooden base has completely rotted away leaving a 2" gap between the wall and the floor on both sides in the front bedroom area, the siding has been reattached as best as possible for the trip home. I may end up just running ratcheting tie-downs all the way around it to help secure the siding. A mobile mechanic was out yesterday and repacked the wheel bearings and freed up the brakes. The driving lights are completely nonfunctional (the wiring harness is very crispy-brittle and the connector is rotted) but I know a fellow who has a set of wireless lights I can use. I've had a 2" ball put on my equalizer hitch. It's getting close to the point where I feel it might survive the 3 hour journey home.

The biggest issue right now is the lack of a license plate or title. I have a bill of sale, the last two owners also got bill of sales and no title. I'm not sure if it was ever titled, many states didn't require them on trailers back then. I also can't find a VIN or serial number. I had thought I found it on the tongue under several layers of paint and lots of rust and corrosion but after wire brushing it turns out it was the patent number for the hitch coupler.  I have spoken with the folks at the DMV in South Dakota where I am domiciled, and they assure me I can title it as a home-built, but I would really like to have it titled as a Semaphore Caboose. Perhaps a serial number will show up somewhere else on the frame once it's completely cleaned up.

Well, that's the background. Follow along as I stumble and fumble my way through trying to restore this Caboose and turn it into my permanent home-on-wheels. I've never attempted anything like this before so it's sure to be entertaining at the very least. LOL