We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Cabooses were used on every freight train until the 1980s, when safety laws requiring the presence of cabooses and full crews were relaxed.
I suspect Jimmy Carter's deregulation of the trucking industry and Reagan's anti-union stance had something to do with it as well - with the added pressure of competition, the railroad unions couldn't hold the line on their full-employment demands. That reference to "full crews" is a reference to the union demands (in 1985!) that trains still carry firemen, a holdover from coal-fired steam engine days, long after the industry had switched to diesel-electric locomotives.
As a high school cross country runner my teammates and I would be out running before light in the fall. One of our favorite things to do was to run the tracks and go into a caboose and steal the marker flares and the torpedos.
The flares were used as a show of affection for some cute girl. Instead of rolling the house with toilet paper, we would flare a house. It was a site to see fifty to sixty flares burning under the fall canopy in someone's front yard. It played hell on the lawn, though... It was also found out to be an ineffective way to get the attention desired.
The torpedoes were used in the summer time to scare the crap out of the riders of the old time trolley down at the lake. I loved setting them and hearing the bang a little later. Still makes me smile thinking about the startled tourists.
This change in technology, this switch to the "End of Train Device," just denies the current and succeeding generations of smart ass punks like me a source of amusement. Sad.
The railroad workers knew we were out there, but they never caught us. Woke more than one up when entering a caboose. But we could run way faster.
Who can forget the caboose from Wild Wild West? I bet there would be a market for luxury cabooses. On an unrelated note, I used to ride the train in India, and the John is simply a toilet that looks down onto the tracks. Very Eco.
As a small boy out playing in the countryside I threw a snowball through the open back door of a passing caboose, the train man came out and took a look at me standing by the tracks in the snow out in the middle of nowhere, not a building in sight. I was thrilled and my status was enhanced among my peers.
Railroaders had some rich names for the ole' caboose: Crummy, Hack, Brain Shack. It was a mobile office that did the paperwork as the train got "over the road".
To the deregulation point, prior to the 80's many states mandated freight train crews of at least 4 and it was common to have crews of 5 or 6. Today, a crew of 2 gets most freight trains over the road: an engineer and conductor/brakeman.
Mention is made of the slack in the couplings. If there was 1 inch of slack per coupling in a 72 car train, that would be six feet total by the time it got to the caboose. I wonder how many workers riding in a caboose were hurt by the yank when the slack finally reached the end?
Would anyone have had to walk along the tops of the cars while the train was running? That would have been nasty. There was a walkway at the peak of the boxcar roof.
re Would anyone have had to walk along the tops of the cars while the train was running?
Yes. Back before Westinghouse invented airbrakes, men had to tighten the handbrakes as trains were needing to stop. They would have to jump from one swaying and pitching car to to the next to get enough brakes set to stop the train. If that doesn't give you the whim-whams, add in darkness, high winds, ice and freezing rain/snow. And yes, men fell from these trains all the time and were killed and/or maimed.
After the introduction of air brakes there was less of a need for being on top of cars, but one can still find pictures of brakemen standing on top of slow moving trains relaying hand signals (for switching) in the time before radios.
The railroads eventually outlawed the practice of standing on moving cars and the roofwalks on the cars were outlawed c. 1965.