Remember When, Chattanooga? Do you know why the caboose went vamoose?

Contributed photo by Parks Hall / Parks Hall, 82 of Soddy-Daisy, snapped this photo early in 1989. It shows train cabooses being hauled away from Chattanooga for scrap or repurposing.

This photo from the 1980s captures a rare moment in railroad history.

Parks Hall, a retired Chattanooga radio engineer, said he snapped this image facing South on the Wilcox Bridge near Aminicola Highway in early 1989. It shows train cabooses being hauled away for scrap or repurposing.

Originally designed as observational cars and crew accommodations, changes in train safety laws in the 1980s led to the eventual demise of the caboose car on most trains.

Hall, a railroad enthusiast who traveled the country by rail as a child, happened upon this scene one day at the DeButts Rail Yard here and immediately understood the significance of what he was witnessing.

"I always carried a camera with me," Hall said this week in a telephone interview from his home in Soddy-Daisy. "I found a place to park on the other side of the bridge and walked over and took that picture. I think it was probably Norfolk Southern railroad taking their cabooses to scrap or sell."

Now 82, Hall said he is among the last generation of Americans who remember the golden era of train travel.

"When I was a kid, I had every Lionel train that was made," he said. "I had a huge layout at my grandmother's house in Chickamauga, Georgia. I traveled with my grandmother in the '40s and '50s on some of the grand trains of the era, back in the final heydays of passenger trains."

According to news reports in the 1980s, the demise of the caboose car was a slow-motion trend that spanned much of the decade and beyond.

Paul Dean, a Los Angeles Times columnist, lamented in 1983 that the caboose was generally on its way out. He speculated that the obsolete train cars would be recycled as scrap or repurposed for railroad museums, playhouses or chamber of commerce offices.

Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, is maintained to present historical images in the highest resolution available.If you have photo negatives, glass plate negatives or original nondigital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.

"Quite simply, they have outgrown their usefulness," John Bromley, a spokesperson for Union Pacific railroad, was quoted as saying in the Times column.

Before the 1980s, virtually every freight train in the United States and Canada was equipped with a caboose, according to published railroad histories.

Hall said he will never forget the sight of all those cabooses being hauled away.

"It was a very unusual sight," he said. "The photo doesn't do it justice."

Hall's photo, along with hundreds more images of historical significance, can be viewed at, which is curated by Sam Hall, Parks Hall's son.

Follow the "Remember When, Chattanooga?" public group on Facebook.

Contact Mark Kennedy at or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPcolumnist.