Caboose Types & Eras?

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I've been reading up on cabooses and have been able to grasp the logic behind the traditional cupola, offset cupola, extended vision cupola, and bay window cupola.

One question I seem to be having trouble finding an answer to is what was the more common version being used from the 1960s into the end of their popularity in the 1980s? Or, was there a preferred style toward the last 20-25 years of use? Anyone have any thoughts?

Side note: Interesting to see they are still used some ...

 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
One question I seem to be having trouble finding an answer to is what was the more common version being used from the 1960s into the end of their popularity in the 1980s? Or, was there a preferred style toward the last 20-25 years of use? Anyone have any thoughts?
Off the top of my head, one would see the wooden cabooses phased out in the early 1960s. I still remember the night the Santa Fe burned the entire line of wooden cabooses in Pueblo Colorado (1962 ish).

Cupola or bay window was a railroad preference. In Wichita Kansas in the 1960s, Santa Fe and Frisco were cupola kind of companies, while the Rock Island and Mopac favored the bay windows.

Starting in the late 1960s the wide vision caboose became the preferred style on several of the western roads - Santa Fe, Northern Pacific, Great Northern, Burlington, MKT, Burlington Northern, Rock Island, Mopac, Soo, Chessie, Rio Grande come to mind. The last batch of new caboose that were ordered were wide visions by the Santa Fe in 1994(?) just a few months before the Feds dropped the requirement for a caboose on all trains - oops.
 

Selector

Well-Known Member
I believe that whatever cabooses were used near, or after, the end of steam were what would have been used until the end of cabooses/vans/crummies/way cars. I haven't investigated to see if cabooses were being ordered and delivered in large numbers during the late 60's and into the 70's, but it would surprise me. They wouldn't have suffered the abuse inside them that a hopper or boxcar might, so they tended to be long-lived. And to that end, their design, such as they were preferred and in use, would have persisted until they came to an end.
 

dave1905

Well-Known Member
Cupola cabooses fell out of favor in the 1960's because cars became tall enough that the conductor couldn't see over the car ahead of him so the cupola offered no advantage, plus the cupola was a source of injuries due to people falling out of them inside the caboose.

The "wide vision" caboose was an attempt to combine the best of a cupola and bay window caboose. Plus it was one of the few offered as a stock design in that era.

Whether the cupola was centered or offset really only had to do with how the interior space was arranged. Center or offset makes no difference in the function of the caboose.

The UP and MP both came up with a similar design. of the small bay window caboose.
 

GeeTee

Well-Known Member
Side note: Interesting to see they are still used some ...
it looks to me like they are using it as a buffer car.

I dont know that cabooses were ever "popular" with the railroads , just a necessity in the beginning and later an ICC requirement..All wood cabooses fell out of favor just prior to WWI , The frames couldn't handle the loads with a pusher .
N5 steel cabooses were built by the PRR starting in 1914, and survived into the Conrail merger .
N6 wood cabooses were constucted /reconstructed at the same time. both in narrow and wide vision. The type of caboose used depended on the area in which they operated( tunnel clearances). They were built from older wood ND's and a new steel frame.

During war time railroads had to revert to using more wood in new rolling stock as steel was considered critical war material.
 

Ash Pit

Well-Known Member
Here in Minnesota and from 1970 on, I would say that the Wide Vision Cupola was what was used, at least by the Burlington Northern RR. 1970 was the year of the merger of the Northern Pacific, Great Northern, Chicago, Burlington &Quincy and Spokane, Portland and Seattle, into the Burlington Northern. Other local lines such as the Minneapolis Northfield and Southern used Bay Window Cabooses. I really didn't see anyone in previous posts stating anything as to whether; or, not a caboose was a requirement. I think, at the time, with solid journal bearings and the commonality of "Hot Boxes" Train crew at each end of the train made sense to watch out for train problems from both ends.
 

Selector

Well-Known Member
And, as trains grew longer, it would have taken crews at each end less time to inspect for damage, to walk back to protect a stalled train, to carry a knuckle to wherever a break was,...
 

cv_acr

Active Member
I really didn't see anyone in previous posts stating anything as to whether; or, not a caboose was a requirement.
Dave H. mentioned it in a post just before yours... there was no "rules" requirement to have a caboose exactly.... however...
  • crew sizes were larger then and wouldn't all fit in the cab
  • operational requirements to have someone at the end of the train to:
    • line siding and/or crossover switches behind the train
    • fulfil operating rules regarding rear-end flagging and protection against following trains
    • keep an eye for problems (smoke from hot journals, signs of dragging equipment etc)
  • crew/union/labour agreements might require one to be provided for crew accomodations and working space
 

dave1905

Well-Known Member
The original purpose of a caboose was a place for the brakemen to ride when they weren't on top of the cars setting handbrakes. Plus in the early days of railroading, before air brakes, and using link and pin couplers, break in twos were common. If you look at an 1870's, 1880's rule book there are several pages on what to do if you find the rear end of a train sitting by itself on the main track or if you get to a station and find out that part of the train is missing. On a modern train, with air brakes, when the train parts, the brakes automatically apply. Before air brakes, the detached portion just rolls away. Having people on the rear end gave you people who could apply brakes to stop the rear portion.

