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Musings for the week: Caboose lengths

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Musings for the week: Caboose lengths
Posted by tstage on Saturday, September 19, 2020 11:03 PM

Greetings,

I know over the course of their history cabooses came in a variety of lengths and shapes.  As newer cabooses came along, older cabooses were either scrapped, rebuilt, or designated for different assignments.

Q: Generally speaking, did the length of a caboose ever dictate what kind of service it was used in - e.g. local vs branchline vs fast freight, etc?

For the NYC I've seen lengths of 24', 26', 30', 32', and 36'.  I recently purchased an undecorated brass 24' NYC caboose.  I was just curious what types of service one would or should expect for a caboose that length, or any of the other above lengths.

Thanks,

Tom

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Posted by gmpullman on Saturday, September 19, 2020 11:23 PM

The PRR used hundreds of these four-wheel ND class "cabin" cars on the main line:

 PRR_ND-tone by Edmund, on Flickr

The B&O was another road with at least 1,100 "bobbers" on the roster.

Much changed with the passing of a 1913 Ohio law (parts of it are still listed in the 2011 ORC) requiring cabooses to have a minimum of four axles and length of 24 feet. The PRR reassigned their bobbers to other states.

By the twenties, steel underframes became the norm as wood cars were subject to crushing if used ahead of pushers. Some states required the caboose to be moved behind the helper or the train crew had to ride the pusher.

In later years it seemed to make a difference by how much "pull" the train crews had with the railroad. Some cabooses were loaded with creature comforts including better riding trucks and lighting, refrigerators, better heaters and cushioned, high-back swivel seats while other roads only provided the bare required minimum.

This will be an interesting thread, Tom Smile

Regards, Ed

 

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Posted by tstage on Saturday, September 19, 2020 11:30 PM

I hope so, Ed.  I thought the "tank car colors prior to 1950" thread lead to some good discussion...

Tom

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Posted by gmpullman on Sunday, September 20, 2020 1:34 AM

Here's a beauty, from the Library of Congress files:

 MCRR_Caboose-1837 by Edmund, on Flickr

No date given with the negative but repack stencil shows West Detroit, January, 1911.

Note, no truss rods but evidence of diagonal truss stays (threaded rods in brackets along bottom sill).

I've seen those "extended" marker brackets on other NYC cabooses. There's the usual marker/flag brackets at the corners, too.

What are those sheet-iron "diamonds" on either side of the end door? An early high-visibility sign such as the B&O and others used as reflective attention getters?

Those wood-beam trucks look like they belong under a passenger car. Was that their original use? This car must have rode like a Pullman.

Handrails on both ends of the cupola indicate crews were still climbing out the windows to gain access to the roof walk. Love the hardware on the belly tool box.

Click the image to enlarge. I uploaded a huge photo.

Open to more comments Yes

Cheers, Ed

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Posted by "JaBear" on Sunday, September 20, 2020 5:28 AM
 
That’s an interesting photo, Ed.
 
Maybe slightly off topic but I think (?) this originated from Eds archives, which I "borrowed" for a Beartoon, and for this thread removed the captions.
 
caboose & goat by Bear, on Flickr
 
I still wonder what the occasion was?
Cheers, the Bear.Smile

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Sunday, September 20, 2020 7:33 AM

I can't quote all the sources from memory, or dig up a bunch of pictures real quick, but here some of what I know.

Longer cabooses were more common out west, and I have read it had to do with them needing to be more "self sufficent" at intermediate stops and longer runs.

Passenger/express trucks were moderately common as shown in the pictures above. Leaf springs were generally standard in regular freight trucks.

My freelanced ATLANTIC CENTRAL has some with "passenger" trucks.

Eastern roads favored the center cupola, although there are exceptions.

With or without outside influence, railroads in the mountains shifted to steel underframes and a steel cars pretty quickly to allow safe pushing. They simply moved the wood cars to divisions without grades.

