Residents can help give a yellow caboose new life in Steamboat Springs |

Residents can help give a yellow caboose new life in Steamboat Springs

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Cincinnati wants to make a historic theatre sign shine bright again.

New Orleans wants to restore a historic storefront.

And Steamboat Springs wants to give new life to an old yellow caboose.

Residents here are being encouraged to vote early and often in an online contest to help the caboose chug past the competition and get the grant funding it needs to be converted into an artist’s studio.

"We have to have our coffee in the morning, read our newspaper and then vote for the caboose," Main Street Steamboat Springs Manager Lisa Popovich said. "Those are the three things we can do every morning."

A proposal to restore the 1950s caboose at the Depot Art Center into a space where artists could work is among 25 ideas in the running for a $150,000 grant from a national historic preservation grant program funded by American Express.

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Residents can vote for the caboose by visiting and selecting the Steamboat project.

Popovich said anyone can vote up to five times a day.

The 10 proposals that get the most votes will receive the grants.

Popovich said Steamboat faces fierce competition to help the caboose get the funding.

"We're competing with places like Brooklyn, New York, and New Orleans and downtown Salt Lake City — places with huge population bases," Popovich said. "I think we're the smallest community in the running, but we have the coolest project. It's more than restoring a sign or a storefront, it's pretty amazing."

Other proposals in the running range from replacing signs on historic buildings in Seattle's Chinatown district to restoring a theatre in Florida's Little Havana.

If Steamboat's caboose gets the funding, it will be renovated (with heating) so it can host an artist in residence for three months to one year at a time.

The caboose will also serve as a gathering space where artists can attend workshops and exhibit their work.

The new life for the caboose would be a huge step up from what it currently looks like today.

Graffiti covers one side of the caboose, and it has become a place where people leave trash.

"It's a mess," Popovich said. "It’s been vandalized. It's not inhabitable on any scale. It needs a complete restoration inside and out."

The 1950s caboose was donated to the Steamboat Springs Arts Council by the Anschutz Foundation and Southern Pacific/Rio Grande Railroad in 1995.

A rendering shows what the caboose would look like inside after it is renovated.

According to information from the Arts Council, the caboose is a rare relic because it is native to the rail line its sits near and has an overview cupola that is considered unique.

“The yellow caboose adjacent to the Depot Art Center and at the western entrance to Steamboat's downtown corridor pays homage to the importance of the railroad to the development of Steamboat Springs as a destination and honors our rich railroad heritage," Steamboat Springs Arts Council Executive Director Kim Keith said. "We value the significant impacts the railroad made to this rural community back in the early 1900s and want to keep that history at the forefront.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10.

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