The Vermilion Trail Society filed its lawsuit against the Town of Princeton in 2017. Photo Andrea DeMeer

Five day trial needed to resolve custody of small town caboose

The Town of Princeton and the Vermilion Trail Society (VTS) are chugging towards a lengthy trial to decide the fate of the Princeton caboose.

At a pretrial conference in small claims court Thursday, March 12, Judge Greg Koturbash estimated the matter would take five days to resolve.

He ordered a request for a special Princeton court sitting, as circuit court is held here only once each month for a maximum of two days.

While noting the case is interesting, Koturbash expressed a wish to be “on holidays” during that time.

Matthew Voell, counsel for the Town of Princeton, and Jaimie Kidston, representing the VTS, each said they had eight witnesses to bring forward.

“There is not a lot of documentary evidence in this case,” said Voell. “The evidence is going back 20 to 25 years. A lot of the evidence is recollections of historic conversations and meetings.”

Related: Princeton caboose restored

The trial is expected to settle the issue of who gets custody of the caboose, currently parked behind Subway near Highway 3.

The conflict arose in May 2017, when the VTS accused a previous town council and administration of train robbery, lodged a complaint with the RCMP and filed a lawsuit against the municipality.

A year earlier, town staff had moved the caboose from its home along the KVR trail, at the intersection of Bridge Street and Highway 3, to its present location.

The municipality placed newspaper ads, seeking a partner who might use the rail car to host a tourism-based enterprise.

Both the town and the VTS said they could prove ownership of the artifact, which has been located at various places in Princeton over the years including at the fairgrounds, downtown and at the museum.

Related: Town of Princeton still accused of train robbery

The original lawsuit sought $6,608 for damages caused to its fence when the caboose was moved, $20 for a lock and $28,371 for unspecified damages.

That claim also estimated the caboose’s value at $60,000.

It was later altered, adjusting the caboose’s value in order to keep the total damages below $35,000 and therefore within the sphere of a small claims judgment.

While a provincial court does not have the authority to decide ownership of the conveyance, the society is now suing for return of personal property.

Last week, while discussing whether experts would be required to assess the caboose’s actual worth, Kidston said: “I don’t see where the value of this makes any difference because either one side or the other is going to get the caboose.”

The trial is expected to be scheduled for some time this summer.

Related: Princeton’s caboose battle pulls back into court

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