PIEDMONT & NORTHERN STEEL CABOOSE X-23

 

This classic red caboose was one of several constructed after the war for use of the freight crew on P&N trains to replace the old wooden cars from before the war. The 1950s saw the Piedmont & Northern convert to diesel traction and with this rebuilding of the railroad came several new "cabeese" built at Greenville Shops, including X-23. The caboose had 2 beds for the conductor and brakeman, as well as daytime accommodations. The cupola has 4 seats, which often gives visitors the illusion of there being 4 crewmembers in it at all times, but the configuarion was meant to allow both crew members to face forward no matter which direction the caboose faced. The caboose also has a gas stove; not coal.

Originally cabooses were made of wood, but as trains got longer, bankers or pusher engines were added to the rear, and wooden cabooses (or cabeese) simply could not take the pressure, and telescopings started occurring. When this happened, the helper engine would compress through the caboose into the steel freight car ahead, killing anyone inside. Thankfully steel construction came along and steel cabooses long outlived wooden ones, except on a few branchlines.

 

X-23 has the classic P&N windmill generator on top. Since P&N cars were originally electrified, the lines had plenty of clearance between the top of the train and obstructions, for the wire had to be at least 4 feet above the train so there was room for the pantograph. Normally a caboose received power from a belt driven generator from the wheels, which meant the power flow stopped when the caboose stopped. (although there were large battery jars that stored the power generated when the train was in motion, so it could be used when the caboose was stationary.) The windmill improved this that when the train was stopped for another to pass, there was still wind from that passing train, whereas a belt generator stopped when the wheels stopped rolling.

The caboose is often assumed to bring up the rear of every train, but in fact was only used on the back of freight trains or mixed trains (trains with freight cars and a passenger coach or combination coach/baggage car added to the rear for a few passengers). This was due to the fact that a caboose was used to sleep the freight crew, who would not have been present on a passenger train. It was also used by the crew to look for hot freight car bearings, and in the early days it served as a hand brake for unfitted freight cars. This misconception has grown more prevalent among today's tourists, for many scenic railroads place "a little red caboose" on the back of a  train to add quaint atmosphere or to accommodate children's parties. A premier passenger train would have had at its tail a car with large glass windows or a large back viewing porch, called a vestibule. This would have been a public observation car (for Pullman fare use), a privately chartered business car/office car, a lounge car, solarium, or parlor car. Our P&N "Carolina" is an example of this type of car, with its extremely large back porch vestibule.

The caboose has disappeared from today's trains largely due to 3 reasons.

  1. Diesel locomotives do not need a fireman so the conductor can ride in the cab with the engineer; also with the advent of air brakes, a brakeman is no longer needed.

  2. Freight cars now have roller bearings that don't have to be watched for hot box bearings like the old friction bearings used up until the 1960s. Today, a simple temperature detector can scan an entire train's bearings.

  3. Freight trains have a GPS tracker placed on the rear that sends a signal out from the rear of the freight train, so the conductor does not have to manually log it and report his location.

^ The Sleeping Area in X-23 ^                                                                       ^ The Living Area of X-23 ^                               

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