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Caboose 101 at Pioneer Park
account from Stuart Nelson, Soo Line Technical Society

Caboose 101 on display at Pioneer Park, Annandale, Minnesota, was retired by the Soo Line Railroad in 1974.  This caboose was ordered by the Minneapolis, Sault Ste. Marie & Atlantic Railway to be built by Pullman Palace Car Co. in 1884.  It was first numbered 50 and about two years later it was renumbered 101.  In 1888 the railroad became the Minneapolis, St. Paul, & Sault Ste. Marie Railway and has always been popularly known as the Soo Line.


            The railroad caboose is a car with its main purpose being an office for the train crew of freight trains.  It was also the living quarters away from home for the trainmen.  Engine crews were on their own.  In the early years passengers could be carried in the cabooses of some freight trains.


            The caboose originally had two windows and a sliding door on each side and an entry door on each end.  On the inside, a bench 18 feet long on each side was for passengers.  The car body is 30 feet long with the overall length being 34 feet and width 9 feet 6 inches. A desk was provided for the conductor to do his paperwork.  A pot bellied, coal burning stove provided heat, and light was provided by a kerosene lamp.  In the other end was a coal box, lockers, and a sink.  Provision was made to carry coupler knuckles, brasses, chains, oil containers, and the personal gear of the trainmen.  A cupola sticking up through the roof enabled the train crew to keep watch on their train, watching for hot axle journals or any defects in the movement of their train.


            As years went on, modifications were made to the car.  A dry hopper toilet had been installed in the 1890s.  The side doors were removed and window changes had been made prior to the 1920s.


            During the 1920s, modifications were made to all Soo Line cabooses.  The 101 received curtains in 1923.  Originally the car was an all wood car body including the under frame.  A steel center sill was applied in September 1926 along with a back-up brake valve and whistle.  The cupola was modified and on the inside an ice-box refrigerator was installed.  More up-to-date brake valves were applied in 1948.


            Assignment records of cabooses do not exist as they were not required to be kept.  Cabooses were assigned to individual conductors and brakemen, marked up by seniority to a certain conductors car.  This system was changed in the early 1960s when cabooses were pooled.


            It is known that in 1969 this caboose was used between Stevens Point and Chicago.  In 1971 it was assigned as a yard caboose in St. Paul and in 1973 was assigned to the way freight operating between Minneapolis and Glenwood.


Stuart J. Nelson
Soo Line Technical Society
May 25, 2008