Tuesday, March 7, 2017

SP Cabooses (Part 2) - Wood Cabooses

The Southern Pacific built their cabooses to their own designs by 1917, when the C-30-1 class cars were built in massive numbers.  SP C-30-1s continued in production until 1924 with over 620 of them were built!

The C-30-2 and C-30-3 class cars were built to continue the replacement of older cabooses as they were retired through the late 1920s.  The SP's "Standard" wood cabooses of C-30-series were numbered from 1-899, while any cars in the 900-series were reserved for oddball cabooses, such as the ex-coaches and chair cars covered in my blog post SP Cabooses (Part 1) - Ex-Coaches.

Around 200 additional cabooses were built after 1924 to fill in various numbers from retired cars.  These new cars were to replace the pre-1905 built CA-class cars of the Harriman Common Standard Era, when cars were given letter classifications.

It looks like the trainman's heading for beans while SP 286 tied up between runs.

While many CA-type cabooses lasted into the 1940s and 1950s even, the C-30-series wooden bodied cabooses were one of the signature types of caboose that was seen across the system, some lasting until around 1960.

Everything you wanted to know about SP Cabooses!

I will say briefly here that much more information can be found in Tony Thompson's SP Freight Cars Vol.2 Cabooses.  I regularly refer to this volume for any cross checking of dates and info on SP Cabooses.


C-30-1s were originally built with "narrow slanted" cupolas and side sheathing extending to the bottom of the side sills.

AMB - Laser Kit

The AMB C-30-1 kit assembled and lettered as SP 833, a little worse for wear after about 17 years of service.

There are two main producers of non-brass C-30-1s in HO Scale.  The first was American Model Builder's Laser Car Kit (AMB).  The AMB models are laser-cut wood kits, which use an Athearn plastic underframe as the frame for the model, as well as a few other detail parts not included in the kits.  I will may the note here, that the two AMB cabooses that I bought were from about 2000, and I have heard that they've made some changes to the parts included in the kit.  Link to LaserKit C-30-1 and Modernized C-30-1 page.

Tomar's Adlake Marker Lights with G-G-R lenses were installed in the 833, however the battery lighting system is long dead.  Yet another project to install the power pickups so the caboose's markers will work again.


Walthers C-30-1, lettered as SP 684, a caboose photographed on the Sunset Railway and Buttonwillow branches in the 1950s.

The second is Walther's which has produced a nice 30-C-1 for about the same price as the AMB model.  The Walthers model has K-brakes, not the AB-system that most SP cabooses would have had by the early 1950s.  This would be easy to change with the various detail parts made by Tichy, PSC, Cal-Scale, etc.

Some SP cabooses were fitted with cupola braces, such as SP 69, to help the wood bodies not loosen up as much in service.

This model of SP 69, has the cupola braces added with wire.  This does show up on some SP cabooses.  SP 69 also has a non-standard T-type smoke jack.  Most SP engines had the cone-cylinder type as seen on the 684 above.

Brass Cabooses

A brass C-30-1.

The alternative to the AMB and Walthers C-30-1s is a brass model.  I don't recall which manufacture made this particular car.  Probably Balboa.  PSC and several other brass importers have brought these in over the years.

AB-schedule brakes installed under the brass caboose.

The upgrades on this car will probably include new trucks and window glazing.  Straightening up of some of the end details is also in order.

Tichy makes very nice caboose trucks for the AAR U-section models with caboose type leaf springs.  However many of the C-30-1s had Vulcan trucks, which have a couple of unique spotting features, which have not been made in solid engineering plastic trucks that I know of at early 2017.

Modified C-30-1

Left side of SP 213, a rebuilt C-30-1 with "wide square" cupola.

Right side of SP 213, a rebuilt C-30-1 with "wide square" cupola.

