Trains.com

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Are containers and cabooses compatible?

2183 views
20 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    March 2017
  • From: Synecdoche, NY
  • 58 posts
Are containers and cabooses compatible?
Posted by Bernie on Thursday, November 17, 2022 6:11 PM

I love cabooses, but I want to run modern intermodal container trains. 

Were cabooses still in use when freight started being shipped in containers?

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Central Vermont
  • 4,514 posts
Posted by cowman on Thursday, November 17, 2022 6:42 PM

It's your railroad, do what you like.

Someone here will have dates, but my guess is container trains only had EOT lights.

UP pulls containers with steam, why not tack a caboose on?

Have fun,

Richard

  • Member since
    March 2011
  • 1,640 posts
Posted by NVSRR on Thursday, November 17, 2022 7:03 PM

I shorline orchard and egypt i think it was called pulled modern (at the time) intermodl and did have cabosse on the end

A pessimist sees a dark tunnel

An optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel

A realist sees a frieght train

An engineer sees three idiots standing on the tracks stairing blankly in space

  • Member since
    May 2020
  • 800 posts
Posted by wrench567 on Thursday, November 17, 2022 7:35 PM

   The PRR started LCL container service way back in the twenties or thirties. They also pioneered the trailer on flatcar back in the fifties. Not the modern conex boxes but the service was there.

    Pete.

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 12,164 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Thursday, November 17, 2022 8:05 PM

OK, two posts this month.

Containers, just like we have today, were in wide spread use by the late 1970's.

Cabooses did not start to go away until after 1980 and in some places were still required until 1988.

Rail container traffic in the 70's was not well cars or stacks. It was a simple 85' flat car, just like a piggy back flat car for complete trailers, but with brackets to tie down 40' and 20' containers.

Sheldon

    

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 13,192 posts
Posted by wjstix on Friday, November 18, 2022 8:51 AM

I first saw containers in 1984, I had a job in downtown St.Paul in a building overlooking a rail mainline. As Sheldon noted, cabooses were still around in the mid-eighties (but on their way out) so containers and a caboose could be on the same train if you're modelling the mid-eighties. Note however the containers I saw were single-level, one container on a flatcar. I don't think double-stacks were started (or at least, were not common) until after cabooses were pretty much gone from mainline trains.

Stix
  • Member since
    March 2017
  • From: Synecdoche, NY
  • 58 posts
Posted by Bernie on Friday, November 18, 2022 10:35 AM

Okay, thanks for the answers, everybody.  Smile

  • Member since
    October 2005
  • From: Central Texas
  • 298 posts
Posted by MJ4562 on Friday, November 18, 2022 12:44 PM

I've seen plenty of cabooses on trains of Trailer on Flat Cars (TOFC) and containers on flatcars. 

But I think a caboose would look odd and out of place on a train of modern well cars either single or double stack.  

Aren't cabooses still in use on some short lines and branch lines with lots of back up moves?  I think a caboose would look normal on a branch line or local but not on a mid-1980s and later through freight.

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • From: Potomac Yard
  • 2,599 posts
Posted by NittanyLion on Friday, November 18, 2022 12:54 PM

https://youtu.be/cluvX_-KMGg

Or on reverse moves with doublestacks 

  • Member since
    March 2003
  • From: Central Iowa
  • 6,471 posts
Posted by jeffhergert on Saturday, November 19, 2022 5:56 AM

I have a picture of a 5 pack double stack, surrounded by 89' flats with the conventional COFC, and a caboose.  The processing date was 1986.  It was taken along the CNW east/west main at Cedar Rapids (Beverly Yard) and the caboose is a UP baywindow, their last new caboose design.  It wasn't too long after this that CNW stopped using cabooses.

I think it was SP, in conjunction with one of the car builders and shipping companies, that started experimenting with double stacks about 1978. 

Jeff

  • Member since
    September 2002
  • 7,387 posts
Posted by ndbprr on Saturday, November 19, 2022 7:22 AM

the PRR was an original owner of Tructrain and pushed trailer on a flat car. NYC pushed containers at the same time which wasn't initially as popular since the truckers already had trailers.  if  you see pictures of PRR tofc trains which all had priority you will always see a box car tacked on between the last flat and the cabin car (PRR speak for caboose).  they found that the short wheelbase of the cabin car would derail on crossover moves due to the length of the flat cars and the coupler swing.  A model railroad problem experienced by the prototype.

