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!

Caboose to Engineer communication

8135 views
18 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Caboose to Engineer communication
Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, September 20, 2003 10:55 AM
I was just curious, thinking last night about the role of the caboose and its watchful cupola. In the days before radio, how did an observant caboose crew communicate to the engineer, in the even tthat they saw some smoke from a hotbox or detected a derailment, etc.? Did the train length become a factor as caboose needed to be in visual range of the engine? If so, then mountainous terrain would call for shorter trains than the flat plains would, and yet as a Norfolk & Western modeler I see pictures of mallets heading up tremendously long trains all the time. How was it done? Telegraph signal carried through the rails? Pressure variation in the brake line? Telepathy?
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Caboose to Engineer communication
Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, September 20, 2003 10:55 AM
I was just curious, thinking last night about the role of the caboose and its watchful cupola. In the days before radio, how did an observant caboose crew communicate to the engineer, in the even tthat they saw some smoke from a hotbox or detected a derailment, etc.? Did the train length become a factor as caboose needed to be in visual range of the engine? If so, then mountainous terrain would call for shorter trains than the flat plains would, and yet as a Norfolk & Western modeler I see pictures of mallets heading up tremendously long trains all the time. How was it done? Telegraph signal carried through the rails? Pressure variation in the brake line? Telepathy?
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • From: US
  • 1,522 posts
Posted by AltonFan on Saturday, September 20, 2003 11:16 AM
IIRC, the conductor had a break release in the caboose, so he could stop the train if necessary. Otherwise they used lanterns, flags and hand signals. I would guess the fireman and/or the head end brakeman (the latter often sitting in a "doghouse" on the tender) was repsonsible to periodically check for signals from the caboose.

OTOH, if the engine crew needed to communicate with the caboose, they had whistle signals.

But all this is just odds and ends I picked up from my reading over the years. It would be interesting to hear the experiences of working railroaders from the pre-radio era.

Dan

  • Member since
    April 2003
  • From: US
  • 1,522 posts
Posted by AltonFan on Saturday, September 20, 2003 11:16 AM
IIRC, the conductor had a break release in the caboose, so he could stop the train if necessary. Otherwise they used lanterns, flags and hand signals. I would guess the fireman and/or the head end brakeman (the latter often sitting in a "doghouse" on the tender) was repsonsible to periodically check for signals from the caboose.

OTOH, if the engine crew needed to communicate with the caboose, they had whistle signals.

But all this is just odds and ends I picked up from my reading over the years. It would be interesting to hear the experiences of working railroaders from the pre-radio era.

Dan

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 9,977 posts
Posted by dehusman on Saturday, September 20, 2003 12:46 PM
The conductor had both a brake valve and an air whistle on the caboose. If he needed to stop the train he would set the air from the rear or if the train was short he could use the whistle to signal. For the most part the engineer and conductor were out of visual range during the trip.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 9,977 posts
Posted by dehusman on Saturday, September 20, 2003 12:46 PM
The conductor had both a brake valve and an air whistle on the caboose. If he needed to stop the train he would set the air from the rear or if the train was short he could use the whistle to signal. For the most part the engineer and conductor were out of visual range during the trip.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, September 20, 2003 1:56 PM
Avondaleguy,

I have been told a story from somewhere that if an engineer happened to fall asleep waiting on a long hold signal the conductor in the caboose sometimes resorted to opening the train's air system in the Caboose causing a "Big Hole" that usually woke the Locomotive's crew in short order.

It is my understanding that the Conductor was in charge of the entire train from the caboose and the Loco's crew just had to worry about firing the boiler and keeping on schedule etc.

I suspect that on shorter trains they may simply have walked back and forth across the tops of the cars for coffee etc. (I am guessing on this one folks)

Lee
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, September 20, 2003 1:56 PM
Avondaleguy,

I have been told a story from somewhere that if an engineer happened to fall asleep waiting on a long hold signal the conductor in the caboose sometimes resorted to opening the train's air system in the Caboose causing a "Big Hole" that usually woke the Locomotive's crew in short order.

It is my understanding that the Conductor was in charge of the entire train from the caboose and the Loco's crew just had to worry about firing the boiler and keeping on schedule etc.

I suspect that on shorter trains they may simply have walked back and forth across the tops of the cars for coffee etc. (I am guessing on this one folks)

Lee
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • From: US
  • 1,522 posts
Posted by AltonFan on Sunday, September 21, 2003 1:31 AM
I seem to recall that the Santa Fe had cabooses equipped with a semaphore device of some kind.

QUOTE: dehusman reports:
The conductor had both a brake valve and an air whistle on the caboose.

I did not know about the whistle. Where would it have been mounted? Or are we talking about a whistle that the conductor himself blew?

QUOTE: HighIron2003ar guesses:
I suspect that on shorter trains they may simply have walked back and forth across the tops of the cars for coffee etc.

From what I understand, walking along roofwalks on a moving train was something the crew preferred to avoid. I would tend to believe that engine crews would either have carried thermos-type bottles for their coffee, or put the firebox to creative use. (I once read an account of how an engine crew cooked steaks on a coal scoop.)

