The little wood shanty that used to trail faithfully after every string of freight cars-like many other railroad scenes-has undergone many changes in the past hundred years.
The box-like shelters train crews used to build to shield their cooking fires on spare platform cars in the mid 1800s, the converted box cars with sliding doors used around the turn of the century, the cupola-topped wooden cabooses popular after World War I, all have given way to ever more modern, efficient and better-equipped cabooses.
Today’s SP caboose with its sleek bay windows of shatterproof glass, automatic oil heater, electric lights and refrigerator, drinking fountain, radio-telephone and specially-designed Pullman-type crew seats is fast becoming an operating symbol of the technological advances continually being made by SP. Rapidly disappearing are the old-fashioned hard benches and feather dusters, the coalbin and the kerosene lamp and the lazy board. The caboose has become a rolling office, efficient and functional, vastly different from its forebears. The origin of the caboose is un-certain. Even its birthdate is unknown. The most generally accepted story of its beginning is that a man named Nat Williams - a freight conductor on the Auburn & Syracuse Railroad during the 1830s - made it his custom to sit in the last car of a freight train on a box or barrel and direct the train’s operation. As trains and runs grew longer, some railroads provided platform cars for their train crews, and eventually converted box cars for crews to use as shelters.
Continued in WRBT Magazine issue 001 available in our online shop!
We Ride By Train is a lifestyle brand with railroad and freight inspired clothing and videos.