Friday, November 14, 2008

Cabooseless Operations Display Train, November 1984

Cabooseless train operations, like many developments in railroading, were adopted in the U.S. many years before Canada. This photo of a Conrail freight train near Utica, New York in autumn 1984, shows the Flashing Rear End Device, or End of Train Unit, on the rear coupler of a Chicabo & North Western boxcar:

Federal labour arbitrator Dalton Larson granted CN and CP their request to operate cabooseless trains on July 19, 1988. Back in 1984, a letter to the editor of the Globe & Mail, with a photo of CN transfer caboose 76629, lamented what would become inevitable:

"We are in jeopardy of losing a fundamental concept of railed transport: every train has a caboose. It's the one solid form of punctuation in a clanking, rattling sometimes violent rolling statement of freight"

In 1984, CN and CP first applied for cabooseless operation. A display train with an unusually varied consist backed into Kingston's Montreal Street station on a cold November 16, 1984. The train included two cabooses, but neither brought up the end of the train. It would be interesting to know where else this train was on display...please add a comment if you have more information.

CN 9403, CP gondola 337457, UTLX tank car 83909, CGTX tank car 29454:

CP newsprint car 85338:

CN boxcar 410105, VIA steam generator unit 15485:

VIA official cars Coureur de Bois and Pierre de la Verendrye:

ONR baggage car 414:

CP van 434425:

CP boarding boxcar 404382, CN caboose 79681:

VIA theatre car Sir Sandford Fleming:


June 1, 1990 marked the commencement of Canadian cabooseless operations. The first cabooseless CN train I saw was this eastbound approaching Kingston on June 11, behind brand-new GE's 2409-2408. Within a month, these new units would make crew familiarization trips to Edmonton and Vancouver. The last car on this train carrying the ETU was CSXT 247567, a covered hopper. Throughout 1990, trains with cabooses were in the majority, but by 1991, cabooseless trains dominated.


Many CN cabooses were still in use after commencement of cabooseless operations:

1990: 79470, 79453, 79534, 79524, 79542, 79559, 79584, 79615, 79631
1991: 79420, 79575, 79693, 79632, 79678, 79620, 79768, 79797, 79766










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