GiGi New’s Caboose Muse

Every writer needs a favorite place.

For some it’s a home office — a converted bedroom perhaps, or the attic. For others it’s Starbucks.

For GiGi New, it’s a caboose.

Since the early 1970s, the red, real train car has sat in the woods off Newtown Turnpike, between the Country Store and Bette Davis’ old house. For anyone driving, biking or walking by, it’s an object of wonder and awe.

GiGi New's caboose.

GiGi New’s caboose.

For GiGi, it’s a special, creative sanctuary.

She and her husband — actor/director Nicholas Sadler (“Scent of a Woman,” “Disclosure,” “Twister”) — moved to Westport in April, with their young son Cooper. They fell in love with the house and caboose, and sent a heartfelt letter to the owner promising to honor and take care of both.

GiGi New

GiGi New

GiGi was already a well-established TV and film writer. In Minneapolis, where she lived during the 2007-08 Writers Guild of America strike, she began teaching her craft. Garrison Keillor became an avid pupil.

She continued to teach after arriving here — first with the Westport Writers’ Workshop and through area libraries, now on her own.

Which  brings us to the funky, not-quite-level caboose, where Gigi works with individuals and groups, and continues writing for TV and movies. (Her current project is in development with Killer Films.)

The caboose is said to have been some sort of “payment” to Alan Abel, a well-known prankster who 40 years ago owned GiGi’s 1847 house. (One hoax: Following the Watergate scandal, he hired an actor to pose as Deep Throat. The press conference drew 150 reporters.)

The caboose was delivered via 3 flatbed trucks, and a crane. It sits on actual tracks, though those were brought in too. Someone had a permit for it — and it’s been grandfathered in ever since.

The interior, from the back of the caboose.

The interior, from the back of the caboose.

GiGi says the caboose belonged to the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad. One wall is filled with actual P&LE tickets. (They were placed there by HGTV, which gutted the interior, and re-decorated it for one of their shows — click here for the fascinating video.)

However, “DWP” is emblazoned on the side. The letters stand for the Duluth, Winnipeg and Pacific Railway.

That’s just one of the many mysteries surrounding the caboose.

What’s not in dispute is what GiGi has done with it, and what it means to her.

She’s brought in a conference table and desks — including the one she writes at. It faces woods, and a pond. She watches her son at play, along with ducks and deer.

GiGi's view, out the caboose window.

GiGi’s view, out the caboose window.

“If I can’t create here, I can’t do it anywhere,” she says. “This my safe, nurturing little haven. When I sit here, I tap into a quiet place. That’s essential for my writing.”

Like a child’s treehouse, the caboose allows her imagination to run wild.

Her students find the caboose to be a “healing, inspiring, creative” place too.

GiGi New’s writing and teaching careers are going place.

Fortunately, her little red caboose is not.

GiGii New, peacefully at work.

GiGii New, peacefully at work. Railroad memorabilia are on the rear walls.

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16 responses to “GiGi New’s Caboose Muse

  1. Very Kool Story. Wishing GiGi a Clear Track Ahead!

  2. Very nice. One of those historic quirks Westport is known for. Of course, I love trains. Imagine the outcry if some wanted to pop a rail car in their yard today.

  3. Sylvia Robinson Corrigan

    I have passed it many times: it has always made me laugh and shiver slightly with wonder, as I pondered how it was being used. What better use than as a writer’s studio?

  4. The ultimate “She Shed”. Lovely!

  5. Sharon Paulsen

    A new definition of “woMAN-cave”!

    I think it was HGTV that created the “man-cave” idea, lol.

    Love this – very cool story Dan.

    I want one now (for an artists studio)!!

  6. DWP slogan “Delivered With Pride” seems spot on, literally.
    Glad an old bit of the CNR has been given new life!

  7. It was most gratifying to read about my favorite adventure in life: trading the Canadian Pacific RR my lecture services (“Using Your Wits To Win”) for an antique RR caboose, as a playhouse for our 4 yr. old, Jennifer iin 1976. Paul Newman dropped by and asked, “How did you manage to get that atrocity past the Zoning Commission? I can’t get a permit for a dance studio on my property for my wife!” I explained that I coached Jennifer to cry when the mean Zone Comm. denied our request to move “a playhouse to our backyard that looks like a caboose.” Then, when I had to admit it weighed 30 tons,I claimed it was a matter of semantics, and I wasn’t anti-semantic.They shouted in unison, “no deal”! Jennifer cried loudly on cue; waiting contractors came into the old Town Hall to see if help was needed, the four commissioners, again in unison, shouted, “permit granted if the little girl stops crying.” She did, gave them each a kiss and the 1910 caboose continues to remain in good hands with Gigi at the controls.
    PS At our first Caboose Party in August 1976 my wife and I invited 30 families with children. Many others called, pleading to come, and we ended up with 300 guests! They had to bring food and soft drinks, there was a string quartet on top of the caboose, alternating 20 minute sets with the Dixieland band below, everyone received a kazoo and at the end of a perfect weather day, a long parade down Newtown Turnpike to the Country Store and back, everyone playing “The Bridge on the River Kwai.” Guests included the Editor of LIFE, comedians Andy Kaufman, Richard Belzer and other celebs. Paul Newman was a no-show.

  8. And here I thought you got it for Cooper for his BoyCave! When we come for a visit I still want to stay in it. Please, please.