Would a caboose help prevent some of these accidents?

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#1
There has apparently been another derailment (cause undetermined at this news report) of tank cars carry ethanol. Last Thursday I took my wife, daughter, grandchild and grandchild's young friend to the Colorado Railroad Museum. With the kids climbing around inside a waycar (caboose to non-Burlington fans), I wondered if the added visibility of a trainman from the cupola might help detect some forms of trouble in time to prevent serious problems? I suppose those EOT devices do some of this, but could the additional visibility help?
 

tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#3
The sheer length of some trains these days would question the ability of a tail end observer having much input into preventing derailments. Tank trains being one of those.
 
#4
Short answer is no, and the caboose was the most likely place on a train for someone to be injured.

Unless you are on a curve you can only really see about 20-25 cars or so ahead of the train, on trains with 100-200 cars. Hotbox and dragging equipment detectors are more reliable and can catch defects earlier, before they fail in some cases. Cars are so tall a crew man in the cupola won't be able to see over the top of most trains and with the wider cars right up to the loading gauge they would have a hard time looking around the sides.

In the case of the ethanol train, just based on where it happened, I would say that by the time a conductor could see a problem the derailment would have already started and couldn't have taken any action.

Trust me the UP has a very robust investigative capability and they will be all over what happened.
 
#5
Just a thought. I still think a train without a caboose is agin the laws of nature! :cool: Won't happen on the G.G.&W. Division of the C.B.&Q. (pre-1960).
 

NYC_George

Active Member
#6
In the 13 years I worked as a fireman and engineer the caboose was place where everything got done. The conductor made out his switch list there. We left it on the main as protection when switching siding. The whole crew eat lunch there. On a turn you could see back about 30 cars looking for open doors, hot boxes etc. Kids would open doors and steal the contents. The doors could now obstruction the adjacent track you would even know it. You had a chance to get some rest there when the tower said, I'm putting you on hold for a few hours until all the passenger trains clear. I worked a on a local switcher for a few years. I can't imagine what that job would have been like without a caboose. That would have put the 5 of us stuck in the cab of a RS-3 with 3 seats. I guess they got rid of the caboose a few years after the 5 man crew law was overturned. I was back to building high rises by then.

George
 

montanan

Whiskey Merchant
#7
I rode in the caboose a few times with my cousin who worked for the Milwaukee Road. I did prefer having my nose pasted against the windshield of the locomotive, but it was a neat place to ride when I was a kid. One thing I remember quite well was when a train started and I wasn't prepared. I was standing at the front of the caboose and when all of the slack was taken out of the couplers, I found myself on my butt at the rear of the caboose. My cousin who was the conductor just laughed and said that he should have mentioned something about that.

It was a nice place to relax and watch the scenery go by but didn't ride quite as well as the locomotive. I guess technology and the expense of caboose upkeep were the demise of the caboose.

I gotta have a caboose on the end of my trains.

IMAG0266.jpg
 

NP2626

Well-Known Member
#8
I think even if it was known that a caboose would increase safety, business being what it is and needing to pare manpower to the bare minimum, I'm afraid Cabooses would still be gone from the scene!

Per Montanan; "I gotta have a caboose on the end of my trains". ​I'm with you there, pal! I guess that it is: "To Each His Own"; but to me, a train without a caboose, is like apple pie without the a la mode!
 
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Selector

Well-Known Member
#9
Trains 140 years ago when cabooses became widely used were only 10 cars in length...often less. A caboose was both a refuge and a working platform for larger crews than we have today. The caboose offered a safe and practical place from which to observe the train's behavior in the variations of track conditions as the consist moved from station to station. When trains became 12,000 tons and 200 cars long, the caboose was still able to offer excellent visibility of about 20 cars ahead, especially on curves. The other 180 cars were in 'dark' territory perpetually. A serious derailment 110 cars ahead of the caboose was just as undetectable to the caboose denizens as it would have been for those in the cab up front.

As dieselization made large crews somewhat unnecessary, and the technology came on line to operate distributed power in those mile-plus long consists, the caboose became just another car, but carrying nothing of particular value any more...especially when the crews could justifiably be pared down to two or three people, all of whom could enjoy each other's company in the spacious cabs up at the head end. Just another car out of many scores, yes, but also one that had to be cleaned and maintained....costs. For railroads working on marginal rates and profits over the post-war period, cabooses became something of a luxury.
 

