"A lot of them put curtains in there and little rugs.... They had a pot-bellied stove and they were all good cooks."
- Richard Jackson, Yardmaster
On the road, freight crews climbed up into the cupola, inspecting the train ahead for signs of trouble. Smoke from an overheated axle bearing or a load that had shifted and was sticking out from the side of a car could cause a derailment. The crews did their paperwork here, too.
What's a caboose?
Well, it was a look-out, a rolling office, a home away from home. The caboose had bunks for the crews to sleep on at the end of the run, bins for clothes and tools, and a coal-fired stove for cooking and heating. Ten tracks might have been filled with cabin cars, many with crews catching sleep or a meal before their next run.
· Most called this car a caboose, but the Pennsy, with its habit of using distinctive names, called it a cabin car.
· The PRR's N5 class, introduced in 1914, was the industry's first all-steel caboose. This car was built here in Altoona in 1929.
· As safer wheel bearings, reliable radio communications, and electronic trackside monitoring of axles came into use, cabooses were phased out.
· Today, cabooses are used mostly on local runs that have long back-ups where it's unsafe for crew to ride the side or end of a freight car.
· At the end of a run away from their home terminal, crews now sleep in a motel.