Re: Why Transfer cabooses?




Regarding comments on Bobber Cabooses and outlawing certain rolling stock:


     Of Bobber cabooses, or other equipment.  There does not need to be a federal law, enough state laws the railroad operates in will have the same effect. 


      A letter (A) I had found years ago, and had written about prior on the old STMFC Yahoo list and others, calls attention to an accident in the fall of 1907 at Klamath, WA; where a four wheel caboose, being struck from behind by the following train, resulted in the caboose being reduced to a conglomeration of wood and timbers. The conductor on the caboose though was not killed, however was pinned in the wreckage.  The conductor called out to others that while not badly harmed, he was held by several heavy timbers. Most unfortunately, this wreckage then caught fire from the still burning caboose stove that had spilt open.
     Others of the train crew and those nearby reported first hearing the conductor's cries for help and then the most horrible shrieks as the fire spread through the wreckage to where he was located. Because of the weight and number of the timbers he was under, and the rapidly spreading fire, they were unable to reach him before the fire did.

     Because of the public outcry from newspaper reports that carried this story, this event led to the MT. "Dinkey Caboose Law". Such legislation later spread to the states of Washington, Wisconsin, and North Dakota. (C)  


The Northern Pacific Railway ran through seven states, four of which are named above, so to repeat what I wrote above: enough state laws the railroad operates in will have the same effect as a federal law. 


      Again, the incident happened on the Great Northern. The letters referenced came from either the Northern Pacific Presidents Subject Files or the General Managers files. This man’s demise was a story that rose quite high in the Northern Pacific corporate ranks, in addition to the Attorney General of Montana.(B)

     The North Dakota Law, House Bill 169 of the 1921 session stated that "Railroads furnish at least 24 feet in length, exclusive of platform equipped with two four wheel trucks; the center sill to be constructed of steel. (C)


     The cost of refitting steel center sills, effectively sidelined many older cabooses, both on the NP, and on other rail lines in these states. In researching and gathering material for an article written for my society’s historical publication I found that yes, at least on the Northern Pacific, wood sill cabooses of 24 foot length remained in some service, right into the mid 1960’s. I have a letter about a 24 foot wood sill caboose complete with arch-bar trucks, being decommissioned well after the time of this list. All legal because it never was used in mainline service. However just as susceptible to the 1907 event above.  The wood caboose with the arch-bar trucks, was used in yard transfer service in the Duluth/Superior area.

(A) Letter of Jan. 14, 1908, NP Co. Presidents Subject Files, Minnesota Historical Society
(B) Letter to W. Wallace, NP, Divisional office of Helena, MT from Attorney General, MT; NP General Mgr. files MNHS
(C) Letter of May 13, 1921 Presidents Subject Files 1387C, MNHS


    Regarding additional information or public outcry regarding events of these times, I would invite you to look here: <>
and here: <


     In the FRA link, note that below the artificial limb advertisement, the following paragraph references that in that time frame, “one out of every nine railroaders injured, one of every one hundred fifteen killed“, also that the experience of trainmen was commonly based on how many fingers he had (left).    (The romance of the rails)  


    And yes Jeff, the article I wrote was about War Emergency Boxcar Cabooses, the above events were part of the research that lead to the justification for these boxcar cabooses.  


    Could older cabooses be used in transfer service, yes however as other have stated, they are an office.  I have a letter also from my research where a conductor wrote his local officers about cinders falling down upon him while doing his paper work, and when it rained, rain covered his desk.  When a check was made if new mule hide roof was all that was needed, so many other repairs were found that the caboose was retired.


Such was the reality - and romance, of working on the railroad.      James Dick - St. Paul


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