The caboose has been a tradition in American railroading since the mid-1800s. By the mid-1920s, “there were approximately 34,000 cabooses operating on U.S. railroads. Today, only a few hundred cabooses remain, used in transfer work, and on yard jobs, work trains, and trains that require backup moves,” according to an article in Trains Magazine linked here.
Cabooses cost more to build and maintain than revenue generating freight cars, and required more switching operations to add or uncouple to each train, costing railroads valuable time. Mainline operations of the caboose ceased in the 1980s at varying times for different railroads depending on what state they operated in. Virginia was the last state to hold out, ending the requirement for a caboose in 1988. Now a casualty of technology, the caboose endures as an American icon.
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