Interpretive Car # 1, Caboose #436965 (1928)
The caboose, or "Van," is type of car was used for freight train crew use, not for passenger use. Its main function at this museum is to show the differences between the passenger and freight crew accommodation. It is a stark contrast to the refinements of travel in passenger cars such as those on the Trans-Canada Limited.
Freight crews had a spartan existence in their "home-away-from-home," but minimum comforts were achieved. Many employees fondly remember the life aboard the caboose. Used at the end of freight trains, these vehicles served as living quarters for train crews, and as an office for the conductor who was in complete charge of the train, superseding even the engineer.
In the main room, in the cupboards, and on the tables, are some of the many items crews would have used for their basic everyday living. The caboose stove is authentic, and carries the caboose theme on the stove doors. The raised cupola contained crew seats for viewing the train. This is located on each side of the rear hall and is accessible by ladders. Crews had a very good view of most of the train from this vantage point. In fact, it was the caboose cupola that inspired the design for the scenic glassed-in dome cars on Canadian passenger trains in the 1950's.
Built in 1928, it is wooden-framed and set on a steel chassis. Tongue & groove sheathing is used throughout the interior and the exterior. It was used for many years by crews out of Cranbrook, being rescued from demolition in 1977, and partially restored at that time.
Since the caboose is not well insulated, the walls and ceilings being too thin to insulate further, climate controls such as electric heat and air conditioning are too expensive to provide at this time. Further measures will be taken in the future once the new museum building is constructed, to ensure better preservation as it can be afforded.
As work continues, it is the hope of the museum to allow children more access to and use of this artifact for such things as birthday parties, story-times, and other events for younger people. Since it does not have the fragile varnished panels of some of the other cars, it should be able to be used more without damage.