Friday, June 2, 2017

SP Cabooses (Part 3) - Steel Cupola Cabooses

The C-40-1s were built following the same body design as C-30-series cupola cabooses (which I discussed before in my blog - SP Cabooses Part 2 - Wooden Cabooses) but with steel bodies and evenly spaced long end windows.  The SP built over 200 steel cupola cabooses between 1937 and 1942, just in time for the heavy press of wartime traffic.  By the 1950s many road freights were using steel cabooses, and fewer and fewer wooden (with steel underframe) cabooses were used.   Most of the wooden bodied cars being assigned to branchline traffic and locals.

Here's a very nice budget brass C-40-1 steel caboose model.

The C-40-1 class cars were numbered between SP 1000-1049, built in 1937.
The C-40-3 class cars  were numbered between SP 1050-1234 & T&NO 400-429 and built between 1940 and 1942 in several groups.

The C-40-1 only had one smokejack and the following C-40-3 class cars had two smokejacks, as built.  The second one is located opposite the cupola on the left side of the short end of the caboose.

Many of these cars lasted until the end of cabooses on the SP in the 1980s.  In later years various windows were plated over and other fittings were mounted for power generation, etc.

There are many models available for them.  I will discuss some of them here.

Brass Options

Balboa C-40-1 - $~75 unpainted

Many years ago Balboa brought in models for C-40-1 steel cabooses.  Generally these were unpainted, but today many of them have been painted by modelers over the years.  This means you can find them anywhere from unpainted, to poorly painted, poorly decalled, up to REALLY nice models.

Left side of Balboa C-40-1 unpainted

Right side of Balboa C-40-1 unpainted - some skin damage during soldering showing on the lower center part of the body.

Here's a 3/4 view of the right rear corner, some additional damage just above the belt rail.

Left front corner of the Balboa Models C-40-1, ready for media blasting and paint.

Bottom view showing the layout for the brake parts and truck bolsters.

The rest of the underframe parts were in a small plastic bag along with some markers for the modeler to install.

Painted, decalled, and finished as SP 11, rebuilt C-40-1 from a C-30-1 cabooses.

Here's one finished up and ready for service.  SP generally numbered the new C-40-1/-3s into the SP 1000-1199 series, but some were built as replacement cabooses for retired C-30-series cars below 900 as there were vacancies in the roster.

SP 11 was built as C-30-1 in 1925 and rebuilt to C-40-1 standards.

Challenger Imports C-40-1 - $250+ painted

Left side of Challenger C-40-1 caboose

Like most high end brass models, Challenger knocked the ball out of the part with these models!  ...with a price tag to match.  This model operates very nicely with minimal extra work required.

Right side of Challenger C-40-1 caboose

Underframe of Challenger C-40-1, showing mechanicals and brake details.

Resin Models

There's one resin model of a C-40-1/-3 in production in June 2017, with at least one more being mastered for production "soon".

WrightTrak C-40-1/-3 - $56.95

WrightTrak has for about 8 years offered a resin one-piece body kit for a C-40-1/-3 caboose.

While I've not had the time to assemble this model, I am posting these photos of the parts in the kit.

The Instructions are on a mini-CD, which is a good option to show clear photographs of the assembly process and all relevant data relating to the models.


The left side of the one-piece body.

The left front corner of the one-piece body.

The right rear corner of the one-piece body.

The right side of the one-piece body.

The roof is cast resin

Tichy supplied the brake components for the model

A large sheet of custom photo etchings covers the end railings, metal roofwalks, steps, details of the door and brake parts.

Here's the two sheets of cast resin parts, the smokejack (only 1) and one of the two cupola's included in the kit.

Not shown are the pair of Tichy plain bearing leaf-spring trucks and wheels included in the kit, which are actually my preferred truck for cabooses.

The WrightTrak model is a nice kit to settle into build on a cold winter night. - Unfortunately I've not had the chance to build this model.

Bonanza Models C-40-1 - 3d Printed at Shapeways - $58 Shell only

Left side of Bonanza Models C-40-1

This summer Bonanza Models C-40-1/-3 released a 3d printed one-piece caboose body on Shapeways.  I wanted to see how far 3d printing of this style of model has come, so I ordered one.  The model's designed to use Athearn underframe and components, which must be supplied by the modeler.  The roofwalks and tool box are printed inside of the main body.

Generally the model looks very nice, with fine rivet detailing which is correct for SP's early steel cabooses.  There are some slight "ghosting" of the rivets across the carside, however this is mostly cosmetic, and will be hidden with a light coat or two of paint.

Tool box and broken roofwalks inside the 3d printed body.

I was a little disturbed that the model was damaged before shipment and several parts of the walkway were missing.  After discussing it with Shapeways and the owner of Bonanza, I was more or less left on my own to finish the model.

Support material marring on the cupola and short end of the carbody

Detailed view of the pre-sanded short end. - All the rivet detail's gone or will have to be sanded off.

The other damage to the details from the printing process Shapeways basically said, "Too bad, it's how we have to make it."  So it will probably take me several hours to finish sanding down the support points and replace all the rivet detail with Archer Rivets.'

Sanded end, there's still some pock-marks which will have to be either hidden later as dents or other damage/weathering.

The roof and cupola cleaned up fairly well, most of this part of the roof will be hidden by the walkways.

I spent some time sanding on the cupola, roof, and end to get the model cleaned up somewhat.

In Conclusion

I've not finished building up the Bonanza Model or the WrightTrak models yet.  When I do, I'll do a full blog post on what it takes to build.  In general I'd probably go with the WrightTrak model, as it has all the parts and costs about the same as the Bonanza model.

I'm interested to see what model comes from the other resin producer when they release their model.  Probably the fastest way to get an SP steel caboose on the rails is still to buy a Balboa ($75) or PSC ($150-ish) brass model and paint/decal it yourself (or have a friend do it).

Jason Hill

Related Blog Posts:
SP Cabooses Part 1 - Ex-Coaches
SP Cabooses Part 2 - Wooden Cabooses

Modeling SP's Small Road Switchers (Part 1) - Small Steam Engines


  1. I got three of the Balboas at Whistle Stop in Pasadena for $10 each. IIRC the store was still out east of Rosemead Blvd. One of these days I better finish them. They were some of the first items I tried my first air brush on. Then events intervened and I put them away. They are however working their way up the to do list.

    1. Yeah, good to hear they're resurfacing! My rough price marks are what I see them offered for in the last couple of years. The resin models of course are MSRPs.

  2. Thanks for another interesting and useful blog post. For those who have budgets that don't run to the cost of the options which you have considered, I wonder if you might care to consider a kit-bash based on the 4 window steel caboose sold some years ago by Roundhouse/MDC.

    1. Roger,
      If budget's an issue, then consider looking at either a steel bay-window Athearn model - which I'll be covering soon, or the Walthers C-30-1 series wood bodied car that I covered in Part 2.


Please identify yourself at the end of your message. Please keep comments relevant to the post or questions to me directly. No random solicitation in comments. Spamming and phishing comments will be deleted.