The B&O was an early adopter of bay windows, not sure why.

Sheldon

 

    

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Posted by rrinker on Sunday, September 20, 2020 10:02 AM

 Reading is another one that had a lot of the little 4 wheel 'bobber' cabooses. The need for pushers and other rule changes, plus the older cars simply wearing out, drove the adoption of newer one in the familiar 8 wheel center cupola pattern. Other Easter roads copied the Reading design with some variation, and Reading even built cabooses for some others.

 Various state law changes drove other changes, such as a PA requirement that a caboose used on run over a certain length had to have toilet facilities. 

 Reading was pretty conservative in design. While there were differences between various classes of cabooses built at different times, until the wide vision design purchased from International Car Co, they were all in-house built and varied mostly by details, not overall design. There is literally a book on the subject which explains each class and the changes over the years in great detail.

                                  --Randy

 


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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Sunday, September 20, 2020 1:43 PM

rrinker

 Reading is another one that had a lot of the little 4 wheel 'bobber' cabooses. The need for pushers and other rule changes, plus the older cars simply wearing out, drove the adoption of newer one in the familiar 8 wheel center cupola pattern. Other Easter roads copied the Reading design with some variation, and Reading even built cabooses for some others.

 Various state law changes drove other changes, such as a PA requirement that a caboose used on run over a certain length had to have toilet facilities. 

 Reading was pretty conservative in design. While there were differences between various classes of cabooses built at different times, until the wide vision design purchased from International Car Co, they were all in-house built and varied mostly by details, not overall design. There is literally a book on the subject which explains each class and the changes over the years in great detail.

                                  --Randy

 

 

Yes, the ATLANTIC CENTRAL has Reading built cabooses, and Reading built 4-8-4's........

Sheldon

    

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Posted by gmpullman on Sunday, September 20, 2020 2:37 PM

rrinker
Other Easter roads copied the Reading design with some variation, and Reading even built cabooses for some others.

I recall reading that the Reading based their steel caboose on a 1920 USRA design and that the only railroad to have the actual wood-sheathed, steel underframe USRA model was the Pittsburgh & Shawmutt. (More on that in another reply)

http://www.readingrailroad.org/roster/roster_cabooses_ne.shtml

 

 8914 001 by John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library, on Flickr

 

Here's another excellent photo from the OWI collection at the Library of Congress taken by Jack Delano in 1943:

 CnNW_12432-Proviso_4-43 by Edmund, on Flickr

Here's yet another example of special spring-bolster trucks installed for better riding qualities. Note the different mounting of the left-most window, and only that one has the rain gutter. I first spotted a similar arrangement like this on many NYC cabooses. I presume this window is arranged for the crew to open fully? Perhaps it slides to the side instead of vertically?

B&O and bay window. I wonder how much influence their pressed-steel "wagon-top" design had to do with adopting the bay window? Certainly fitting a bay window was easier than trying to design a cupola using the curved steel sections.

Regards, Ed

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Posted by NHTX on Sunday, September 20, 2020 3:21 PM

     Tom, in a way, the service a caboose was in could be reflected in its length.  A car used by a crew in yard or local service where, the crew went home to their own beds at night would not need to provide sleeping accommodations.  Think of the "transfer" caboose.  Cars used on runs that ended at distant terminals were often the crew's home away from home and, were often assigned to and, used by one conductor.  As "his property", they were highly personalized and, added to the train when he got on and, removed when he got off.  These cars were long enough to provide bunks for up to five.

     As union agreements changed and railroads faced stiffer competition from other modes of transportation, the railroad YMCA and, contract boarding houses began to provide lodging at the "away" end of the run.  The crews liked the idea of a real bed, toilet facilities, and meals they didn't have to cook, away from the noise and smoke of the railroad yard.  Thus began the era of the "pool caboose" which could be put on at one end of the railroad and, run all the way to the other, no matter how many crew changes that took place.  The railroads liked this because the cabooses could be smaller, and they didn't need so many of them.  

