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Second Home: 1943

January 1943. "Freight train operations on the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad between Chicago and Clinton, Iowa. The caboose is the conductor's second home. He always uses the same one and many conductors cook and sleep there while waiting for trains to take back from division points." Medium format nitrate negative by Jack Delano, Office of War Information. View full size.

January 1943. "Freight train operations on the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad between Chicago and Clinton, Iowa. The caboose is the conductor's second home. He always uses the same one and many conductors cook and sleep there while waiting for trains to take back from division points." Medium format nitrate negative by Jack Delano, Office of War Information. View full size.


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Air on the Brakes

According to the air brake gage on the back wall there is air on the train so the caboose is hooked up (coupled) to the train. I wonder who's cut out head is pinned to the lower left door window?

Afterlife of Cabeese

A friend of ours, who has a stand of sugar maple trees and a hobby sugaring operation, got a retired Canadian National caboose (red, of course) with the idea of using it as a warming hut during the sap boiling.

He paid some nominal price, and it was delivered to his site on a flatbed truck. He'd determined how high the caboose should be mounted -- you get the caboose only, not the wheels -- and he'd prepared a foundation for it that would place it at the actual height of a operational caboose.

To get the thing off the truck an into place, he rented a crane and operator at something like $100/hour (this was three decades ago). Well, it took the crane operator four hours to get that caboose off the truck and onto the foundation!

Yes, it all worked out OK, and yes, there's a red CN caboose sitting in a southern Ontario stand of maples. But that "freebie" caboose ended up costing a whole lot more.

Dining car

I assume the "Dining Car in opposite direction" sign is a joke? If so, very clever.

Working on the railroad

I come from a railroad family. My grandfather had 50 years on the job, as did my father. I haven't seen the interior of many caboose cars but I did not see any decorated like this one. My dad used the downtime to study his safety rules for the next level of exam, necessary for promotion, not looking at nekkid women. Men were paid on time in grade status, but to promote you had to take a test and wait for an opening.

Railroading was a serious job, the company took safety very seriously as did the men, particularily the brakemen because they would be out there on the track swinging the lantern to guide the engineer on his back-up as well as to switch the track. Never would alcohol be on the job, not ever. It would not be tolerated by the company, nor by the men whose lives were at stake. My dad smoked cigarettes, as did his father. Everyone smoked cigarettes and since it was not an issue like it is today, I cannot image that it wasn't allowed in the caboose.

My dad quit railroading in the 1980s saying he was quitting because the new men coming in did not care--they were not interested in learning the job the right way, just "get it done quick, rest, play cards, and get my pay". It hurt him to see this low standard of work ethic, as it did other men. Sad commentary on progress, is it not.

We loved seeing the trains pass--ran from our play when we heard the whistle blow just to wave, first at the engineer who would sound the horn for us, and then at the caboose where the men would wave back. it was especially nice if it was our dad in the caboose.

Politically Correct Pinup

It's in the eye of the beholder.

It's all in the details

And what a wealth of details in this photo! Like the splatter on the side of the cabinet just above the waste basket. Probably from tobacco juice, or possibly empty beer cans? Neither of which would fly in today's railroad workplace, according to several of the comments. And the guy with the pipe would probably be out of a job as well.

And what's up with the rolling pin hanging on the wall? Maybe to roll out a few pancakes for cooking on the stove when they got hungry?

The print of the mother and child on the left looks like it has been hanging there since the caboose was built.

And, echoing several of the other comments, I miss the caboose and the waving conductor. I still remember that as a kid, and this was back in the 1970s.

Outstanding photo and keep up the great work.

Lots of factors killed Cabeese

most already mentioned, but there were a large number of workers comp incidents that arose in a people transporter located a mile back of slack action on a freight train.

One of the best ways to improve safety is to eliminate the need to expose workers to the danger in the first place.

So this was a big improvement. Cheesecake, though, is something to be missed.

Not Politically Correct

Personalized cabooses like this started dying off probably by the 1950s when most large railroads and the unions agreed to use "pooled" cabooses where the caboose stayed with the train and only the crews changed.

Today it is totally politically incorrect to post lewd photos or drawings like those in the photo. If doing such today does not get you fired, it will certainly cause you to have to attend Diversity and Sensitivity Training Sessions. Oh yeah, most jokes are strictly off limits, too. The railroad is a changed place these days.

The end of the end

Two innovations contributed to the end of the caboose. Roller bearings on the freight cars meant the guy in the cupola didn't have to watch for "hot-boxes" from the earlier cotton-waste oil-saturated bearing packing. The advent of the walkie-talkie meant communication between the engineer and the guy on the ground taking care of the switching.

Classy RV-ing

Wouldn't it be great to have an RV these days that looked more like that than the generic, mundane look most modern RVs have? I suppose one could refit an RV to look like this, but the weight of the wood paneling might be a problem, not to mention the weight of the woodstove. One can dream, however unrealistic one's dreams might be.

"Stormy" and brake tests.

"Stormy" Kromer was the inventor's name, the hat was a Kromer Blizzard Cap. The last one my wife bought for me was made in China, so I don't buy them anymore.

There used to be a pair of hand (lantern) signals in the rulebook to handle brake tests: Rule 12(f), the lamp swung horizontally over the head was the signal for the engineer to apply the brakes for the test, Rule 12(g), the lamp held at arm's length overhead was the signal to release. If all was well and the pressure recovered at the caboose, the next signal would be the "highball", otherwise someone would start walking the train to find the problem.

