Sunday, February 19, 2017

SP Cabooses (Part 1) - Ex-Coaches

In this post I want to cover two examples of SP's non-standard cabooses.  Both of these models are better than 10 years old, but are still relevant today.

SP 2850 returns to Bakersfield Yard from the west with a few GS gondolas and an ex-coach caboose, circa 1954.

The starting point for these two models are MDC/Athearn 60ft "Harriman" Coach.  I've discussed these models before in my blog post about SP 2701, which is a Model Power car.

The MDC model is too short among its other issues, so I try to keep the cars with major issues, like incorrect roof profiles and incorrect length out of situations where they'll be coupled to other more correct cars.  Putting cars with major issues of prototype fidelity next to correct cars will highlight the issues with the stand-in model.  This means that the MDC coaches are generally used as kitbashing fodder for other cars or used as express riders cars, cabooses, or local cabooses.


SP 998 - Caboose



My first introduction to this type of use for an old coach was in the VideoRails (Pentrex) SP 1941 film.  In the film we see a Mt-class 4-8-2 working a string of about 40 tank cars over the Suisun Bridge.  The SP must have been short on cabooses that day, or maybe the 60ft Coach was used on the train to get it to Sacramento for shopping.  In any case, it was an neat view of the train silhouetted against the sky as it worked its way through the massive bridge trusses.

SP Caboose 998, built from MDC/Athearn coach

The SP 998 was a one of the 60-CC-1 class chair cars converted to Caboose service on Dec 22, 1952 in LA, originally built as Chair car SP 2530, it was retired in 1957.

I did this conversion and added Tomar's G-G-R Marker lights to the rear corners of the vestibules for end of train service.  The underbody mechanicals looks much like the other Soho 60ft coaches I've been working on, such as SP 1005 and T&NO 777.  Walthers 8ft Pullman Trucks are used in place of the original MDC trucks that came with the car.  I have yet to add the battery box and brake systems to the SP 998.

SP 973 - Local Caboose



It should be noted that these cars may not match up to late 1940's and early 1950's agreements of what constituted a "Caboose" according to the Union Agreements.  Non-Union Cabooses therefore could only be used by crews that were not Conductors and Trainmen.  This restricted them to being used by "Yard Crews", Foremen and Switchmen on switching jobs near yards within what were known as "Switching Limits", not to be confused with operational "Yard Limits" under Rule 93.  These "Switching Limits" were defined in the Union Agreements as to which areas would be worked by yard crews and which would be worked by road crews on locals.

The towns of Edison and Oil City were within these "Switching Limits" of Bakersfield Yard.  As such any switch engine and crew could be told by the Yard Master to go out and work one of the outlying areas, for which they could pick up a "Caboose" to let the three or four men (Foreman and usually two or three switchmen) that couldn't ride on the engine out to the area where the work was.

Partially finished T&NO 777, a Soho 60ft 60-C-5 coach

This model is a bit of a stretch for my era, but it's an interesting example of a stand-in.  The Caboose SP 973 started life as the T&NO 794, a 60-C-5, much like T&NO 777, which I've covered in its own blog post.

Ex-T&NO 794, weather beaten and downgraded in 1954 to Caboose SP 973 at Bakersfield

This car has not received the new Walthers 8ft Pullman 4-wheel trucks like the SP 998 has, and retains the shorter 7ft MDC trucks.

Among the changes to this model, I divided the windows as best I could with small strips of plastic to simulate the paired window look.  The columns between window pairs is still too wide and there's no single window at one end of the car, but changing that would be a massive rebuild of the car body.

SP 2850 with GS gonds and ex-coach caboose.  Those of you that know the prototype photo will recognize this model shot.

In an undated photo I have of a 60ft coach being pulled into Bakersfield yard by SP 2851 (a 2-8-0), it shows a car very much like the 973, but both vestibule doors are open.  I cut out the doors from this model to replicate that.  I also added a smoke jack to the roof of the car to match the photos.

The other side of SP 973 with the battery box, and a broken window divider, which I replaced with a blank black panel.

A retired SP Bakersfield yardman that I talked to in 2005 said that there was an old 60ft coach that they used regularly on the Oil City switch job, so doing some quick research in Tony Thompson's SP Freight Cars Vol.2 on page 265, there's a table of all the 950-series 60ft coach/chair car conversions to use as Cabooses.  The SP 973 was converted at Bakersfield in March 1954, the earliest of all the SP's 60-CC-Series cars to be converted to cabooses.

The roof of SP 973, weathered with light earth colors to match the Bakersfield mud and dust.

This seems to be several years too late for me to model, but in the photo, the car appears to be in green, not freight car brown, so this is how I chose to model the SP 973, as if it was just patched for caboose service but not repainted.

A photo has since come to light showing that the SP 973 was repainted into full clean Freight Car Red when the conversion was made.  Perhaps I should change the number at some point, but it's not worth it at this point.

Mechanicals on the SP 973


MDC trucks and couplers

The mechanicals on this car are very simple.  I kept the stock weights in the area between the bottom of the body floor and the sub-floor that MDC made.  The truck centers were not moved.  The "Talgo" style coupler boxes mounted to the trucks were cut off, and mounted to the body.

Opened doors and diaphragms on the SP 973

The diaphragms are still the American Limited ones from the early 2000's.  The problems of them popping out aren't as noticeable on these caboose service cars because they are only coupling to freight cars, not other cars with diaphragms.

I hope you enjoyed this quick look at a couple of non-standard SP Cabooses.

Jason Hill

Related Links:
SP 2701, 60-CC-1 from a Model Power Coach (Part 1)

SP's 60-C-5 (Part 1), SP 1005

SP's 60-C-5 (Part 2), T&NO 777

Index SP Heavyweight Passenger Car Models

Athearn/MDC 60ft "Harriman" Baggage Car (Part 1) - Mechanicals

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