Friday, October 14, 2011

Modeling details, SP cabooses, 1953: Part 2

An earlier post about SP cabooses concentrated on the very numerous wood cabooses of Class C-30-1. (That post can be viewed with this link: .) The C-30-1 cars dominate my model fleet for 1953, as they did the real SP fleet in that same year. But there were also steel cabooses, both cupola and bay-window types, and in this post I want to say a little about those.
     In 1937, SP built 50 steel cupola cabooses in its own shops at Los Angeles, the first all-steel production cars (there had been a single experimental conversion of a Class C-30-1 car to an all-steel body, but it was not repeated). The new cars were assigned to Class C-40-1, and they were numbered from 1000 to 1049, the first SP cabooses with four-digit numbers. They were followed by Class C-40-3, also built at LA Shops, during 1940-1942. This was an almost identical car to C-40-1, and a much larger class, 185 cars, numbered from 1050 to 1234.
     Included in the latter class were a number of cars for T&NO, also in need of new cabooses at the time. Those cars were T&NO 400-429.
     After World War II, SP decided to adopt the bay-window style of caboose, and built no more cupola cars. The first 50 bay-window cars were purchased from American Car & Foundry, Class C-30-4, in 1947, numbered SP 1235-1269 and T&NO 500-514. They were distinguished by a smooth external roof surface. They were followed by two home-built classes, C-30-5 and C-30-6, 130 cars built by SP at the Los Angeles shops in 1949 and 1951. (Thirty of the cars were for T&NO.) Both these later classes had diagonal-panel roofs.
     As with the prior post on the C-30-1 wood cabooses, there is much more history for both the SP and T&NO cars in my book, Volume 2 in the Southern Pacific Freight Cars series, entitled Cabooses (Signature Press, 2002). The coverage there includes plenty of photos of each class.
     Here’s a model photo of a Class C-40-3 car, in this case a Precision Scale brass model (the new WrightTRAK resin kit makes a superb version of this class too).

Note the same white safety handrails (a 1948 paint standard), as described in my previous post on cabooses, are on this model. These steel cupola cars, though far less numerous than the wood cars of Class C-30-1, are nevertheless an important part of the caboose fleet. This model still needs marker lights.
     For the bay-window cars, it has to be remembered that the cars of classes C-30-4 and C-30-5 were all delivered with vermillion (bright red) ends. This was probably an experiment for visibility purposes, though I have not found any SP documents so stating. Though color images of this end treatment are rare, black and white photos clearly show the color difference. But here is one useful color photo, taken in March 1953 at what is pretty obviously the lower yard in Dunsmuir.

This color is very striking, and naturally I had to add this end color to a model:

Here again, the white handrails are an important part of the appearance. This is a Class C-30-4 car, with its distinctive roof, in brass from Precision Scale. Marker lights remain to be added.
     The red ends often lead to questions about the later orange ends. Here’s a capsule summary. The 1947 and 1949 cars were delivered with red ends, but no other cabooses seem to have received this end color. In March 1954, SP set out to test whether aluminum ends might be a good visibility paint, and that color was to be compared to the red already in service. Each division was to paint two cabooses with aluminum ends and observe performance. By that fall, it began to be concluded that aluminum was really not much better (think of it in a snowy environment), but then the suggestion was made to try Daylight Orange. It was a success. In October 1955, the orange was made standard and cabooses system-wide began to receive that new color. But of course that’s well beyond my 1953 modeling date, so I have to be content with red ends, though I have always thought the orange looks terrific.
     To sum up, most of my cabooses are wood cars of Class C-30-1. But I do have some steel cupola cars and two bay-window cars. They typify the variety present on the SP in 1953.
Tony Thompson


  1. Tony, what paint did you use for the vermilion ends? Thanks,


  2. I used Floquil Signal Red. You want any bright red, so I don't think that one is the only possibility.
    Tony Thompson

  3. Tony, I noticed some C-30-1 have an updated break wheel with the wheel facing inward what year did that modification start? Thanks.
    I'm trying to find a date for a C-30-1 that has a straight cupola, no walking plank on top of the cupola. Orange ends, modern gothic lettering with radio equipped. Inward break wheel. Thank you.

  4. Not earlier than 1957, and even then, not typical arrangements. Cars with such characteristics were mostly rebuilt, thus unusual in the class.
    Tony Thompson

    1. Thank you Tony, I noticed PSC also imported a C-30-1 very similar minus the radio equipped lettering.