Tailgating Traditions: South Carolina's Cockaboose
GatorTailgating.com will be doing a series on traditions in tailgating around the country that you don't want to miss the next time you travel to their stadium. This week, the tradition is South Carolina's Cockaboose.
Since a short 21 years ago, there has only been one place to really get the feel for Carolina football before kickoff. Sure, there is tailgating all around Williams-Brice Stadium and that will at least give a hint; but the place to go in Columbia on gameday is hands-down over off Key Road about 50 yards from the field: The Cockaboose Railroad.
These aren't just something you'd see on the passing end of a train though. They are all set up as if "Pimp My Ride" visited Columbia. They have flat screen TVs, Marble Countertops, and Tuxedo-plad caterers. Not only are they set up to house a party inside though, as they're all equipped with rooftop decks as well.
There are 22 railroad cars total, and not one of them matches another's interior as each of them are specifically tailored and designed for their owners.
When the first Cockabooses were put in place in March 1990, they immediately became an integral part of Carolina football, and one of the nation's famous traditions in tailgating.
Thousands of fans walk by every gameday, while hundreds mingle inside the rail cars or on their decked roofs. The units have been featured in such magazines as Southern Living, Tailgater Monthly, Smithsonian, and many others.
The cockabooses were the original idea of two South Carolina entrepreneurs that spent two years acquiring the railroad cars and rail spur to hold them in place. It took them all of 48 hours to sell 20 of them at $45,000 a piece.
"People would look at you, and they would give you this kind of wild-eyed look like, 'You're nuts,' " one of the entreprenuers said."Then they'd say, 'Yeah. I want one.'
For their $45,000 investment, buyers in 1990 would get central heat and air, water and sewage, electrical wiring, telephones and access to a satellite dish for TV. Basically, they got a wired railroad car that was a blank canvas on the interior. Most initial buyers ended up putting well over $100,000 into them.
Twelve of the original buyers still own their Cockaboose.
They remain as one of the most unique traditions in college football, in spite of their short history. The Cockabooses are a one-of-a-kind gameday tailgate. Put simply, it's a 45 feet long and 10 feet wide air-conditioned gameday party that can't be matched.
Rusty Thompson is one of the Founders of GatorTailgating,com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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