Posted by cavranger on December 20, 2013 
Maybe it's an old hot box detector and would display the hot axel's number back from the head end? MoPac had something similar to this near my grandparents house in Kirksville, IL back in the '80s.
Posted by Josh.Osmialowski on December 20, 2013 
Without further information, this looks like an early dragging equipment detector. The display would show the axle numbers of defects to the crew member riding the caboose. Nowadays this is all done via radio or dispatcher readout.
Posted by Jim Bartolotta on December 20, 2013 
Looks like a digital defect detector, displayed the number of axles from the end of the train where a defect was detected, lights above indicate the side. Made obsolete by talking detectors and elimination of the cabose.
Posted by Deval Dragon on December 20, 2013 
That is a very old defect detector. 2 miles out there were dwarf signals that would turn red if the train had a defect, and the board would show the axle number with the defect, and the lights above would show the left or right side.
Posted by Joseph Yarbrough on December 21, 2013 
Kevin, that is an older-style hotbox detector.
Posted by thewiz on December 21, 2013 
It looks like a dragging equipment detector. The metal thing between the rails just under the locomotive pilot would be tripped by any low-hanging train bit, and the detector's display would (I'm guessing) alert the train crew as to where along the train it is.
Posted by David Rohdenburg on December 21, 2013 
That is an old-style defect detector. If I recall correctly, if there was any defect, the numbers would light up to show what car number back the defect was located.
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