Historic Markers Across Tennessee



The Red Caboose



Marker ID:  
Location: at the intersection of NE Atlantic St and East Grundy St, Tullahoma, TN
County: Coffee
Coordinates: N 35° 21.786    W 086° 12.6
  35.3631    -86.21
Waymark: None
 



Text:

The car displayed here is a side bay window model caboose built in 1964 by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad at the company’s South Louisville yards. The exterior is restored to the original L & N red. The purpose of a caboose was to provide crewman a better view of potential problems with the train. Some of the earliest cabooses were designed with a cupola or “crow’s nest.” As train cars became taller, however, the side bay window was introduced. The early wooden L & N cabooses were distinguished by cupolas, while the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St Louis Railway cabooses were designed with the side bay window style. After the NC & St. L merged with the L & N in 1957, the L & N incorporated the bay window design.
The Flagman
Originally, the flagman’s main responsibility was to protect the rear of the train from mishaps or collisions. When idle on the tracks, he placed red flags, and lit fuses and lanterns far to the rear, to warn approaching trains. Since the invention of radio in the 1920s, the dispatcher has taken over the function of alerting approaching trains, and the flagman’s duty is to assist the brakeman in switching cars in and out of the train.
The Conductor
The caboose was the office car of the train. The conductor, the flagman, and the rear brakeman normally rode in the caboose. Contrary to popular belief, the conductor was in charge of the train—not the engineer. His responsibility was to check the waybill, and inventory of each car’s content and destination, and direct the train crew in setting or picking up cars for the train.
The Brakeman
If the train needed to be stopped, the rear and front brakemen worked in tandem using hand brakes on each car. After air brakes were introduced in the early 1870s, brakemen were used to switch rails and couple cars.
Today, the caboose is obsolete. Instead, a small device with a flashing red light mounted on the last car protects the rear of the train and measures the air brake line pressure. Detect detectors placed every twenty or so miles along the track tell the crew if there are any problems.
The rail line between Nashville and Chattanooga was completed in 1854. A spur line to Manchester and McMinnville was added in 1855. This made Tullahoma an important railroad junction in lower middle Tennessee. The two lines are still in operation today as CSX and the Caney Fork and Western Railroad, respectively. Switcher crews service customers from Wartrace to Sherwood, and at least two shippers use the railroad, the L.P. Gas Distributor and the Kokomo G