CLINTON — Once a special little attraction for local residents and a place that may have hosted a children’s birthday party or two, was on its way to getting a new home on Tuesday, April 23.
The McDonald’s restaurant at 37 Meadow St. said goodbye to a long-time fixture, the train caboose located at the rear of the building. It had made McDonald’s its home for close to 40 years.
On the morning of April 23, two large flatbeds and other utility trucks from D&D Enterprises out of Saint Johnsville, Montgomery County, rolled into the restaurant parking lot. Still inscribed with the painted logo of the famed fast food giant’s “Golden Arches” and the words “McDonald Railroad,” piece-by-piece the caboose was lifted and carried away — about a 3-hour operation.
“It just wasn’t being utilized here, and I want others to know, this is going to a great place,” said Joan Grande, executive assistant for McDonald’s Corporation in Whitesboro.
Crews started around 8:45 a.m. loosening the cupola that crowned the caboose, preparing it to be lifted off. But it proved to be stubborn task after taking just about an hour-and-a-half to remove that section alone.
“I guess they forgot a few screws,” joked the caboose’s new co-owner, Chris Arduini, as workers labored at loosening the fixtures.
Arduini, along with co-owner and wife Shelley and their daughter, Lily, stood in the grassy area outside the parking lot and watched as workers prepared their new prize to be transported to their Erie Canal Campground located in Saint Johnsville. Occasionally donning a hard hat, Chris stepped in to help out also.
The Arduinis were occasionally joined by curious bystanders and Clinton Manager Donna Armstrong and some of her associates. Some took photos with their cell phones as they watched the laborious operation.
“My wife loves trains and we’re in the process of building a campground with a train theme,” said Chris, just before wife Shelley arrived to the scene. “This is actually our second caboose. We plan to restore this and rent it out.”
He said, “Shelley wants to fix it up and make it really elegant — something with an 1860s era theme with fancy wallpaper.”
The couple already owns and operates Adirondack Packaging Supply, which sells packaging products to manufacturing companies. Their campground is a fairly new pet project, and Shelley said she already has her summer booked.
“I know what I’ll be working on, this just took over my summer plans,” she laughed, adding that the couple used to buy and flip houses. “A couple of years ago we bought the one (caboose) in Northville (Fulton County), and I just started working on that when we got the call for this one.”
McDonald’s Corporation said it was through a stroke of good luck and “karma” that the caboose would find a home with the Arduinis at their campground.
“We have someone who works in our office who’s from Saint Johnsville, and she mentioned passing by a campground that had a caboose,” Grande explained. “I think she just about literally walked up to their door, knocked and asked, ‘Would you like another caboose?’”
“You have no idea the hard work it took to find someone who wanted to keep it in tact,” she said. “Most interested buyers just wanted to cut it up and turn it into scrap metal. We had two other places interested, but those just fell through, and I think it happened for a reason. It’s karma that the caboose will remain as it is.”
The removal of the caboose was the beginning of a renovations project for the fast food restaurant. McDonald’s is scheduled to receive an interior face-lift that may begin as early as June.
“The building will still look the same on the outside — work will only be done to the inside,” Grande said. “The restaurant will remain open during the renovations, except for maybe 5-7 days when the contractors are working on the kitchen. Originally we were looking at June for when the work would start, but that may change. But it will happen in the very near future.”
As for the caboose, first the cupola was gently lifted from the car and placed on one flatbed. Then that flatbed was moved over to make room for the second that backed into the parking lot. That would become the transporter of the actual caboose.
Once the red car was loaded and carried away, workers lifted and removed the wheels — otherwise known as “trucks” when referring to trains — along with the rails that supported them. They were all placed on the same flatbed that carried the cupola. The treasured caboose was then transported to its new home in Saint Johnsville.
Chris Arduini said that once placed upon the flatbeds, the weights of each piece of caboose were calculated by the trucks.
“The wheels, or trucks, were 8,900 pounds each,” he said. “The caboose itself was 37,000 pounds, and then there’s the cupola.”
Asked how he seemed to know a lot about moving train cars, Arduini said, “Well, we’ve moved one before and you just learn from that.”
“This one was hard because it’s so big,” Shelley added. “The other one we have is a lot smaller. That one only took one truck.”
Some rails and tracks are already set up at the Arduinis’ Erie Canal Campground, Shelley said, so the old McDonald Railroad caboose already had a place to rest and get comfortable at its new location. It will sit with its “sister” caboose, which also has a “loft,” a cabin and two campers located on Saint Johnsville’s Bridge Street.
“It’s right by the marina with a big pavilion,” Shelley said.
As for her passion for trains and future plans for the Arduinis’ campground, “Everybody says we’ll have to look for an engine next,” she laughed.