     Cars used where runs terminated in remote areas might still need to be capable of sheltering the crew and had to provide sleeping and eating capabilities.  These cars were often cabooses removed from mainline service, having been replaced by the pool cabooses.  As much as modelers and the general public romanticize about the "little red caboose", they could often be a pretty miserable place to ride.  Too cold in the winter-the Canadians' final iteration of the cars had TWO heaters.  They could also be convection ovens in the hot climates.  Imagine sitting in a dark painted steel box on a 106 degree day in the desert of West Texas or Arizona with no breeze at all, under a cloudless sky.  Yeah, they could be pretty miserable!  Then there is the slack action as the train transitions between draft and buff.  Best to be seated with your feet braced against something immovable.  When you have four locomotives and well over 100 cars kicking up dirt ahead of you at 60 MPH, guess where a large portion of it ends up?  Yeah, you're right!  Remember its 106 degrees outside and now you are on the hind end of 110 cars of PRB coal doing 40 MPH-wouldn't it be nice to be able to open the lead door?  Too bad they plated over all the side windows-but they didn't open anyway!

    Most guys I know, especially those out west in road service, shed no tears when the last caboose rolled into the sunset.  The railroads enjoyed not having to maintain or haul around thirty tons of steel that generated not one penny of revenue and, was often the place where employees got hurt on the job.  As a modeler, I am from the generation where it was the period that made the train a complete sentence-but knowing the rest of the story dims the shine quite a bit.

 

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Posted by dti406 on Sunday, September 20, 2020 3:22 PM

gmpullman

B&O and bay window. I wonder how much influence their pressed-steel "wagon-top" design had to do with adopting the bay window? Certainly fitting a bay window was easier than trying to design a cupola using the curved steel sections.

Regards, Ed

I think the B&O developed the bay window caboose due the clearance problems they had on some of their lines. If you had a caboose with a 10' inside height and then added a cupola it would not get through some of their tunnels which limited the cars to those with 10' inside height or lower.  The B&O bought 10' inside height cars a lot longer than most other railroads until they raised a few of their tunnels to accomodate 10'-6" inside height cars.

Rick Jesionowski

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, September 20, 2020 3:23 PM

I did my version of "extensive" research (I read one book) on cabooses when I was making my plans for the final STRATTON AND GILLETTE.

What I found was cabooses 32 to 40 feet could be used in any service. Most 40 foot cabooses were rebuilt from other types of freight cars.

Wood cabooses lasted well past the end of steam.

Western cabooses, as Sheldon pointed out, were more "live-aboard" in general than Eastern cabooses.

I decided the "standard" caboose on the SGRR would be this brass model of a wooden GULF MOBILE AND OHIO prototype. I have collected ten of them, which is all I need.

I also have seven (I think) one-off other STRATTON AND GILLETTE cabooses in my collection.

The GM&O prototype looked generic enough to me that it really could not be readily identified as Eastern or Western, it was wooden, but not "old-timey", and most important... it had a CENTERED cupola!

I love this caboose, forty feet long and a deep fishbelly underframe. I plan to eventually srcatchbuild one of these for the SGRR.

-Kevin

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Sunday, September 20, 2020 4:19 PM

dti406

 

 
gmpullman

B&O and bay window. I wonder how much influence their pressed-steel "wagon-top" design had to do with adopting the bay window? Certainly fitting a bay window was easier than trying to design a cupola using the curved steel sections.

Regards, Ed

 

 

I think the B&O developed the bay window caboose due the clearance problems they had on some of their lines. If you had a caboose with a 10' inside height and then added a cupola it would not get through some of their tunnels which limited the cars to those with 10' inside height or lower.  The B&O bought 10' inside height cars a lot longer than most other railroads until they raised a few of their tunnels to accomodate 10'-6" inside height cars.

