What Happened To Caboose on N.C. 105? It’s Now Part of Sugar Creek Gem Mining Co.

Published Wednesday, December 23, 2015 at 1:22 pm
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A crane moves the caboose, which is now located at the Sugar Creek Gem Mining and Sugar Creek Ski and Board Rental in Banner Elk. Photos submitted.

By Jesse Wood

Last night, Sugar Creek Gem Mining Company in Banner Elk finished refurbishing the old caboose that used to be a frequent sight near the N.C. 105 dam and outfitted it for an indoor gem mining operation. This morning it opened.

“We are excited to get it open – not really excited about this winter weather,” Leonard said. “But we got it open in time for people to have something to do. There will still be a lot of people up here.”

Whether its snowing sideways during a normal winter or raining like it has recently, this indoor gem mining operation allows visitors and locals alike a fun activity shielded from the elements.

Matt and his brother, Chris, opened Sugar Creek Gem Mining in the fall of 2012, and for the first few winters, they operated the mining business inside the Sugar Creek Ski and Board Rental.

Now – as Leonard said – the mess will be a little more confined, separated from the winter rental business.

Last year, business was so good that miners were waiting outside in the cold, so the Leonards began looking for ways to accommodate customers in the colder months. In November, Matt said the caboose was moved from nearby the Puerto Nuevo Mexican and Seafood Restaurant in Banner Elk to the Sugar Creek Gem Mining operation 3405 Tynecastle Highway in Banner Elk.

Rough-sawn wood flooring was installed in the caboose. Paneling on the inside was replaced as well as the roof. Also, two 120-gallon water tanks were installed to recycle the water from the gem mining operation. The caboose has 500-square-feet of interior space.

On the outside, some metal was replaced, and the exterior was sandblasted and repainted red because as Leonard asked, “A caboose has to be red, right?”

“It’s really cool,” Leonard said. “The inside turned out really nice.”

Sugar Creek Mining Company (and Ski and Board Rental) is located at 3405 Tynecastle Highway, Banner Elk. For more information, call 828-898-GEMS (4367).

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