Large Scale Central

Train phone or a walkway caboose detail?

When it comes to a drover style caboose what is the railing on the roof? I always thought it was a handrail for a walkway but I was told it was the antennae for the radio to the engine or a train phone?

I like the look and I am thinking about adding it to one of my cabooses but which is it, a radio or a handrail for a walkway?

Radio antenna. You’ll notice them on old F units as well.

I think the EXPERTS on Colorado Narrow Gauge railroading history will be more inclined to tell you that it was a handrail. First thing to understand, is that the purpose of the “Drovers’ Caboose” was to transport, the rear end train crew, but also to transport the “Drovers” who looked after the cattle/sheep being transported. They often had to walk the tops of the cars in motion, in order to make sure the live stock were not getting trampled, or injured. They needed to safely get along the “Caboose” roof, thus the handrail was needed.
Also the models with the handrails are the LGB and Piko models of rather old NG equipment, back when radios were not available, or invented yet The Stock cars/Cattle cars in service those days had small doors on their ends, so that a drover could crawl into the cars or at least look into the car from above, to see how the “Animules” were fairing…
Seeing as though the Passenger style Combine was being used as a Caboose, the train crew also had to walk the roofs, in order to work the brake wheels on each car…there were few cars, if any, in the early days that had air brakes…they had to be hand applied. The roof of that particular car made it hard for getting on to the roofs of the caboose, and stock cars.
The NG experts can agree or disagree with this speculation, and I will probably be shot down by some people in any case…


2 good answers that make sense. The drovers caboose is an older style used before radios were invented so that makes sense, plus with the LGB style there is a walk way next to the railing which may or may not have made sense if service was needed on the antennae seen on later cabooses.

I’m thinking about adding this feature to an old wood sided kalamazoo caboose so it will be a railing.

Thanks guys.

They also added railings to a few RPO cars.

Nice car Don. Did you make that?

Thanks Tod. Yes it was a kit bash. Started as Accucraft coach and modified with GAL sides and interior details. Still awaiting to have decals applied.