Why Did Trains Have Cabooses and Now Don't Anymore?

Automation takes over the job


Mon, Sep 12th, 2016 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

In this episode of Today I Found Out, Simon Whistler explains why cabooses, which once were the quintessential part of a train, are now nowhere to be seen.

Carrying a brakeman and a flagman back when brakes were set by hand, when it was time to slow the train, the engineer would blow the whistle. This signaled to the brakemen, and one would emerge from the caboose and work his way toward the engine, while another would leave the engine and work his way back toward the caboose. At each car, the brakemen would stop and turn its brakewheel with a club. Once the train stopped, the flagman would leave the caboose with a flag, lantern or other visual display and walk back down the track to warn any approaching trains.

And speaking of something I found out today, the company behind the Twinkies, Hostess, was bankrupted by "inept management" and "myopic unions". The solution to save the iconic brand was to lay off 95% of its workforce and use automation. The company now produces almost as much as it did when it had a full complement of workers, with more automation to be added.

The new factory is bright and clean. Tight rows of Twinkies m arch along the $20 million Auto Bake system with the precision of Soviet soldiers in a May Day parade. Yellow robotic arms, which look like they should be welding Teslas rather than boxing Twinkies, stack snacks with hypnotic rhythm. This 500-person plant produces more than 1 million Twinkies a day, 400 million a year. That’s 80% of Hostess’ total total output–output that under the old regime required 14 plants and 9,000 employees. And it’s about to get more efficient: Metropoulos and Jhawar just installed a second Auto–Bake system, this one for Cup Cakes, and the governor is here to cut the ribbon.



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