Well you make a good point, I didn't think of it that way. Couldn't they just find some other job for guys like you mentioned to do within the company? And just curious it was mentioned it would cost $80,000 for a new caboose. What would it cost just to refurbish an old/exsisting one?
Maybe it would be a bit cheaper to fix a few up and keep them around?
One more thing too...I think at least for the remaining in service cabooses it should be so that they can be used fully, and as a caboose, not just as a shoving platform.
I'm sure they don't just lay off everybody whose job is phased out, most likely they do give those employees other positions within the company. It's not that the individual employees are phased out, just the job functions that they do.
The thing is that it takes extra time to add a caboose on to the end of the train, and time = money. Also, they would have to be maintained to stay in usable conditions that meet OSHA and FRA standards. Sure a railroad could refurbish an old caboose, the cost would depend on the state of the individual caboose, I'm sure they could afford the $80,000 to buy a new one, but why would they do that?
After they finish putting together a train, a locomotive would have to move the caboose to the end of the train, and the conductor would have to sit in the caboose rather than in the locomotive where there's plenty of room for him. Either that or there would have to be someone else in the caboose. This adds an extra half hour or so of work to get the caboose on there and ready to go. Add to that the cost of maintenance, the cost of paying an employee to ride in it, the cost of heating it in the winter, air conditioning in the summer, gas for the electrical generator, etc. All of this to avoid using a small device that one person can carry and stick on the coupler on the end of the train. Are you starting to see the point?
Cabooses were phased out because with the new technology it's impractical to still use them. Why would a railroad want to spend money, time and resources to use an old inefficient technology when newer and more efficient technology exists and is already in use? It's just like the kerosene lanterns, why would they use flashlights when they could use kerosene lanterns? It's because kerosene lanterns can start fires when dropped, they need to be refilled each day, verses an LED flashlight where it needs new batteries once a month, so it just makes more sense to use the flashlight rather than deal with the dangers of the lanterns. It's essentially the same thing, cabooses were designed before the EOTD was invented, and once the EOTD came onto the scene, there was simply no point in spending money and time to keep using the cabooses.
When a caboose is used as a riding platform, it's because the railroad still has the caboose on the property and figures they can put it to use for reverse moves. The doors are usually welded shut or at least locked and boarded up to keep homeless people from trying to live in them since they aren't being used every single day and spend most of their time sitting in a yard. Sure they could just lock it and have the train crews carry keys, but they know that some (by no means all) employees might get a little too comfortable inside there. The purpose of the riding platform is so that a crew member can safely ride on the rear end of the train while the train is running in reverse, that employee is watching the tracks and signals and stays in radio contact with the engineer in case there's any reason that the train may have to stop. Usually the conductor just holds on to the ladder on the side of the last car. Since there's no reason for an employee to be inside it, it just makes more sense to avoid vandals from getting inside it.
As a railfan, I would love to see cabooses being used again, but there is simply no point in using them when more efficient technology is already in use. Saying that they should use them anyway is kinda like saying "Why would you use a DVD player that you already have when you could get a betamax player and pay someone to copy all your movies on Betamax tapes?" It just wouldn't make any practical sense.
Trains aren't dangerous, it's lack of common sense that's dangerous.