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 Post subject: Why Cabooses Went Away
PostPosted: Sat Mar 01, 2014 12:41 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
Posts: 3428
Location: Inwood, W.Va.
From the Bachmann model railroad site--but quite appropriate here: ... 218.0.html

 Post subject: Re: Why Cabooses Went Away
PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2014 10:58 am 

Joined: Sun Oct 19, 2008 12:58 pm
Posts: 1239
Location: Chicago USA
FEC ditched them in the sixties and if not for labor agreements and politics so could the rest of the industry except where having them actually makes the work more efficient.

This one was just in the way on this Conrail branch run with just a few cars (operated with IHB power).


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 Post subject: Re: Why Cabooses Went Away
PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2014 12:12 am 

Joined: Wed Oct 22, 2008 8:18 pm
Posts: 2226
all paperwork of the train went with the conductor and that with the caboose. The advent of computer communications spelled the eventual doom of the caboose, as all train data was no longer carried via onboard, crews today probably get switching duties printed out however.

We would however still have the caboose if that were not true, but welded rail smooths out the clunkiness of joints, better track design would be done etc, tighter locking coupler design can eliminate slack, save for broken couplers.
It isnt good engineership when you just take off without first pulling the slack out. Brakes are applied while power is still on to keep the slack out. Then from stop you slowly pull your slack out, popping the slack out means product damage in the cars potential.

As far as cost to move the caboose around obviously the railroads adjusted for it. Getting rid of it is part of the money making thinking, but compared to actual cost vs operating and profit revenues, I wonder...

I would think the safety issues were just as much concern, the EOT devices thats just a design issue where and how its placed. Keep it off the coupler.

 Post subject: Re: Why Cabooses Went Away
PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2014 2:55 am 

Joined: Sat Aug 28, 2004 3:25 am
Posts: 1025
Back in the 60s, I used to visit with a Southern Pacific crew that worked some of the ex-Pacific Electric lines. One day I stopped by and noticed a new brakeman on duty. I asked about the regular man and was told that he was off on disability--had a bad back injury when he got dumped by a hard stop on the caboose. When I act as a car attendant on a caboose train at the railway museum, I point out all the sturdy hand-holds inside the car, and tell them about riding a caboose on a long freight train. "When the train is about to start, and you hear to last cars start to rattle, grab something solid and HOLD ON!!"

Bob Davis
Southern California

 Post subject: Re: Why Cabooses Went Away
PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2014 2:38 pm 

Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2004 10:54 am
Posts: 792
Location: Tucson, Arizona
I recall seeing at least one operating rule that required rear end crewmen to be seated when passing locations where slack run-in and run-out was known to occur. The design of the caboose evolved but the introduction of the computer was destined to eliminate the caboose in large numbers.

The numerous safety concerns is one reason that TVRM rarely operates a caboose on the train. When I was there, the policy was that all passengers were to remain seated while the train was in motion and that no one was permitted on the end platforms other than train crew.

"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."- Conductor Nimrod Bell, 1896

 Post subject: Re: Why Cabooses Went Away
PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2014 3:13 pm 

Joined: Tue Aug 24, 2004 3:07 pm
Posts: 662
Another factor: Most trains did not require a five person crew.

Another factor: More frequent and more sophisticated defect detectors.

Another factor: "FRED" (especially one that can dump the brakes from the cab)

All that said, there was indeed a safety issue too. In the summer of 1963 I rode the B&O's Ravenswood to Spencer, WV mixed train. Going east I rode the caboose and even with a short, maybe 10 cars, train the ride was rough! The trip back to Ravenswood was mostly in the cab of B&O Alco S4 9104. It wasn't much smoother, as slack action works on locos too, just not quite as vigorously.

 Post subject: Re: Why Cabooses Went Away
PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2014 6:11 pm 

Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2004 2:50 pm
Posts: 2349
Location: Northern Illinois
I think so far everyone has missed the point... the caboose disappeared because it was no longer needed. The most important reason for the caboose hasn't even been mentioned yet... a place for the flagman to ride, to be at the end of the train where he was needed.

Much of the US rail network has always been "dark territory", no signals, and certainly no CTC. Until railroads built sufficiently dense networks of radio repeater stations that could guarantee radio contact between dispatcher and crew 100% of the time, these portions of line were operated under Time Table & Train Order rules. Those rules and procedures protected trains from head-on collisions. Rear end collisions were prevented by... the flagman. Not only was he required to walk back a sufficient distance to protect the train if it had to stop on the main track, he was also responsible for providing protection if the train slowed... by dropping lighted fusees off the rear of the caboose, their ten minute burning time ensuring at least that amount of separation between trains.

Aside from that, the train crew in the caboose monitored the brake pipe pressure, and acted as a self contained dragging equipment detector.

With the establishment of full time radio communications between the dispatcher and all trains under his authority, the rail industry adopted the now common Track Warrant Control procedures in non-CTC territory. In theory, with the dispatcher now in contact with all trains all the time, he should be able to provide for their separation, and the flagman's job became redundant. Concurrent development of radio remote train pipe monitoring (the "FRED") and dragging equipment detectors that "talk" directly to the crew pretty much sealed the fate of the caboose. It was only a matter of time before labor negotiations allowed the work rules to catch up with the reality of the situation.

As to those five man train crews; if a train stops on the main track to work an industrial spur, one man had to go back to flag. If a second man had to go ahead to flag because the train was working on some other trains (schedule) time, that doesn't leave a lot of people to actually do the switching.

Dennis Storzek

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