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 12,164 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Saturday, November 19, 2022 7:53 AM

ndbprr

the PRR was an original owner of Tructrain and pushed trailer on a flat car. NYC pushed containers at the same time which wasn't initially as popular since the truckers already had trailers.  if  you see pictures of PRR tofc trains which all had priority you will always see a box car tacked on between the last flat and the cabin car (PRR speak for caboose).  they found that the short wheelbase of the cabin car would derail on crossover moves due to the length of the flat cars and the coupler swing.  A model railroad problem experienced by the prototype.

 

The Chicago Great Western (1936), Chicago Northwestern, CB&Q, B&O, New Haven (1938?), Wabash, Rio Grande, NKP and a list of others were providing some sort of Piggy Back service before the PRR or NYC got into the act. Some as early as the 1930's.

At the same time the PRR entered Piggy Back, the SP introduced a major system of Piggy Back LCL in California.

The NYC contain system did not last long because of the use of proprietary equipment.

The PRR entered limited Piggy Back services in 1951. TrucTrain as a major serive did appear until July 1954.

The PRR was just adopting what others had been working on since the late 40's.

It took the NYC even longer to get onboard with a system that worked.

Sheldon

  

    

  • Member since
    October 2005
  • From: Central Texas
  • 298 posts
Posted by MJ4562 on Saturday, November 19, 2022 9:34 AM

Aside from technology, the End of Train Device, what enabled railroads to do away with the caboose?  Was it a change in federal/state law, labor agreements or because the technology was now available?  

Did all railroads abandon them at the same time or did it vary and where there holdouts?  Regionals, short lines?

  • Member since
    November 2006
  • From: NW Pa Snow-belt.
  • 2,183 posts
Posted by ricktrains4824 on Saturday, November 19, 2022 10:32 AM

Yes they do.

Remember the old rule "there is a prototype for everything."

https://www.railpictures.net/photo/266542/

Ricky

Ricky W.

HO scale Proto-freelancer.

My Railroad rules:

1: It's my railroad, my rules.

2: It's for having fun and enjoyment.

3: Any objections, consult above rules.

  • Member since
    March 2003
  • From: Central Iowa
  • 6,471 posts
Posted by jeffhergert on Saturday, November 19, 2022 3:21 PM

MJ4562

Aside from technology, the End of Train Device, what enabled railroads to do away with the caboose?  Was it a change in federal/state law, labor agreements or because the technology was now available?  

Did all railroads abandon them at the same time or did it vary and where there holdouts?  Regionals, short lines?

 

Technology, labor agreements or changes in law?  The answer is Yes.  All three, depending on where one is at are applicable.

First came thetechnology.  The first EOTs were dumb FREDs, Flashing Rear End Device. The first ones were no more than a flashing red or amber light to the rear and an air gauge.  Later came those with telemetry between the front and rear end.

Second was a change in labor contracts eliminating the caboose requirement.  Changes in crew consists happened in the same time frame, but some roads eliminated the second trainmen on some or all trains before the caboose provision was eliminated.  In general, the industry and unions negotiate national agreements.  However, there are local side agreements and some over the years dropped out of national agreements on some or all aspects of contracts.  So generally speaking, cabooses could be eliminated on all railroads at nearly the same time.  Also, the removal of the requirement still allows a railroad on it's own to keep a caboose on a job if it determines it's still needed.  

Cabooses still in service have been repurposed.  Most are now technically "shoving platforms."  (Others have been converted to MOW work train office/gang transport or crew deadhead transport during extreme winter weather.)  Some of the shoving platforms remain more or less the same, others have had their doors welded shut or made otherise inaccessible for train/switchmen. 

Third, in some locations, state law mandated cabooses.  The last of these were repealled in the 1980s. 

I remember seeing in the last months of cabooses on the CNW in my area on through trains, the cabooses unoccupied with the rear end crews riding the trailing units.  I don't know if it was at the crew's descretion or at the railroad's instruction.  Something over looked in the nostalgia of cabooses is the number of injuries to trainmen riding cabooses due to slack action.