Rick Jesionowski

 

I often wondered if it had anything to do with mountain terrain. I have riden a good bit of the B&O mainline west, and it is like an endless snake thru woods and rock bluffs. 

Looking at the side of the train might provide just as much or more information to the crew as looking at the top of the train?

Sheldon

    

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Posted by cv_acr on Sunday, September 20, 2020 5:58 PM

tstage

Q: Generally speaking, did the length of a caboose ever dictate what kind of service it was used in - e.g. local vs branchline vs fast freight, etc?

 

A lot of railroads built cabooses in their own car shops using underframes from retired boxcars.

Even if not using re-used underframes, the overall frame length of the caboose designs were often the same as a 40' boxcar.

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Posted by cv_acr on Sunday, September 20, 2020 5:59 PM

dti406
If you had a caboose with a 10' inside height and then added a cupola it would not get through some of their tunnels which limited the cars to those with 10' inside height or lower.

 

I can't say I've ever seen a caboose with a body that tall on anyone's railroad.

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Posted by rrinker on Sunday, September 20, 2020 6:01 PM

 As cars got taller, looking over the top became less and less possible. There were two options - the wide vision cupola liek the International Car Co design, with the cupola overhanging the sides, or the bay windows with no cupola at all.

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Posted by dti406 on Sunday, September 20, 2020 8:10 PM

cv_acr

 

 
dti406
If you had a caboose with a 10' inside height and then added a cupola it would not get through some of their tunnels which limited the cars to those with 10' inside height or lower.

 

 

I can't say I've ever seen a caboose with a body that tall on anyone's railroad.

 

Just checked a drawing for a PRR N5 Caboose, top of cupola was approximately 13'6" above the top of rail, would have been taken off in some of the B&O's low tunnels.

Rick Jesionowski

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Posted by mvlandsw on Monday, September 21, 2020 12:39 AM

But the B&O had center cupola cabooses before they went to the bay window design.

http://www.rr-fallenflags.org./bo/bo-c383.jpg

Mark Vinski

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Monday, September 21, 2020 12:47 AM

I saw some B&O cabooses up close in West Virginia.

They are not very big.

I could not stand up straight on the end platform. I am 6' 7" tall.

-Kevin

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Posted by gmpullman on Monday, September 21, 2020 1:16 AM

The I-12 "wagontop":

 BnO_C-2423 by Edmund, on Flickr

   — and a sister to the C-2019

 Middlefield_0001 by Edmund, on Flickr

A friend of mine once owned this Central Vermont International Car Co. caboose. It was decked out with all the "trimmings":

 RR_views_4043 by Edmund, on Flickr

Cheers, Ed

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Posted by "JaBear" on Monday, September 21, 2020 2:43 AM

gmpullman
Here's another excellent photo from the OWI collection at the Library of Congress taken by Jack Delano in 1943:

Off Topic again!!!

More of a social comment, obviously no wartime austerity measures for CNW 12432.
Cheers, the Bear.Smile

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Posted by rrinker on Monday, September 21, 2020 7:23 AM

 Looks to be wood sides, not steel, so despite fresh paint, it probably is an austerity measure - fix up a wood caboose instead of replacing it with a new steel one.

 Reading needed more cabooses at the time - they built mostly the same as previous classes, except instead of steel sides they had plywood.

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Posted by cv_acr on Monday, September 21, 2020 9:43 AM

dti406

 

 
cv_acr

 

 
dti406
If you had a caboose with a 10' inside height and then added a cupola it would not get through some of their tunnels which limited the cars to those with 10' inside height or lower.

 

 

I can't say I've ever seen a caboose with a body that tall on anyone's railroad.

 

 

 

Just checked a drawing for a PRR N5 Caboose, top of cupola was approximately 13'6" above the top of rail, would have been taken off in some of the B&O's low tunnels.