In some rule books, whenever the train goes around a curve the rear end crew is required to give a signal to the head end crew to confirm they are still back there.

That was in addition to the aforementioned functions of lining switches and providing flag protection behind the train, which were the primary purposes after the adaptation of air brakes. Looking for hotboxes only works for about 25-30 cars ahead of the caboose or behind the engine, after that they can't see. Dragging equipment or a derailed wheel might be noticed in the daytime by observing marks on the track behind the train, but is much harder to see at night.
 

trailrider

Well-Known Member
Not having a waycar/caboose on the end of a freight train is just agin the laws of nature! Just don't look right, nohow! ;)
 

santafewillie

Same Ol' Buzzard
Even after reading that article, it is unclear whether cabooses were a legal requirement, or whether the larger crews were the actual requirement. The wording is ambiguous at best. Later in the article, it is mentioned that only the state of Virginia had a law requiring cabooses. For most railroads, it was just a convenient place to have marker lights and stash the extra crewmen.
Information can be contributed to Wikipedia by anyone, credentialed or not. The citation that the author used is a newspaper article from 1983, originally printed in a small town newspaper, the Lewiston Morning Tribune. It even references an "agreement" between the UTU and the railroads, not any laws.
 

dave1905

Well-Known Member
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caboose
paragraph 4 ,
Its the whole reason for the FRED EOT was to replace the caboose and satisfy the ICC.
Sorry, Wikipedia is wrong. There was NO Federal requirement to operate a train with a caboose. There may have been state laws that required or attempted to require cabooses. I was involved in one of those efforts in the 1980's in one state and the railroad convinced the state not to pass the law.

By the time the EOT came around it was the FRA, NOT the ICC that was responsible for Federal railroad safety laws. And the EOT had to conform to the SAME rules that where in effect at the time of the caboose. There were new rules that covered the EOT, but all the same marker and air brake rules applied.

The Federal government did NOT require the change to EOT's. By the time the EOT was developed the critical functions of the caboose (lining behind the train, performing air tests, watching for defects, flagging behind the train) had been automated or could be worked around by operating rules. The railroads were wanting to get rid of them because they were expensive, difficult to manage, dangerous and in many ways obsolete given modern technology.
 

dave1905

Well-Known Member
It even references an "agreement" between the UTU and the railroads, not any laws.
Exactly. Where cabooses were required it was by labor agreement or contract between the unions and the railroad. Those are not "laws". They are not "operating rules". They are not enforceable by the ICC, FRA, STB or the state regulatory agencies. If the railroad violates them it is not "against the law" (however the railroad may be required to compensate the affected crews for the violation.) It is just part of the crew's work rules/conditions and pay schedule.

In the Wikipedia article it talks about an Federal Emergency Board that is eliminating cabooses. That is a Railway Labor Board, the Federal agency that monitors labor a agreements and negotiations. The do not set Federal law. They monitor the labor agreements, and were involved in the changes to eliminate the requirements for cabooses in labor agreements, not laws.
 
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GeeTee

Well-Known Member
By the time the EOT was developed the critical functions of the caboose (lining behind the train, performing air tests, watching for defects, flagging behind the train) had been automated or could be worked around by operating rules.
Your making no sense , your saying that one hand that they weren't required , and then turning around and saying that they were preforming a critical function.

The stuff that I have seen says that there was a requirement for an observer to monitor for defects and to flag the back if the train was stopped or derailed to prevent a collision. In order to fufill that you would need caboose , otherwise the guy freezes to death or dies of hypothermia riding on the back of box car at 35mph in sub freezing temps . To have someone on the tail end you have to have a weathered in area.

The Vhf radio was the big advance not the EOT , most of the time the dispacher and the following train (if there was one ) knew the train had a problem at the same time or before the crew on the tail end. The radio made crew on the tail end redundant.
 

cv_acr

Active Member
Your making no sense , your saying that one hand that they weren't required , and then turning around and saying that they were preforming a critical function.
No...

What has been said is there is no explicit rule that specifically requires a caboose.

However there are certain functions or activities that require a person at the rear end, and a caboose to accomodate them. That's not the same as a specific rule that explicitly requires a caboose. Get rid of the need for a tail-end person to perform those activities and the need for a caboose goes away.
 
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