Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Modeling SP cabooses, Part 2

 In the first post in this series, I provided a broad-brush treatment of Southern Pacific’s largest caboose class, C-30-1. It was of course abstracted from a much larger and more complete source, my Volume 2, Cabooses, in the series Southern Pacific Freight Cars (Signature Press, 2002). If you’d like to read that post, it’s here: .

Today I want to address briefly the other wood cupola cabooses. At the beginning of 1928, SP decided to incorporate all the changes that had been evolving with ten years of construction and usage of Class C-30-1 cars, including the 1927 decision to return to full-width cupolas, into a new Class C-30-2. But otherwise the car exterior remained very much like Class C-30-1. And as previously pointed out, by this time all car numbers were re-used numbers from much older cabooses that had been scrapped.

Below is a clear photo of Class C-30-2 car SP 290, photographed at Bayshore in January, 1948 by Richard W. Biermann (Arnold Menke collection). The large tool box beneath the side sill was only on the right side of the car, as you see here. The Vulcan trucks are replacements, added to this car in 1940. The lettering is that used from 1931 to 1946, lower on the car body and with SP initials only. White side handrails would be painted white a few months later.

Only 50 cars of this class were built in 1928. A new caboose design was introduced in 1929, Class C-30-3, distinguished by steel body framing (the body framing of previous cars was completely wood). On a completed car, of course, this framing was inside the car — except at the side sill, where the bottom ends of the framing were visible. And all cars again had re-used car numbers.

The photo below of SP 5 shows these framing ends clearly. This is the left side of the car, thus no tool box (it can just be seen beneath the car, on the other side). The photo was taken by Wilbur C. Whittaker at Oakland in July, 1949, and the car has the then-standard white handrails. The Vulcan trucks had been applied in 1938.

Models have sometimes been lettered as Class C-30-3 but without the exposed framing, an obvious error. But Precision Scale did do this class correctly. My car is shown below. Its cupola roof just has four corner grab irons, as was common in later years.

Cupolas are a complicated issue for lots of the wood cabooses in later years. Roof shots are rare among SP caboose photos, but below I show one taken from the pedestrian bridge at Taylor Yard in 1954, a great image by Stan Kistler.

In this photo the second track has two wood cupola cabooses in the middle of the four cars shown. The nearer one is SP 162, built in 1925,  and beyond it, SP 618, built in 1917. 

The cupola on 618 is a replacement full-width one, but SP 162, nearer the camera, has its original narrow cupola; notice that the side walkways are removed. Note also on 162 that the wood walks on the roof at the ladders are missing. 

On the the foreground track are two more wood cars, flanking the bay-window car, unfortunately without either C-30 car being very visible. But we can see that both cupolas have full-around handrails, as does SP 162 on the track behind it.

Having a few C-30-1 cabooses in one’s fleet with replacement cupolas can be a nice touch. There used to be a white-metal cast cupola from Silver Streak,  a slant-side design, and I have seen these on eBay. Below is what it looks like. As mentioned in the previous post, cupola appearance alone is not a spotting feature for the various classes of SP wood cabooses, because many were replaced.

The wood cabooses wee very numerous, and thus important to modelers, but next I want to consider steel cupola cars. There are two of them in the Stan Kistler photo above, and I will discuss those cars in a following post.

Tony Thompson

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