This leads to another question: has anybody attempted to do "manifold cooking" on a diesel locomotive?

Dan

  • Member since
    April 2003
  • From: US
  • 1,522 posts
Posted by AltonFan on Sunday, September 21, 2003 1:31 AM
I seem to recall that the Santa Fe had cabooses equipped with a semaphore device of some kind.

QUOTE: dehusman reports:
The conductor had both a brake valve and an air whistle on the caboose.

I did not know about the whistle. Where would it have been mounted? Or are we talking about a whistle that the conductor himself blew?

QUOTE: HighIron2003ar guesses:
I suspect that on shorter trains they may simply have walked back and forth across the tops of the cars for coffee etc.

From what I understand, walking along roofwalks on a moving train was something the crew preferred to avoid. I would tend to believe that engine crews would either have carried thermos-type bottles for their coffee, or put the firebox to creative use. (I once read an account of how an engine crew cooked steaks on a coal scoop.)

This leads to another question: has anybody attempted to do "manifold cooking" on a diesel locomotive?

Dan

  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, September 21, 2003 8:19 AM
heh.

I have cooked many a dinner in a semi. Just wrap your goodie in foil, stick it behind a turbocharger and wait a few minutes. It aint perfect but it will get hot.

in the Army (Or any service that runs tractors with 5 inch stacks) one could drop a meal down the stack (MRE) and wait at idle for 9 minutes exactly. And with a slap on the accelerator the burst of exhaust will pop the meal out cooked.

I did not once consider the firebox as a dinner, coffee be easy too. Just carry some grounds and draw water as needed and boil it. Steaks can be done too. That may be one of the secrets to the enjoyment of railroading, all the good eating.

Lee
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, September 21, 2003 8:19 AM
heh.

I have cooked many a dinner in a semi. Just wrap your goodie in foil, stick it behind a turbocharger and wait a few minutes. It aint perfect but it will get hot.

in the Army (Or any service that runs tractors with 5 inch stacks) one could drop a meal down the stack (MRE) and wait at idle for 9 minutes exactly. And with a slap on the accelerator the burst of exhaust will pop the meal out cooked.

I did not once consider the firebox as a dinner, coffee be easy too. Just carry some grounds and draw water as needed and boil it. Steaks can be done too. That may be one of the secrets to the enjoyment of railroading, all the good eating.

Lee
  • Member since
    September 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 9,977 posts
Posted by dehusman on Sunday, September 21, 2003 9:01 AM
The air whistle was mounted on the rear platform handrail near the brake valve.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 9,977 posts
Posted by dehusman on Sunday, September 21, 2003 9:01 AM
The air whistle was mounted on the rear platform handrail near the brake valve.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, September 21, 2003 12:36 PM
As far as cooking on a diesel locomotive, the oil cooler might have been the place. It was in "Trains,' on an article about the Rock Island suburban service out of Chicago. Apparently, one of the engineers was training for a new career after the imminent decline of the Rock. IIRC, he was cooking cheese casseroles or something like that, advanced types of things.
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, September 21, 2003 12:36 PM
As far as cooking on a diesel locomotive, the oil cooler might have been the place. It was in "Trains,' on an article about the Rock Island suburban service out of Chicago. Apparently, one of the engineers was training for a new career after the imminent decline of the Rock. IIRC, he was cooking cheese casseroles or something like that, advanced types of things.
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, September 21, 2003 5:01 PM
With the abundance of electricity, it would have been easy to siphon a bit of juice off a deisal with an inverter and use a hot plate or something.

When My wife and I drove, we would invert the truck power to about 1500 watts of 120 volt A/C this enabled us to do some full meals on the move. Saved us about 12,000 USD a year.

It is also possible that the railroad had arranged for crews to be at a local eateary from time to time in which they were served well. The old N and W books showed pictures of the train crew getting meals trackside by a waitress from the town restraunt.

Lee
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, September 21, 2003 5:01 PM
With the abundance of electricity, it would have been easy to siphon a bit of juice off a deisal with an inverter and use a hot plate or something.

When My wife and I drove, we would invert the truck power to about 1500 watts of 120 volt A/C this enabled us to do some full meals on the move. Saved us about 12,000 USD a year.

It is also possible that the railroad had arranged for crews to be at a local eateary from time to time in which they were served well. The old N and W books showed pictures of the train crew getting meals trackside by a waitress from the town restraunt.

Lee
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, September 21, 2003 5:22 PM
QUOTE: Originally posted by HighIron2003ar

With the abundance of electricity, it would have been easy to siphon a bit of juice off a deisal with an inverter and use a hot plate or something.

When My wife and I drove, we would invert the truck power to about 1500 watts of 120 volt A/C this enabled us to do some full meals on the move. Saved us about 12,000 USD a year.

It is also possible that the railroad had arranged for crews to be at a local eateary from time to time in which they were served well. The old N and W books showed pictures of the train crew getting meals trackside by a waitress from the town restraunt.