The Modern Caboose

In Canada at least there are still uses for cabooses. Mainly they're used on short switching runs where one or two cars are dropped off and or picked up at a specific shipper. I suspect that this is a time saving measure since it would be inefficient to keep moving the ETD (FRED) to the new end car, and it poor electronic brain might not be able to cope with a movement that temporarily splits the train in the middle.

Penny for his thoughts.

Pipe smoker is wearing a Stormy Kromer as well.

I wonder what he's thinking? How long will the war last? How long till he sees his son again? How long till lunch? How long is it gonna take this photographer to get his shot?

I find it interesting

with the cheesecake motif that in the upper left hand of this photo (near the stove pipe) there's a picture of what appears to be a mother consoling a child.

Thank you for any train pics

My Grandfather, whom I adored, worked on the Erie Lackawanna from the early 1910's to the late 1960's. Any old pics of the great train days are so appreciated. Thank you.


My brother forwarded this shot to me and boy do I love it. Our father was a conductor on the C&NWRR and the photo brought back so many wonderful memories of my childhood. As a railroading family, my father would periodically take me to the yard with him to work. One of the highlights of the trip was reaching for the curved handrail on the side of the caboose and let the train's passing movement pull you up for the ride. Once on-board, I loved climbing up to the copula for a bird’s eye view (usually it would be a trip to Proviso Yard where I could be handed off to see my uncle, grandfather or a cousin).

Cabeese have always intrigued me

Thanks for the view of life inside a caboose, I have always been fascinated with them.

After reading Lectrogeek's link about the demise of the caboose I learned quite a bit of info about trains that I just took for granted before reading the link.

The link's explanation of the features of the FRED device does bring up one question though.

Before the days of computers and the prevalence of two-way radios from the back of the train to the front, how did the engineer get all of the air pressure and movement information from the conductor?

Home sweet home!

Except for the slack action when a long train started up, I'm sure. Note the stout rod holding the potbelly stove down to the floor. And here is an explanation for why we no longer have cabeese.

Technology overtook them.

Renaissanceman asked "Whatever happened to cabooses?"

Technology, in the form of flashing end-of-train devices (acronym is FRED, I think) and computerised detection for when the rear end passes critical points (signals, switches, etc) replaced the need for a man at the back.

Stormy Kromer!

I spy an actual Stormy Kromer hat hanging on a peg! Still made in Michigan, originally designed by Stormy's wife from a baseball cap and made to stay on a railroad engineer's head no matter how windy.

A glimpse of the caboose

From "I Like Trains" by Fred Eaglesmith

Sixteen miles from Arkadelphia
right near the Texas border
traffic was stopped at a railway crossing
I took it to the shoulder

I stoked the kettle I put it to the metal
I shook the gravel loose
I missed the train but I was happy with
a glimpse of the caboose

cause I like trains
I like fast trains
I like trains that call out through the rain
I like trains
I like sad trains
I like trains that whisper your name

I was born on a greyhound bus
my Momma was a diesel engine
They tried to put me behind the wheel
but I wouldn't let them
You should have seen the look in their eyes
and how it turned to tears
when I finally told them I wanna be an engineer

Now you think I've got someone new
but darlin' that ain't true
I could never love another woman besides you

It's not some dewy-eyed
darlin' darlin' that's gonna drive you insane
But anymore I'd be listenin' for
the sound of a big ol' train

cause I like trains
I like fast trains
I like trains that call out through the rain
I like trains
I like sad trains
I like trains that whisper your name

Get a load of the Caboose

Get a load of the caboose on the broad on the wall of the caboose. LOL (Am I the only one to post this obviouse joke?)

A Place to Hang

I feel sorry for the modern conductor and brakeman. They used to have a home away from home at the end of the train but now only have a seat in the lead locomotive or a seat in the empty slave locomotives.

Cabeese and conductors

Though the cabeese have been replaced, not so the conductors. Their office has been moved into the cab of the locomotive..Conductors are actually in charge of the train, not as ususlly believed, the engineers. Engineers run the locomotives and the conductors tell them where to pick up and drop off freight cars. I prefer the caboose to the Freds that are used now. The Freds not only have a flashing light, but they radio air pressure and other information to the engineer, but the conductor is usually a nice friendly guy, much more than the Freds,

Comforting memories

As a young boy in Maine my brother and I would watch the trains go by and count the cars. It was a thrill to wave to the conductor.
My grandfather, an old railroad man, introduced us to a conductor friend of his and we even got a quick look inside a caboose. A dream come true for a young railroad fan.

Caboose Lore

Whatever happened to cabooses? Were they stopped as a cost-saving measure, or was the conductor no longer needed on freight trains?

They were a "natural" ending to trains as they looked so different from the other cars. When they passed you knew that it was OK to cross the crossing. Now freight trains just end and it is sad.

Part of the fun with trains was waving at the caboose. Quite often, the conductor or whoever was in it would wave back.

Back in the day!

It would have been nice to be there.

Wall Candy

I worked on a railroad for 36 years and the cabooses never were allowed to look like that. Years ago the caboose was assigned to the Conductor for each trip he made so it was decorated it the way he wanted it. I rode these for many years until they were replaced with a flashing rear end device. FRED

September snow

The graffiti is correct; it did indeed snow in Illinois and Iowa on Friday, September 25, 1942 - up to two inches (in Iowa Falls). Newspapers the next morning reported that this was the first September snowfall in Des Moines in the history of the weather bureau. The high school football game between Garner and Buffalo Center was called because of darkness after "driving snow" knocked out six lights.

I Miss the Caboose

Nice man cave.

Proper pinups

Some tasty cheesecake here. Contemporary girls a la Sundblom and Elvgren along with some smaller older pieces.

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