For many years, retired train engineer R.W. "Bob" Willaford has had a train engine and caboose on display outside his home north of Plant City.
He and his wife became known for opening their property and the train cars for visits by local families at Easter and Christmas. But now the display will be open to a wider audience.
On Thursday, crews reattached the caboose to its wheels after being transported to its new home: Plant City's old train station at 102 N Palmer St. downtown. Willaford donated the engine, caboose and other equipment and memorabilia to the city.
His collection, amassed over the past 50 years with an estimated value of $200,000, will be on display at the Union Station Depot Welcome Center, which Plant City is renaming the Robert W. Willaford Railroad Museum.
The historical equipment and railroad collectibles museum is a complement to the new train viewing platform being constructed south of the depot. It is scheduled to open next month.
Plant City is a growing mecca for train watchers and rail fans because two major CSX lines cross there. "This way more people can enjoy the caboose," Willaford said. "It got pretty popular, and we kind of outgrew our space."