• John Jantak

St. Lazare resident rolls out ‘The kidz kaboose’


St. Lazare resident Richard Meades stands next to “The kidz kaboose” outside his backyard, a scaled-down version of a real train caboose which Meades spent the last eight months building inside his garage.

An innocuous idea to build a scaled down train caboose as a playhouse for children became a reality for St. Lazare resident Richard Meades, who after almost eight months of diligent and patient craftsmanship, rolled out the finished product into his backyard about three weeks ago.

The caboose, which is named “The kidz kaboose” emblazoned in multicoloured letters, has become a big draw among the neighbourhood kids in Chaline Valley who have flocked to Meades’ backyard with their parents’ permission to admire and play inside the bright crimson railway car that sits on wooden tracks and to peer out the windows of the cupola that sits atop the structure.

The interior of the caboose is just as impressive as the exterior – bright yellow and orange colours predominate with ample room for youngsters to run around and play inside. It also features benches and a table to sit at, bunk beds and closets that the kids for some reason, love to go inside, said Meades.

“Everyone’s cool with it,” Meades told Your Local Journal during an interview last Saturday morning. “The parents love coming over to take pictures with their kids hanging off of it. They think it’s really neat. One of the strangest things I’ve found is that the kids all go inside the closets and close the doors behind them. I don’t get it, but they all seem to do it.”

Meades began the project last fall in his standalone garage to fulfill a lifelong desire to build a caboose. Over the next eight months, he spent close to 1,000 hours diligently crafting and building the structure using 10 sheets of balcony plywood measuring five by ten feet coated with a waterproof resin. Additional wood was used for tracks and other parts of the caboose which is about 27 feet long and 14 feet high with the wheels.

Metal railings and working exterior lights were also installed at both ends to give the rail car its authentic feel. Meades said he used one of his model trains as a reference to build the wheel assembly. He also had to build two barn doors at the rear of his garage to wheel out the caboose on dollies into his backyard. “I always had this thing in my mind that I wanted to build a caboose one day,” said Meades. “I thought that maybe I could build it scaled down to half size and have it as a kids’ playhouse and maybe at the end of the day, sell it and make a few bucks. It was also something to do in the winter but it turned out to be a lot bigger than I ever thought it would be.

“There was no one moment when I decided to build it,” said Meades. “I just kind of thought that one day I’d like to do this and maybe one day before I kick off I will do this. There’s no real reason I did it. It’s just something I wanted to do and did it. Once I started it, I couldn’t stop.”

Having a knack for carpentry and the right woodworking tools and equipment definitely worked in Meades’ favour. He said he’s built kitchen cabinetry for himself and friends throughout the years, and all the wooden furniture in his house. Meades even installed his own plumbing and electrical work. While the neighbourhood kids have been enjoying their time in the caboose, Meades said he intends to sell it and is planning to advertise it in a train magazine that has a large readership in Canada and the U.S.

When asked whether he has another project in mind, Meades jokingly said, “With all the rain we’ve had recently, I’ve been thinking of building an ark.” For more photos, see our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.801886889906607.1073742000.450636595031640&type=3

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