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Photo of the Month - May 2008
Hocking Valley Caboose
Railroad shops have always had highly skilled craftsmen who worked very hard to keep their railroad in business. Here, out in the open, a new caboose is being assembled. This is not a kit. Given a drawing, a pile of wood and the railroad shopmen could build anything, in this case, a good caboose that would easily serve the railroad for 50 years.
In the old days a caboose would be assigned to a conductor, and he would fix it up to suit his tastes. Railroad yards all had a special track to store cabooses between train runs. At the far terminal the conductor and brakemen would often sleep in their rolling home away from home. At anytime, day or night, another caboose could be added to the caboose track or one of them taken to be attached to a train. The switchmen knew to treat the caboose track with care so as to not disturb the sleeping trainmen. Of course they weren't always careful and then might have to answer to a grumpy conductor.
You could expect that a high seniority conductor would grab this caboose when it was complete. His older caboose would then be assigned to a lower seniority conductor and so on until the last man on the conductor's list got the least desirable cabin car.
The photograph was taken by the Baker Art Gallery of Columbus. Four generations of Bakers ran their photo business in Columbus from 1886-1955. At one time they were located on the corner of State and High Streets. They were responsible for many of what are now historical photos taken around Columbus. Because they used 8X10 inch glass negatives and good cameras, these photographs are often of very good quality.
This photo looks to be circa 1910-1920's. It was probably taken at the Hocking Valley Railroad yard on what is now called the Whittier Peninsula in Columbus. The Hocking Valley RR eventually became part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad and moved their yards south to Parsons Avenue. The CSX railroad currently operates the old C&O RR line from Parsons Avenue yard.