Long gone are the days, when the brakeman’s job was to slow down the train, riding all the way in the back of the train in a caboose, without heating, waiting for hand signals from the conductor. Sometimes it was an outright dangerous job. On steep descents the brakeman would walk on top of the moving train and apply the brakes to individual wagons. It was his job to look for signs of overheating bearings, watch for cargo shifting, and keep the riff raff off the train.
Then came modern technology. Now the engineer can control the brakes safely from the front. Cargo is loaded following strict guide lines and train jumping is guarded by the police. What is left for the brakeman? To put on his hat and a smile for the passengers, with a sliver of nostalgia reminiscing the “good” old days.