The highest compliment I've ever had as an engineer from a number of old heads, now all retired, was that they would have no qualms about riding the waycar (CNW term for caboose) on a train I was running. 

Jeff 

  • Member since
    June 2007
  • 8,763 posts
Posted by riogrande5761 on Saturday, November 19, 2022 4:26 PM

Bernie

I love cabooses, but I want to run modern intermodal container trains. 

Were cabooses still in use when freight started being shipped in containers?

 

About the time double stack well cars became in use, cabooses were going out of style.  For example, the D&RGW cabooses lasted until 1985 and after that were special use only, such as long back up moves.

I prefer to model caboose era even though the only way to get correct D&RGW cabooses is to buy brass cabooses.  My modeling period is mid-70's thru end of caboose era.  Containers were used on trains prior to the mid-80's, typically on 89' flat cars, which were configured to carry both containers and trailers.

Here is a 1978 photo showing a long block of containers on flat cars:

5339_E_Ruby.jpg (drgw.net)

Up to you however.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

  • Member since
    January 2007
  • 500 posts
Posted by azrail on Monday, November 21, 2022 1:48 PM

The Flexi-Vans that started in the 50s were containers that were placed on a chassis. COFC really started in the 60s with SeaLand and Seatrain, and MP and Southern had their own containers. So you could have COFCs and cabooses together all the way back to the late 50s-early 60s.

  • Member since
    October 2008
  • From: Canada
  • 1,780 posts
Posted by cv_acr on Monday, November 21, 2022 1:56 PM

MJ4562

Aside from technology, the End of Train Device, what enabled railroads to do away with the caboose?  Was it a change in federal/state law, labor agreements or because the technology was now available?  

Did all railroads abandon them at the same time or did it vary and where there holdouts?  Regionals, short lines?

Rules:

The most important change is the elimination and replacement of train order (timetable) operation with track warrants, DTC, or something similar. This eliminates or drastically changes the manual flagging rules for tail end protection, and/or protection of stopped trains.

Technology:

Implementation of widespread radio communication coverage enabling above.

Automated track side defect detectors, coupled with increasing train length and car sizes making it harder to visually inspect a train anyway.

Automatic tail-end brake pressure monitoring in the EOT.

"Auto-normalling" switches in ABS territory not requiring a tail end person to re-line switches. (Manually controlled power switch that auto matically re-lines for the main after a train uses the diverging route.)

Labour agreements:

Reducing crew size to eliminate fireman, flagman, and brakeman positions no longer required due to above changes.

  • Member since
    June 2007
  • 8,763 posts
Posted by riogrande5761 on Tuesday, November 22, 2022 9:05 AM

Bernie

I love cabooses, but I want to run modern intermodal container trains. 

Were cabooses still in use when freight started being shipped in containers?

Generally no as far as modern container trains go.  As pointed out, containers have been used before end of caboose era, but mostly container on flat car, COFC.  Some of the earliest well cars carried containers when in the 1984/85 period at the very end of cabooses on mainline trains.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

  • Member since
    March 2017
  • From: Synecdoche, NY
  • 58 posts
Posted by Bernie on Thursday, December 1, 2022 1:47 PM

Sounds like I'll have to compromise and carry semi trailers on flatcars instead of intermodal containers in well cars in order to be prototypical. 

Thanks to everyone who replied! :-) 

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 13,192 posts
Posted by wjstix on Tuesday, December 6, 2022 9:10 AM

Keep in mind cabooses were never like outlawed or anything. If you have a freelance railroad, that railroad could choose for their own reasons to continue using cabooses up to the present day. And even if you model a real railroad, it wouldn't be a great "what if" stretch to image the railroad still using cabooses.

Re why railroads quit using cabooses, may be helpful to remember the new technology (like FREDs) came along about as the US had seen a period of very high inflation that was followed by the worst recession since the Great Depression, with unemployment for a stretch in 1982-83 of over 10%. Although I'm sure the railroad labor unions weren't happy about agreeing to contracts allowing railroads to lay off rear-end crewmen, I think they realized that making concessions was going to aid the long term health of railroading.

Stix

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Users Online

There are no community member online

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!