Wednesday, May 4, 2016

More about caboose cards

As part of the development of waybills, many modelers also include locomotive and caboose cards. These obviously have no equivalent whatever among freight waybills, but may still have some use in model operations. Locomotive cards, for example, can contain DCC information, such as the decoder address (especially when different from the locomotive number) and identification of function keys, such as, F2 blows the whistle, etc. It would be my view that if such cards are included in train packets along with waybills, they should be a distinctive color, so that they are obviously not waybills, and might also be a different size or shape.
     Then what about caboose cards? Again, they are clearly not waybills in any sense, but do provide an identification of that car in the train. What form could they take, to have at least some prototype character? I was asked by Otis McGee to create some caboose cards to replace his old ones (which were simply blue versions of his old car cards from Old Line Graphics). My first thought was to just make plain cards with car number and little else (something like that has been tried; see: ), but then it occurred to me that cabooses had equipment record cards, and had a number of regular inspections when in service. Why not create a model version of an equipment or inspection card for each caboose?
     One starting point would be the information on prototype caboose record cards, of which the SP maintained a file into the mid-1960s. Shown below are both the front and back of one of these 5 x 9-inch cards (these cards are at the California State Railroad Museum, and this particular card was shown in Appendix 2 of my book, Southern Pacific Freight Cars, Volume 2, Cabooses (Signature Press, Berkeley and Wilton, CA, 2002). The car, SP 33, second of that number, was built at LA Shops as Class C-30-3 in October 1930, and scrapped in April 1964. (You can click to enlarge.)

Among the interesting and/or useful information on the front of this standard card are built date and place, car class, trucks, brakes, and numerous special appliances. On the back is essentially a repair and paint record.
     Though this is an equpment record card, not something ordinarily carried in a caboose, it could be so managed on a layout. Then as much of this form as a person wanted to include could be used to create a caboose card. Here is an example I experimented with.

To do this kind of card correctly would require looking up the various prototype data on the actual SP cards at CSRM (corresponding to each model caboose number), which anyone could do. I did look up one of my model cars, and here is how the above form would look, filled out for it.

As seen above on the caboose card for SP 33, many entries are hand-written, which I tried to reproduce in this example.
     Another simple approach would be to create something which looked like the inspection cards inside every caboose, as I mentioned. This could have lines for inspectors to sign and date. I made up such a card for Otis to use with his caboose fleet. Here is a blank card:

Then I initialed and dated several different versions, so that it would be hard to find duplicate parts of any one date or signature. Here is one example of the bottom part filled out.

I made five sets of these, mixing and matching dates and signatures. Here’s an example for one particular caboose on the layout. Note that it has only the "interior" inspection signature and date in common with the bill shown above.

A caboose assigned to a particular terminal can then be restricted in the trains to which it can be assigned. Cabooses assigned to the terminal from which a train is departing can move in either direction. But a caboose assigned to the next division point in either direction can only move toward that division point, not in the other direction.
     These are two approaches for those who may want to use some kind of caboose card, but would like the card to reflect something about the prototype.
Tony Thompson


  1. Tony,

    Nice variation on the old theme. The terminal/division assignment and service restrictions give the yardmaster or hostler an additional consideration when making up a train. Had the SP pooled their cabooses by Otis's era? If not, what about adding an entry for assigned to conductor? That could be printed for regulars or dry erase on laminated clear plastic for the name. Fill out on first assignment and keep for the rest of the session.

    John Barry

  2. No, caboose pooling was not in force on the Shasta Division in Otis's 1952 era, nor on the Coast Division in my own year of 1953. But unless you have regular operators, I think assignments to individuals can get complicated.

    Your suggestion of "dry erase" is an intriguing one and could work in many situations. But on Otis's layout, crews are called as needed, so there would be little advance warning for a caboose assignment change. I'm not sure we would want to do that. Good idea, though, which could work on other layouts.
    Tony Thompson

  3. Personally, I really like caboose cars and locomotive cards. The form the top and bottom of a nice "CC/WB Sandwich". In my relatively limited experience, folks have been using red as a color for caboose cards given that cabooses were often (but not exclusively red). Also, I print my caboose cards as a standard "car card". I've considered inserting a "conductor waybill" to represent the caboose's "conductor owner" back in the day of assigned cabooses.

    Al Daumann

  4. Thanks, Al. Interesting thought about red cards, though since my perishable waybills are pink, I lean toward not using a similar color for cabooses. If we want it to look like a car, maybe a light brown . . .
    Tony Thompson