Some SP C-30-1's were rebuilt to have a "wide square" cupola, such as SP 213, shown above.  I kitbashed this kit from AMB with two MDC plastic cupolas, and used the AMB cupola sides.  The roof walk on top of the cupola helps hide the joint.  The SP 213 also was fitted with braces on the rebuilt cupola.

I believe that I heard that AMB's upgraded kits, currently have the option of building the model with the C-30-1 wide slanted cupola.  If so, it's good to hear that they are expanding the range of models that can be built using their fine kits.  Link to LaserKit C-30-1 and Modernized C-30-1 page.

One problem with the more robust stamped Athearn ladders on the SP 213 and 833 is that it is hard to get the signature SP shape (as seen on SP 286 below) for the top of the ladders.


The SP C-30-2 class combine the "wide slanted" cupola of the C-30-3 with the covered side sills of the C-30-1.  I don't have any good models of a C-30-2 to show here.  It would be nice if AMB would make the slanted side version of their "Modernized" C-30-1, and market it as a C-30-2.


SP 286 shows off the exposed side sills and Andrews-type trucks, along with the "wide slanted" cupola.

The C-30-3 cabooses were easily recognized by the exposed side sills, showing the internal steel structure of the car side, rather like some boxcars.  This class also had wide cupolas without the running boards around the sides of the cupola.  

SP 2, one of the SP cabooses of C-30-3, which have exposed side sills and wide cupolas. Note the second smoke jack as well.

On this Walthers model I used a old Silver-Streak cupola.  Unfortunately, Silver-Streak parts are about 10% overside, and this was meant as a C-30-1 cupola, which I had to do some filing on to get to look roughly right.

C-30-1 - Bay Window Rebuilds

Several Home-built Pacific Electric cabooses following the general design of SP's C-30-1s but without cupolas were built between 1938 and 1941.  These cars however also lacked bay windows.

SP 259, ex-C-30-1, rebuilt in bay window configuration, PSC Model.

The SP's experiments into rebuilding their wooden cabooses into Bay Window style cabooses came with the SP 259, a C-30-1 caboose that was rebuilt without a cupola and had the middle side windows replaced with the bay window.  It was released in January 1953 in bay window configuration.

In April 1953 SP 660 and SP 697 were outshopped as all-steel bay window cabooses.  SP 660 was involved in the wreck at Allard where a Baldwin AS-616 helping a freight upgrade broke loose and ran away back down the hill (Long story of how the crew wasn't on the engine!) and collided with a set of ATSF F-units at Allard.  The SP 660 was pretty much a pile of wooden splitters about 8 feet long after the collision.  This wreck was covered in detail in SPH&TS Trainline, Issue 098 from Winter 2009. "Whatever Happened to SP Caboose 660."

At least in the case of the SP 660, almost nothing was left of the caboose, so the "Rebuilding" was probably more of a tax dodge and reusing of the trucks and a few other salvaged parts, including the number!  These experimental rebuilds are covered in Thompson's book on pages 139-141.

In Tony Thompson's SP Freight Cars Vol.2, he makes reference to a similar incident at Fresno on August 2, 1952 in which the SP 697 was side-swiped and was in need of rebuilding as well.

In Closing

SP 286 tied up for the night.

The SP's move to all-steel cabooses started in 1937 with the C-40-1 and 1940 with the C-40-3 class.  The C-30-1, SP 660 came out of the shops looking very much like the all-steel cars built in C-30-4, built in 1947-1951, which Athearn's bay window model is fairly close to.  I will cover the SP's steel cabooses in detail in the next caboose post.

Jason Hill

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  1. Beautiful work. Interesting post, too. I model SP though I know very little about it. This will help with the 1940's era auto-train I'm trying to build.

  2. Another helpful post Jason. I need to start making some corrections to my fleet.

  3. I thoroughly enjoy your articles since I model SP set in 1929-1935. As regards to your statement about the SP's characteristic C-30-1 top ladder shape, I too have been frustrated in searching for a good reproduction in HO. I wish Walthers sold their ladders as spare parts.


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