The caboose was a North American railroad car that was found at the end of freight trains. It provided shelter for crews, consisting of one conductor and one or two brakemen. The crew used the cupola (the platform that extends upwards from the roof), to look for load-shifting, damage to equipment and cargo, and overheating axles (hot boxes). The conductor was responsible for the entire train except for the locomotive, he kept records and handled business from a table or desk in the caboose. For longer trips, the caboose provided minimal living quarters and the crew frequently personalized and decorated with pictures and posters. The back of the caboose was fitted with red lights (originally oil lamps), called markers, to enable the rear of the train to be seen at night. In addition to the red markers, it was tradition on many lines to paint the caboose bright red, though on many lines it eventually became the practice to paint them in the same corporate colours as the locomotive.
Since the advent of the caboose there have been many different models, standard, bay window, transfer, drover's, and extended vision. Our caboose, built in 1972, is an extended vision caboose, also known as a wide vision caboose. This means that the cupola, or the observation platform on the roof, extends beyond the sides of the body of the caboose car, allowing for the crew to see past the top of the taller cars that began to appear after World War II. Extending the cupola also increased the roominess of the area for the crew.
Up until the 1980s, Canadian law required all freight trains to have a caboose and a full crew for safety reasons. As technology advanced, railroads, in an effort to save money and reduce crew members, replaced the caboose with an End of Train Device (ETD). The ETD could be attached to the rear of the train to detect the train's air brake pressure and report any problems to the locomotive. The ETD will also detect movement of the train upon start-up, radioing this information to the engineers so they know all of the slack is out of the couplings and additional power can be applied. Like the caboose, these machines also have blinking red lights to warn following trains that a train is ahead. With the introduction of the ETD, the conductor moved up to the front of the train with the engineer.
Once received, our caboose was fully restored so come visit the museum to have a peek inside and have one of our staff members give you a tour!
Back in 2017 our staff wrote a new post each week about a different artifact from our Museum collection. We no longer keep up this tradition as we have moved on to other projects, but we have left them on our site for interest's sake. Enjoy this sneak peek of our Museum and make sure to stop on by to see more!