During the 1920's, more than 25,000 cabooses rumbled along the nation's rails, bringing up the rear of the freight trains.
The word caboose comes from the Dutch word "kabuis" which means ship's gallery.
In place of cabooses today, electronic device monitoring the trains system is a flashing light. The device goes by a variety of names, including Flashing Rear End Device or F.R.E.D. for short. The Conductor used to wave at you. Now F.R.E.D only winks.
It is unclear how cabooses came to be but one account is that a conductor in 1863 for the Chicago & North Western Railroad named T.B. Watson persuaded a mechanic to affix a cupola to a railroad car. Train crews often rode in modified boxcars or in shanties sitting on flat cars. Legend has it that Conductor Watson encounter a car with a hole in its roof during a run. Elevating himself through the opening, he became so taken with the view that he devised a plan for a glass enclosed observation post.
Almost immediately people were taken with cabooses. Train crews liked them because they provided a place to escape from the elements, prepare and eat meals, and store equipment.
A historical society conducted an inventory of remaining cabooses in the country and they are trying to preserve as many of them as possible. People are buying cabooses to serve as offices, ice cream shops, hunting cabins, children's playrooms, motels and more.