For more than three years the Town of Princeton and the Vermilion Trails Society have fought over this caboose. (Spotlight file photo)

For more than three years the Town of Princeton and the Vermilion Trails Society have fought over this caboose. (Spotlight file photo)

Battle over Princeton’s caboose is over

Details of settlement won’t be released until 2021

After more than three years of wrangling, the brakes have been put on the legal battle over Princeton’s caboose.

However, it won’t be until April 2021 when details of an agreement, reached in civil court between the municipality and the Vermilion Trails Society (VTS), will be made public.

“We’ve reached a little bit of a settlement, ” said Princeton CAO Lyle Thomas.

“I can’t discuss the details of the settlement because there is a deadline…of certain actions that need to take place.”

According to the town’s director of finance James Graham, the disagreement has cost Princeton taxpayers approximately $20,000 so far in lawyer’s fees.

Mayor Spencer Coyne expressed relief with the development. “It will be good to have it come to an end,” he said.

Related: Princeton’s caboose battle pulls back into court

In April 2020 – when open court sessions were ceased because of COVID – the VTS withdrew its claim against the town, the Spotlight learned recently.

VTS president Bill Allinot declined to comment when contacted by the newspaper last week.

The fight over the caboose 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.

Related: Princeton town council responds to caboose story

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 near Subway.

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 – the fairgrounds, downtown and at the museum.

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.

Related: Five day trial needed to resolve custody of Princeton’s caboose

During the March small claims court session, 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.

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andrea.demeer@similkameenspotlight.com

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