Inside the Cupola -
the Conductor's Perspective
With this page we are
aiming to bring you the nuts and bolts of railroading from the point of
view of the people that ran it. It's something that you won't find too
much of on the Web.
Eventually we hope
to compile stories as told by former employees of the Missouri Pacific,
photos inside the "office on rails", caboose slang, and any
other interesting information we come across. Enjoy!
the eyes & ears for the engineer during backward movements.
Traditionally, the Conductor who walked up and down the aisles of
the passenger cars taking tickets, etc.
the brakeman assigned to duties at the rear end of the train.
To be a Flagman, the brakeman had to know how to read (so he could understand
train orders), which from time to time would be changed enroute.
many years freight trains were operated by train crews consisting of at
least four men: a conductor, a brakeman, a locomotive engineer and a fireman.
The brakeman was the conductor's assistant. Every conductor had served
his apprenticeship as a brakeman.
Ram-rod, Conducer -
more names for
t he Conductor.
Brakie, Pinner, Pinhead,
Baby lifter - more names for the Brakeman.
- A brakeman who has responsibility for breaking up the train by setting
out cars or sections of cars in the center position of a freight train.
Nest - The cupola or box-like structure raised above the roof of a
caboose from which a trainman may see along the train while it is in motion.
Signal - given by conductor to the engineer when the train is ready
to proceed to the next designated stop.
Cars - Switching freight cars to a specified location for loading
- A document for handling and accounting for a shipment of freight.
Way Car - A box car (or caboose) from which LCL shipments are loaded
and unloaded at various towns.
- hack, crummie, brain box, cabeese (plural for "caboose").
term "Caboose" is the best known name to describe any car attached
to the rear end of a freight train for use by the train crew. The
word "caboose" itself may have derived from the older term of
a Short Bay Caboose (a shortbodied w/ platform-type caboose, used in road
service) by the MoPac, those that pulled and rode in them simply referred
to them as "doghouse cabooses", a term that stuck to this style like glue.
Despite appearing to be lighter than more traditional way cars, they actually
offered a pretty good ride.
Including the "Doghouse" nicname, "outhouse," "shack on a flat," "Jenks
party barge," and the usual assortment of 'colorful' terms were used to
refer to this caboose style on the MoPac and most other roads that used
Other caboose nicnames include "crummies" (as some of them really were)
"crumb box," "hacks," "brain box" (sic), "loony bins," "cabins" (a PRR
term), "van" (Canadian origin) and "buggies" (a New England term). I've
heard a few Conductors refer to the extended vision cab cupolas as "the
Throne." And I always thought that was the toilet. (thanks 'Tuch' and
A DODGER caboose is
one assigned to local service, something of a "southern" term. A dodger
is another word for a local freight. Since it has the lowest
priority of anything on the line; it dodges into the available siding
whenever the dispatcher gives the word.
C&EI War Wagons
the Chicago area owing to some problems with a few of the neighbors and
a Conductor getting robbed while his train was stopped at 40th Street
in Chicago when the headend crew was making a set out, two of the cabooses
assigned to Yard Center received major modifications.
The 12510 and 12512 (ex 13510 and 13512 nee C&EI 37 and 39) received
steel mesh over all the windows. The doors were equipped with bars on
the inside that could be lowered to bar the door shut so that they could
not be kicked or smashed in. They were dubbed the "War Wagons" and a Car
Inspector at the RIP track even stenciled them as such. On the bottom
of the bays on either side just below the window in big white letters
was "WAR WAGON" on both cabooses. These cabooses were required on the
daily Yard Center to BRC Clearing Yard and Yard Center to 37th Street
Yard transfer assignments. Everybody from top officials down to the Carmen
commonly referred to them as the war wagons.
After several months, someone decided that this name on the side of these
cabooses might be misconstrued by the neighbors as a term of aggression
against them, so the word WAR was blanked out with white paint. Somebody
later took a lumber crayon and wrote the word GUT in the place of where
the word WAR was, but the term war wagon lived on right up until they
ceased using them.
Being that the 12509 and 12511 were on locals that operated outside of
Yard Center, they never received this treatment. The 12511 was assigned
to the Watseka local L400 and the 12509 was assigned to Villa Grove and
used on locals there, usually L402 and L403 if memory serves correct.
Texas; date unknown - © Brian Paul Ehni photo
the Conductor's Office on Rails
hack, crummie... but most popularly known as the Caboose (the word "caboose"
itself may have derived from the older term of "cabin"). It
is the train crew's office on rails, and home while they are on the
It handles the business-side
of the transportation of merchandise -- The conductor keeps a complete
record of all transportation produced and sold, each carload or less-than-carload
shipment handled by the train, freight charges, the contents of each
car, and weight of materials, the shipper, the station at which it was
received, the station at which it is to be unloaded or left, and to
whom it is consigned.
