Boy Scout Mark Thiele, of Greenwood, will be adding some final touches to Winford Park as a part of his Eagle Scout Project. The park contains a caboose that was brought to Greenwood in the mid 90’s. The caboose is located near the old railroad bed where trains used to roll through the city carrying coal out of Greenwood and the surrounding areas.
Thiele will be pouring a sidewalk, installing an informational sign about the park and the history of the railroad in Greenwood as well as erecting a flagpole.
“My grandfather used to work on the railroads until he passed away in 2006,” said Thiele. Mark’s grandfather was Don Thiele and he worked for the Union Pacific and the Missouri Pacific Railroads. Mark has been a scout for nine years now and stated that his grandfather's employment with the railroad is what inspired him to pick the park for his Eagle Scout Project.
The Greenwood caboose was brought to the city in 1993.
Dr. James Burgess was on the Sebastian County Parks Commission at that time. “The caboose was located in Ben Geren,” said Burgess. “They were having trouble with people vandalizing it so Sebastian County Judge David Hudson asked if we were interested in it. And I told him,’I think we might’.
Burgess stated that he contacted local businessman Foy Brown to help relocate the caboose to a piece of land owned by Gene and Jan Winford. The caboose was painted green, all of the windows were welded shut and a sign stating that “Greenwood is not just a whistle stop” was placed in front of it. The railroad company Burlington Northern was painted on the side of the train car.
In 2014 the city purchased the property from the Winford’s on the condition that it would remain a park using a $10,000 grant through the Western Arkansas Planning & Development District. Senator Jake Files and Representative Charlotte Douglas were instrumental in the WAPDD grant.
Since the purchase the Greenwood Parks Department has added landscaping, replaced the windows and painted the caboose red. The glass for the windows was donated by Arkansas Glass and Mirror. Cleave Gipson removed all of the doors and windows and installed the windows and doors for the city free of charge.
According to the informational sign the railroads carried cotton, peaches, coal and passengers to and from the city. There was a time when Greenwood shipped as many as 150,000 tons of coal, fifty-six cars of peaches and 5,000 bales of cotton each year. The caboose was originally built for the Northern Pacific railroad but is similar to those used by the Missouri Pacific on the line into Greenwood. The caboose has been restored to resemble the familiar “MoPac” cabooses that passed over the trestle on Heartsill Creek directly behind Winford Park.
Former Arkansas Speaker of the House and Farmers Bank President Means Wilkinson rode the train to Fayetteville as a student at the University of Arkansas. He later became the attorney for the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company.
According to Joel Goldstein, with the Parks Commission, there are not any current plans to renovate the inside of the car at this time though the inside of the car is in relatively good condition.
The final touch to the current project will be a sign created out of a piece of the old bridge trestle that the train used to travel over the creek near the park will be engraved with the words “Winford Park”.