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The End: A Caboose Story
Curated by: Ben Holthof
On April 27, 2002, this valuable rail way artifact was delivered to the Owen Sound Marine & Rail Museum and added to our permanent collection. Originally constructed as a Grand Trunk boxcar in 1910, it was converted to a caboose in 1947.
The caboose is open early April to the end of October (weather dependant).
A General History of the Caboose
The caboose was an office for the Conductor of a train. It also was the place where Brakemen would ride and watch the train for trouble or signals from the Engineer in the locomotive. The first cabooses were huts built onto flatcars or out of boxcars. Over time Conductors and Brakemen started looking out through holes in the roof of the boxcars to see the whole train as it moved down the track. This was a safe and easy way to watch for signals or problems.
The Cupola was the next step in the development of the caboose. The Cupola is a raised section of the roof of the caboose with windows around it and a chair on each side for a Conductor or Brakeman to sit and watch the train, while staying out of the weather.
The caboose was the office and home-away-from-home for the Conductor and Brakemen. Each caboose was assigned to one Conductor. Along with his team of Brakemen, the Conductor would personalize the caboose, keeping it as clean or dirty as they liked.
Changes in technology have taken away the need for cabooses. Electronic devices at the end of the train keep track of the brake pressure and report problems with the train to the Conductor, who now rides in the locomotive. The era of the caboose has come to an end.
The History of Caboose 78581:
Caboose 78581 started out as a boxcar. It was built in 1910 in Chicago for the Grand Trunk Western Railway. The Grand Trunk Western Railway became the American branch of Canadian National Railways.
In 1947 the boxcar was converted into a caboose at CN’s Leaside shops in Toronto. This caboose was ready for use on December 13th, 1947 and was used by CN for many years until it was eventually retired. The Caboose was left sitting on a siding for a few years. A siding is a single piece of track attached to a mainline at one end for train cars to sit on. It is like a driveway for train cars.
The caboose went to the McDonalds Restaurant in Owen Sound and was used for parties and other events. A lot of changes were made to the caboose at that time.
In 2002 the caboose was brought to the museum and the restoration project began.