1989: Railways reduce caboose use
• In Britain a caboose is called a brake van or guard's van.
• The earliest cabooses were simple wooden shacks built atop flatcars.
• As the use of cabooses became standard, most were built with cooking, sleeping and washroom facilities for railway crew.
There are several types of cabooses:
• A "cupola" or "standard" caboose has a small turret raised above the roofline so crew can look out over the length of the train in front of them.
• A "bay window caboose" has a middle window that pushes out over the side of the car.
• A "transfer caboose" is a simple flat car with a box bolted to the top. It is used only near rail yards.
• Cabooses were required by law in Canada and the United States until the 1980s, when new technologies allowed trains to be electronically monitored. Electronic end-of-train devices were developed to detect separating cars and apply brakes remotely.
• Train crew now ride in the locomotive, which is usually equipped with a toilet.
• In February 1988 the Canadian Transport Commission allowed railways to phase out cabooses in favour of end-of-train electronic devices. Within a year, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railways were phasing out cabooses.
• In the United States, caboose laws were removed in 1989 and many retired cabooses were donated to museums and communities.
• Railways around the world eliminated cabooses around the same time, and now they are almost entirely obsolete.
Program: CBC Radio News
Broadcast Date: Nov. 14, 1989
Guest(s): Janet Felstad
Reporter: Scott Dibble
Last updated: October 25, 2013
Page consulted on March 11, 2014
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