The Caboose Page

For many of us, the caboose epitomizes the freight trains we remember from years gone by.  From the wooden red bobber bringing up the rear of the local passing through our town, to the sleek steel bay window way car of the fast through freight, we can still picture the friendly wave of the conductor as the last car of the train passes by.  The caboose served as an office for the conductor, a place for any other rear-end trainmen to ride, and sometimes even a bunk and cook house.  Most important, it was an observation point for the conductor and trainmen to watch the train ahead of them and notice derailed cars, hotboxes and shifted loads before they caused further havoc on the railroad.

Modern detectors and work rules have eliminated the use of a caboose on most trains in the US.  They may be largely gone, but certainly not forgotten.  Shortly after the Southern Pacific eliminated widespread use of cabooses, the Rogue Valley Model Railroad Club set up their modular layout in Dunsmuir, California.  Our exhibit was attended by many people including both retired and working railroaders.  One of these gentlemen was overheard to comment, "Man, look at all those trains, and they all have cabooses!"

It is in this spirit that I present The Caboose Page, a sampling of  28 cabooses I have seen and photographed over the years.

Caboose Page 1  Caboose Page 2  Caboose Page 3 

Please click on the thumbnail picture for the larger image.
This wooden caboose was property of the the Crown Zellerbach Corporation and was bringing up the rear end of a string of empty pulpwood cars passing through my old home town of Covington, La.  In a few hours its crew will have switched out the empties in Hammond and be returning with loads for the Kraft mill in Bogalusa. 
Another nice "woody" on a local in Florenville, La. on the Gulf Mobile and Ohio.  The kerosene marker lamps really stand out in this view.
This comparatively modern steel, wide vision caboose is on the tail of a northbound Illinois Central way freight at Hammond, La. on a cloudy summer day in 1967.  Note the red markers replacing the lamps on either side of the large "porch".
The IC was partial to side doors on their cabeese.   This one was also caught in Hammond  as a "cab hop" in the winter of 1965.  (I'd like to hear from anyone out there with knowledge of IC's use of the side door in their cabooses.)
Fast forward to 1991 and cabooses were getting scarce.  I happened upon this trio on a side track in the SP yard in Meford, Oregon where cabeese had all but vanished.  Seems that the word had gone out up in Eugene that, due an upcoming official visit, cabooses were to be made to disappear. 
Burlington Northern is a refreshing excpetion to the "no cabooses" policies of most roads.  BN trains operating in Oregon seem to have a wide vision caboose like this one more often than not.  Of course, most BN trains in Oregon are also locals.  This one was captured in 1994 in Albany next to the Willamette & Pacific yard.
Some cabeese survive in special service.  This former SP bay window caboose was working with a Southern Pacific Construction Services fiber optics train laying cable along the Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad.  The entire train was parked for the weekend on the siding in my hometown of Rogue River, OR.
Other cabooses were purchased from various railroads by private individuals and survive either on or off a railroad.  This modern car operates from time to time on the Yreka Western steam excursions and has even ventured as far north as the Rogue Valley for special events.  Here it is pictured in Montague, California with members of the Southern Oregon Chapter, National Railway Historical Society.
A few cabooses escpaed the scrapper's torch in novel fashion.  This "merger" occured a few miles north of Durango, Colorado right next to the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge line. 
This vintage wooden car doesn't need any introduction to Colorado narrow gauge fans.  Not surprisingly, most narrow gauge cabeese that survived into the 60's are still around today. 
This is my favorite caboose!  Sumpter Valley 5 was built in 1926 in the South Baker shops of the Sumpter Valley Railway and still serves on nearly every excursion train operating on the Sumpter Valley.  I've spent many a good night in "Motel 5" after a long day working on the excursion train. 
Inside the coupola of Sumpter Valley 5 a happy family enjoys the ride through the woods and dredege tailings between McEwan and Sumpter.  Passengers can ride in No. 5 for no additional charge on the SVRY.  Just sit back and feel this old gal rock, roll, flex and creak down the narrow gauge track. 

All pictures and descriptions Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000 by Larry Tuttle
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