The caboose was a special car coupled at the end of a freight train. It was equipped with a seat and a desk, padded benches, a stove for heating or cooking, storage space and a toilet. This was the car in which the conductor and his brakemen carried out their duties and could also keep an eye on the rear end of the train. This was necessary because it was impossible for the engineer to know, from hsi vantage point on the engine, what was occurring at the rear portion.
About 1840 locomotive bells became standard equipment on engines, but their main function was to warn both humans and animals to watch out for the coming train.
At first, it was the fireman's job to ring it, and many of them developed such a distinctive touch on the bell that his friends and family would become familiar with its tone and cadence.
When trains began to run at night, lights were needed. Early on, large candles in glass cases were used. By the 1850s a box shaped headlight of sheet metal containing a whale-oil lamp fitted with reflectors was in faily general use.
A locomotive usually was assigned to its own engineer and he would often furnish his own headlight, embellishing it to his own taste and even taking it home at night.
The headlight was mounted on an ornate metal bracket, and often it was decorate with landscape paintings or even portraits.
The engineer took great price in his engine and usually maintained a strict "hands off" policy, regarding it as his personal property. He was not willing to let anyone else run it, he knew "her" and "she" knew him and they worked together as a team.
Depot clocks hung on the wall where they kept the train on time, as far as the public was concerned, ticking away as the passengers watched the hour hand for the arrival or departure of the train, confident in its accuracy.
It was the duty of the station agent to keep the depot clocks wound and set at the correct time. These key-wind clocks eventually were replaced by electric models.
By the time the trains began to travel across the continent, the nationwide telegraph system was firmly established, and trains could wire ahead their speed and progress to stations along the line. Station operators also could wire the next station with the time of the train's arrival and departure. This meant that something resembling accurate scheduling was possible for the first time and connections could be made on time.
Before the telegraph came into being, trains were operated by working timetables authorizing the movement of the trains. The result was innumerable delays as trains waited for each other.
The telegraph did more than anything else to speed up railroad operations. In 1851, the Erie Railroad adopted the telegraph to move it's trains and other lines soon followed. Thus began the railroad's system of running on train orders telegraphed from station to station. The railroads soon employed telegraph operators in large numbers and telegraph instruments became a vital part of every railroad's operation.
Insulators used on the telegraph poles were made of glass or pottery. Clear and green glass are the most common. Most are market with the manufacturer's name.
(from the Collector's Book of Railroadiana by Stanley Baker and Virginia Kunz)