Lee


Hey all,

Somewhere in Southeast Missouri (the boothill area) the ex MO PAC and now UP crews had a little hamburger joint right next to the tracks. Somewhere I have seen a pic of it with someone from the hamburger joint giving one of the train crews a sack of food. It might have been a place totally for the railroad crews and not for the general public. There was (if I remember right) a wooden type walkway between the tracks and the hamburger joing that was about the cab height.

Anyone having info on this let's hear more.
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, September 21, 2003 5:22 PM
QUOTE: Originally posted by HighIron2003ar

With the abundance of electricity, it would have been easy to siphon a bit of juice off a deisal with an inverter and use a hot plate or something.

When My wife and I drove, we would invert the truck power to about 1500 watts of 120 volt A/C this enabled us to do some full meals on the move. Saved us about 12,000 USD a year.

It is also possible that the railroad had arranged for crews to be at a local eateary from time to time in which they were served well. The old N and W books showed pictures of the train crew getting meals trackside by a waitress from the town restraunt.

Lee


Hey all,

Somewhere in Southeast Missouri (the boothill area) the ex MO PAC and now UP crews had a little hamburger joint right next to the tracks. Somewhere I have seen a pic of it with someone from the hamburger joint giving one of the train crews a sack of food. It might have been a place totally for the railroad crews and not for the general public. There was (if I remember right) a wooden type walkway between the tracks and the hamburger joing that was about the cab height.

Anyone having info on this let's hear more.
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • From: US
  • 1,522 posts
Posted by AltonFan on Sunday, September 21, 2003 6:37 PM
In St. Marys, Kansas, there is a fast food place right across the street from the UP mainline. Every so often, the local would stop on the tracks across from this place, and the crew would have lunch there.

Dan

  • Member since
    April 2003
  • From: US
  • 1,522 posts
Posted by AltonFan on Sunday, September 21, 2003 6:37 PM
In St. Marys, Kansas, there is a fast food place right across the street from the UP mainline. Every so often, the local would stop on the tracks across from this place, and the crew would have lunch there.

Dan

  • Member since
    April 2002
  • From: Nashville TN
  • 1,306 posts
Posted by Wdlgln005 on Sunday, September 21, 2003 9:43 PM
For eating, I thought the caboose also contained a small cookstove that also provided heat. It could be hot enough to have a fresh pot brewing & a hot skillet for quick meals. It would be one more reason for the hogger to be kind to the caboose, don't want to spill any drinks! I wonder if there would be enough space for a 4-5 man crew to have some meals & drinks & jokes together ? Did train crews take "breaks" every so often just like factory workers?
Glenn Woodle
  • Member since
    April 2002
  • From: Nashville TN
  • 1,306 posts
Posted by Wdlgln005 on Sunday, September 21, 2003 9:43 PM
For eating, I thought the caboose also contained a small cookstove that also provided heat. It could be hot enough to have a fresh pot brewing & a hot skillet for quick meals. It would be one more reason for the hogger to be kind to the caboose, don't want to spill any drinks! I wonder if there would be enough space for a 4-5 man crew to have some meals & drinks & jokes together ? Did train crews take "breaks" every so often just like factory workers?
Glenn Woodle
  • Member since
    September 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 9,977 posts
Posted by dehusman on Monday, September 22, 2003 4:18 PM
Somewhere in Southeast Missouri (the boothill area) the ex MO PAC and now UP crews had a little hamburger joint right next to the tracks. Somewhere I have seen a pic of it with someone from the hamburger joint giving one of the train crews a sack of food.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 9,977 posts
Posted by dehusman on Monday, September 22, 2003 4:18 PM
Somewhere in Southeast Missouri (the boothill area) the ex MO PAC and now UP crews had a little hamburger joint right next to the tracks. Somewhere I have seen a pic of it with someone from the hamburger joint giving one of the train crews a sack of food.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 9,977 posts
Posted by dehusman on Monday, September 22, 2003 4:21 PM
Somewhere in Southeast Missouri (the boothill area) the ex MO PAC and now UP crews had a little hamburger joint right next to the tracks. Somewhere I have seen a pic of it with someone from the hamburger joint giving one of the train crews a sack of food.

===============================
The Spring Cafe in Spring, Texas north of Houston was involved in something like this. For several years in 1981-82 there was a temporary train order office next to the Junction switch and the cafe was across the street.

Dave H.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 9,977 posts
Posted by dehusman on Monday, September 22, 2003 4:21 PM
Somewhere in Southeast Missouri (the boothill area) the ex MO PAC and now UP crews had a little hamburger joint right next to the tracks. Somewhere I have seen a pic of it with someone from the hamburger joint giving one of the train crews a sack of food.

===============================
The Spring Cafe in Spring, Texas north of Houston was involved in something like this. For several years in 1981-82 there was a temporary train order office next to the Junction switch and the cafe was across the street.

Dave H.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Monday, September 22, 2003 6:12 PM
This thread took off!

Now, I'm not only informed, I am hungry...
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Monday, September 22, 2003 6:12 PM
This thread took off!

Now, I'm not only informed, I am hungry...

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!

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!