GREENFIELD — If not for a fiery car crash in 2006, the caboose sitting at the corner of Porter Corners Road and Route 9N might never have gotten the attention it has over the last few years.
But the collision between a wayward car and the old, decaying caboose proved just the catalyst residents needed to restore the long-neglected railcar, which was decommissioned by the Delaware and Hudson Railway in 1981.
Left with an $8,800 insurance settlement from the crash, volunteers quickly got to work repairing the charred artifact.
Shrubs overgrowing the caboose were removed. Engine red paint was slathered on the exterior. The inside was cleaned out and restored.
"That (the crash) opened a lot of people's eyes," said Tony Bucca, a Greenfield resident who has helped lead the restoration efforts over the last few years. "Everyone got together and said, ‘This is our caboose; let's take care of it.'"
The work has paid off.
Today, the caboose has a new layer of plywood, covered with tongue-and-groove siding, sharp white stenciled effects - DH 35872, the side reads - new stairs and a clean set of windows.
It is, Bucca said, a far cry from the hulking mass of metal that was dragged from its resting place in South Corinth and moved to Greenfield in 1988 to sit next to an old train depot that town officials once aspired to repair.
"It had just been completely neglected," said Bucca, a model railroad enthusiast who lives just south of the caboose and has steadily chipped away at the project each Sunday since 2007.
Repairs made to the 86-year-old caboose will be on display to the public on Saturday, when Bucca and the committee he leads, Citizens Restoring Our Caboose at Kings Station, hosts its first open house.
A neighboring depot that sat nearby on the original Adirondack Branch of the railroad, which has also been restored in recent years, will be open as part of the event.
"Up until now, it's really been just a work in progress," Bucca said as he offered a tour of the caboose and neighboring depot on Thursday. "We're at the point now where we think we can show it off a little bit."
Bucca said he hopes showing off the work will inspire more interest in the project and in the town's historical connection to the railroad.
"For a long time, this caboose has been taken for granted," he said. "It was faded and hidden even though it was right off the road. Hopefully now, people will begin to stop and appreciate it."
Saturday's open house will also serve as a fundraiser to continue restoration efforts.
Bucca said he wants to finish renovations on the inside of the train depot, estimated to be around 123 years old, so it can serve as a visitor's center and town museum. Picnic tables and a parking area could also be incorporated.
The apple-green structure is the only depot in Greenfield that remains in the public domain. The other two are now privately owned and used as residences.
Eventually, the caboose and depot - together housed in a three-acre park known as Kings Station - could also become a stop on the rail line between Saratoga Springs and North Creek.
That rail line has been under repair in recent years, and there are hopes to restore passenger service through Greenfield as part of a regional tourist train.
Ultimately, though, Bucca said his efforts have been for the next generation, so future residents will have a perpetual reminder of what life was like before the advent of automobiles.
"I'm not just trying to preserve this for now, but for people 100 years from now," he said. "Everything I'm doing is towards that goal."