A Burlington Northern Railroad extended vis-
ion caboose at the end of a train entering
Eola Yard, Aurora, Illinois, in 1993.
A caboose (North American railway termino-
logy) or brake van or guard’s van (British
is a manned rail
vehicle coupled at the end of a freight train.
Although cabooses were once used on nearly
every freight train, their use has declined
and they are seldom seen on trains, except
on locals and smaller railroads.
The interior of an Indiana Harbor Belt Rail-
road caboose in January, 1943.
The caboose provided the train crew with a
shelter at the rear of the train. They could
exit the train for switching or to protect the
rear of the train when stopped. They also in-
spected the train for problems such as shift-
ing loads, broken or dragging equipment,
and hot boxes. The conductor kept records
and handled business from a table or desk in
the caboose. For longer trips the caboose
provided minimal living quarters, and was
frequently personalized and decorated with
pictures and posters.
Coal or wood was originally used to fire a
cast iron stove for heat and cooking, later
giving way to a kerosene heater. Now rare,
the old stoves can be identified by several es-
sential features. They were without legs,
bolted directly to the floor, and featured a lip
on the top surface to keep pans and coffee
pots from sliding off. They also had a double-
latching door, to prevent accidental dis-
charge of hot coals due to the rocking motion
of the caboose.
Early cabooses were nothing more than
flat cars with small cabins erected on them,
or modified box cars. The standard form of
the American caboose had a platform at
either end with curved grab rails to facilitate
train crew members’ ascent onto a moving
train. A caboose was fitted with red lights
called markers to enable the rear of the train
to be seen at night. This has led to the phrase
bringing up the markers to describe the last
car on a train (these lights were officially
what made a train a "train").