The caboose is equipped
with a table, a drinking-water cooler, benches/beds and chairs, a washstand
and lighting. Modern cars made use of a wheel-mounted electric generator
to produce electricity and charge the batteries.
An oil stove (older
cars used coal) provides heat in winter and for warming the crew's food
at meal time.
The cupola atop
the car is the "watch tower" of the train. When the train is running,
the conductor or one of the brakemen usually sits in the tower and watches
in both directions to see that the train is running satisfactorily and
that nothing is approaching from the rear.
The lockers are
provided for members of the crew and for the necessary flags, lanterns,
light repair tools, oils and other supplies.
On the older wood
cabooses there were brackets on the corners of the car hold signal lights
when the caboose is attached to a train. Modern steel cars replaced
these with electric marker lights
The conductor makes out daily reports concerning the crew, the cars
he picks up or drops off between terminals, the railroad they belong
to, and so on. The waybills tell him the contents of each car in his
train, and to what station, yard or junction point each car or shipment
in the train is to be delivered.
1529 short caboose
caboose was a very short car with a VERY short wheel base. Back when
the MP (via TP) assumed control of the MV/KOG, this caboose was assigned
to the Kirkwood local. A jobs conductor had been complaining about the
condition of his 700 series wood caboose and as a result this car was
assigned to his train. After a few trips banging down the track, he
wanted his wood hack back. (B. Hoss)
- interior shot showing the 'office area' with the stove behind
(long bay-window caboose). 11/12/01 - © T. Greuter photo
- interior shot (long bay-window caboose), the stove is to the
right, bunk bed frame at lower left. 11/12/01 - © T. Greuter
Power & Radio System
(ex-13823) closeup of axle-driven generator (Dayton type T-2 axle
end mounted drive, which replaced interior axle mounted drives
on the MOP's last three caboose classes) mounted to the truck
of a shorty cab. The side sill has a cut-out to allow plenty of
freedom-of- movement for the device. August 11, 2001 - ©
T. Greuter photo
The Missouri Pacific was always
looking ahead, technology-wise. Such was the case when the road became
one of the first to experiment with radio equipped locomotives and cabooses.
In 1945 the company was issued a license and by 1947 the first trial runs.
The first radios were huge affairs that literally would weigh down the
side of the caboose that they were installed to. This caused some rethinking
and redesigning of the arrangement of the caboose interiors to balance
the car out. Radios run on electricity, so the caboose needed a source.
Several types of axle- or wheel- driven generators, such as the Daytonaxle
mounted and Precowheel mounted drives. By the 1950s radios were
successfully being used system-wide. Over the years the radio and generator
models were fine-tuned. The Dayton drive became the preferred design on
the MoPac, powering cabooses from the 1940s on into the '70s. Also batteries
for storing the generated electricity were improved to hold thier charge
for longer durations if a caboose spent a lot of time idley sitting on
- with battery box opened. These batteries depended on the wheel-driven
generator for charging.
Before the introduction of the 13000 -series numbering system to the caboose
fleet, cars that were radio equipped had an -R suffix added to the number.
After the new numbering series, a simple white dot was placed above the
car's number on the side of the cupola or body.
- International Car Co. builder's plate from long bay window caboose
- T. Greuter Photo
Line Junction, Iowa. 8/13/97 - photo © RailArc
This Site is Dedicated to those who ran the MoPac
and made her one of the greatest roads in the Nation.
Special Thanks to All the Former Missouri Pacific
RR Engineers and Employees
who have contributed their lives to the Railroad and their unique knowledge
to this site:
James Blagg MPRR Telegrapher-clerk,
Concordia and Omaha Sub's, 1973-1987
Currie MPRR Engineer DeQuincy Division, 1972-1990 (engineer
W. Favignano MPRR Mechanical Engineering Dept. at St Louis,
Jay Glenewinkel MPRR/UPRR Crew Van
Nathan Griffin MPRR/UPRR, Hoskins
Junction, Clute, Texas, 1975-Today
"Tuch" Santucci MPRR Engineer, Dolton and Villa Grove, IL
Recommended Websites operated by former MPRR Employees:
Bob Currie's MISSOURI PACIFIC DeQuincy Division - MP Engineer
Times on the High Iron by "Tuch" Santucci - MP Engineer
Pacific Railroad Memories by C.E. "Cliff" Satterfield - MP Superintendent
Union, Lodge # 0455/Missouri Pacific System Federation
Railroad Clipart courtesy
MPRR Employees Service Forum
- Devoted to sharing information of former MoPac employees. Feel
free to post names or information of those who worked on the railroad
-- former MP Employees are Welcome!
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