Skip

New Member
#10
So a question: In the old prewar days of steamer pulled freights and little or no radio communications, if a cupola rider spotted a hot box on a car ahead how did he get the message to the engineer so as to stop in good time..?
 
#12
Like Chet and others, cabooses are important to my trains!

The caboose is an important part of America's railroad history and many a time I remember the crew in the caboose waving at me as I walked the right of way of the SOO Line hunting for small game.

I still enjoy watching the UP doing switching operations on the north side of Milwaukee where the UP uses an old C&NW caboose as a sort of a transfer caboose.

Thanks.

Greg
 

tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#13
I still enjoy watching the UP doing switching operations on the north side of Milwaukee where the UP uses an old C&NW caboose as a sort of a transfer caboose.
MRL and it's sister line, SRY in Canada, use cabooses on reversing moves etc. Some are Radio Controlled. Based on a photo I saw, I think that may mean a crew member or two ride the rear platform and communicate with the engineer in the cab via a hand held.
 

bnsf971

AKA Gomez Addams
Staff member
#14
So a question: In the old prewar days of steamer pulled freights and little or no radio communications, if a cupola rider spotted a hot box on a car ahead how did he get the message to the engineer so as to stop in good time..?
The caboose had an air brake valve that could be used to dump the air, and stop the train.
 
#15
NYC_George (above). I learned that the caboose was left on the main behind the cars not yet needed to be spotted, until the spur comes where they are to be spotted. Otherwise It and these same cars would block the the car/cars to be spotted at a trailing point spur switching job, since they'd be the first ones in..Never heard it was for safety. Also, will you clarify what you mean by "The doors could now obstruction the adjacent track, etc...(I think there's a typo here which may be the reason I ask). Finally, why do you cite that kids would be the thieves ? I'd think grand theft like that is mostly an adult crime. No ? .... Thanks,...M
 
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#16
The caboose was definitely for safety.

Originally the caboose was on the rear to protect the train. The flagman on the rear would get off the caboose as soon as the train stopped on the main track (for various reasons) and walk back a distance to "flag" trains coming up behind the train to keep them from running into their train. They would line switches behind their train. The brakemen stayed on the train and before air brakes, they would leave the caboose and go along the car tops to set hand brakes on the train to stop the train. When the trains stopped, a brakeman would walk forward along one side of the train to inspect all the brakes and bearings and when the train started back up again, they would cross over to the other side of the train, and get a roll by inspection of the other side. The rear crew would look forward along each side to check for sticking brakes and hotboxes, plus they would look behind the train at the track to check for dragging equipment and fires. Before there were air brakes the conductor was required to give a lantern signal to the engine crew when going around curves (the trains were shorter then (30-40 cars) so the engineer would know the rear of the train was still there. If the train broke in two the rear end crew would stop and protect the rear portion against following trains, oncoming trains and the returning head end portion. The rear crew monitored the air brake system using the gauges to make sure the air brakes were working and to perform air brake tests.

Modern defect detectors made many of the caboose inspections obsolete, roller bearings almost eliminated hot boxes, better brake valves reduced sticking brakes. EOT's provided better air pressure information and provided real time movement information to the engineer.
 
#17
I learned that the caboose was left on the main ... Never heard it was for safety.
One reason for this would be in signalled territory. As I understand it, if the local train leaves the main track to switch into an industry, either the switch is left open, or a car or cars (like the caboose) is left on the main so the track is shown as "occupied" and the train doesn't disappear from the system.
 
#18
Learning a lot about the duties of the crew men inside the caboose and what the caboose actually did in the days of the caboose. I alway thought they were there to wave at passerby's. LOL

Especially the comments by cv_acr about the caboose showing a occuptied track and the role the caboose(s) played in safety matters.

Thanks.

Greg
 
#20
Learning a lot about the duties of the crew men inside the caboose and what the caboose actually did in the days of the caboose. I alway thought they were there to wave at passerby's. LOL

Especially the comments by cv_acr about the caboose showing a occuptied track and the role the caboose(s) played in safety matters.

Thanks.

Greg
Thanks Greg.

Dave H. (dave1905)'s post also touches on important information about crew members flagging in front and behind of a stopped train in *non*-signalled territory. If a train was stopped or switching in un-signalled track under timetable & train order operation, they'd send a guy out from the caboose a certain distance with a signalling flag to warn other trains to stop and prevent a tail-end collision.

A signal system removed the flagging requirements, but something had to be left occupying the track to keep the signals at Stop [and Proceed].
 



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