Two train cabooses that have been parked south of the historic Billings Depot are on their way to a new home in northwestern Montana to make way for the new Trailhead Plaza.
Early on Wednesday morning, a large crane plucked each of the approximately 60,000-pound cabooses from the tracks, hoisted them over the trees and depot mail building and placed them onto two semitrailers parked on Montana Avenue.
The cabooses were donated to the historic Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, where they will be refurbished into private guest rooms.
Jennifer Mercer, executive director of the Billings Depot Inc., said the inn, east of Glacier National Park, is paying for the train cars to be moved.
A third caboose, which is the oldest of the three, will remain at the depot and be restored through donations of labor and materials, Mercer said. Restoring the car's exterior will cost an estimated $20,000 to $30,000.
Patrick Construction and Pipeline, of Havre, oversaw the caboose moving and will haul the cars to Essex. Strong's Crane Service of Billings did the heavy lifting.
Strong's crew began setting up at 6 a.m. in the parking lot west of the depot complex and by 8:35 a.m. was ready to the hoist the first car. The actual move took only about 15 minutes.
With the two cabooses gone, work will begin immediately to turn the large outdoor space into a premier downtown plaza for community events, Mercer said.
Quentin Eggart, owner of Eggart Engineering and Construction in Billings, will begin landscaping work later on Wednesday, Mercer said. The improvements will include planting four maple trees in the area where the two cabooses were parked.
The depot is still working to working to raise $50,000 for lighting, a stage, a large entry sign and landscaping, she said. The total cost of the project is about $80,000.
The project, designed by Land Design Inc., will feature a gateway entrance, landscaping and other features.
Billings Depot Inc. is a nonprofit group working to preserve and promote historic property.