Rick Jesionowski

 

And a 10'0" INSIDE height boxcar shows 14'8" extreme OUTSIDE height above the rail (over running boards) and 13'6" to the eaves (corners of roof) in equipment registers. If a tunnel can't handle that it can't handle much of anything, and your 13'6" caboose is totally fine (being almost 14" shorter), and its body is certainly NOT 10' INSIDE height as stated in the previous post. Most cabooses would be closer to 7' I.H.

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Posted by wjstix on Monday, September 21, 2020 2:15 PM

Yes CNW 12432 is for sure a recently repainted wood caboose, possibly already a half-century old in 1943. Some midwestern railroads had 1880's-1890's cabooses that lasted into the 1970's.

State laws could affect the caboose size. Here in Minnesota, the Railway Act of 1911 required all cabooses to be 24' or longer, and have two trucks with at least four wheels in each. Some railroads that had a lot of 4-wheel 'bobber' cabooses combined two of them into one longer caboose...the classic wood Missabe Road caboose modelled in HO by Walthers is a perfect example. If you compare it to a bobber, with two windows with the cupola centered above them, you can see how that was translated to the longer caboose.

I suppose the other extreme from the 'bobber' would be Great Northern's Hutchinson caboose:

http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=1886822

 

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Monday, September 21, 2020 2:46 PM

wjstix
I suppose the other extreme from the 'bobber' would be Great Northern's Hutchinson caboose:

Now that's a long caboose! I see those come up for sale at BrassTrains Dot Com, and they always sell very quickly.

Neat piece of equipment.

-Kevin

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Posted by gmpullman on Monday, September 21, 2020 5:43 PM

Wartime austerity:

(Did they run out of red paint on the right side of the end?)

 Georgia_RR-2844 by Edmund, on Flickr

Many roads turned to rebuilding older house cars into cabooses to fill the void created by increased Wartime traffic.

B&O rebuilt dozens of stock cars into this I-13 class, again, with a bay window:

 BnO_I-13_C1819b by Edmund, on Flickr

Member Tom Stage has built at least one excellent example of a New York Central "War emergency" caboose. NYC built fifty road cabooses from former 36 foot box cars plus dozens of "temporary" cabooses that the NYC didn't even try to hide the fact that they were former box cars. A few didn't even have end doors!

Read more about those here:

https://nycshs.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/cabooseclassics2.pdf

Regards, Ed

 

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Posted by Graham Line on Tuesday, September 22, 2020 6:15 PM

I believe the GN Hutchinson caboose's extra length was because of the additional express/LCL space.  So more of a combination baggage/caboose thean a simple waycar.

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Posted by NHTX on Wednesday, September 23, 2020 8:20 AM

     For those interested, GN's Hutchinson caboose was not the only extra length design on America's railroads.  Railroads that did a lot of business hauling livestock would often run solid trains of stock cars at various times.  By federal law, the animals must be unloaded, fed, and watered after so many hours in transit.  This was not handled by railroad employees but, by cowboys employed by the shipper.  These men traveled on the same train as the animals, usually riding in an old passenger car or a longer than usual caboose.  Some of these cars actually looked more like coaches with cupolas, while others had extra windows and no cupolas.  Most of these cars were found on lines that served the mid and southwestern U.S. including the Katy (MKT), Cotton Belt (SSW), Mopac (MP) and Santa Fe (ATSF).  Searching "drovers caboose photos", one will see some very interesting rolling stock.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Wednesday, September 23, 2020 8:41 AM

NHTX
Searching "drovers caboose photos", one will see some very interesting rolling stock.

I bought a brass model of a "drover caboose" years ago not knowing what a "drover" was.

I will never have stock car operations.

Were these used for any other purpose when not needed for drover service?

-Kevin

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Posted by wjstix on Wednesday, September 23, 2020 8:43 AM

In the 1960's GN also converted some passenger cars into cabooses, sometimes just taking an old baggage car, painting it red, and adding a window, desk and chair.

Stix

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