The Ohio Central Railroad System and the Make-A-Wish Foundation gave Kurt Pilker the gift of a lifetime.
By ROSA MERCADO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Kurt Pilker has always wanted a railroad caboose of his very own.
Today his wish comes true.
The 16-year-old, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, was to receive a caboose this morning from the Ohio Central Railroad System Northern Lines Division.
A caravan of trucks, trailers and cranes was delivering the caboose to Pilker's home in Erie, Pa.
Terry Feichtenbiner, OCRS general manager, said the Make-A-Wish Foundation approached the Poland Avenue railroad in April about making Kurt's dream a reality.
"I don't see how anyone with a heart could refuse a request like this," said Feichtenbiner. "We're a small, family-oriented company. Doing this fits into the way we do things."
He said that with the help of OCRS president William Strawn II and CEO Jerry Jacobson, the company selected a caboose for the project.
Kurt and his family were invited to Youngstown to see the 30-ton caboose in late April. "The family saw it before we fixed it up," said Feichtenbiner. He explained that despite the rust, dirt and broken windows, Kurt loved it.
Feichtenbiner said Kurt beamed with excitement and disbelief when asked if he would like to receive the caboose.
In May, work began to renovate the 50-year-old caboose. OCRS volunteers reupholstered, sandblasted, painted, and added new glass and fixtures.
Businesses such as Mahoning Paint Co. and The Signmaker provided materials, and Grim's Crane and Trucking was transporting the caboose to Erie.
The caboose is now complete with Kurt's name and title as honorary conductor, along with the Ohio Central diamond herald emblazoned on the side. It will sit, permanently placed on its own section of railroad track in Kurt's yard, as his reminder that dreams do come true.