California's Railroad to the U.S. 1861 - 1996

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Southern Pacific/Cotton Belt and Texas and New Orleans Steel Cabooses

SP Cabooses at Taylor Yard, Ca. 1972

This index is devoted to steel cabooses, as they are the only photo's that I have been able to take, or have been submitted.

SP, SSW and T&NO between them bought and built around 1300 steel cabooses in 19 classes.

SP system cabooses were designated C-xx-x : the 'C' was for caboose, the 'xx' denoted the axle load in tons, and the last 'x' was the class or type or design.

I know you probably get tired of reading this but, variations, modifications rebuilds and upgrades abound, if you are happy with a generic model then fine, else you need photo's of a particular unit in your timeframe to get it near correct...

The following steel caboose classes have been noted:
  • SP/TNO C-30-4   SP 1235-1269 TNO 500-514
  • SP/TNO C-30-5   SP 1270-1319 TNO 515-544
  • SP           C-30-6   SP 1320-1369
  • SP           C-40-1   SP 1000-1049
  • SP/TNO C-40-3   SP 1050-1234 TNO 400-429
  • SP           C-40-4   SP 1400-1599
  • SP           C-40-5   SP 1600-1699
  • SP/SSW C-40-6   SP 1700-1749 SSW 46-57
  • SP            C-40-7   SP 1750-1799
  • SSW        C-40-8   SSW 1-25
  • SSW        C-40-9   SSW 26-45
  • SSW       C-50-2   SSW 58-77
  • SP           C-50-3   SP 1800-1874
  • SP           C-50-4   SP 1875-1929
  • SP/SSW C-50-5   SP 1930-1980 SSW 78-93
  • SP            C-50-7   SP 4600-4649
  • SP            C-50-8   SP 4650-4699
  • SP            C-50-9   SP 4700-4774
  • SP          C-50-10   SP 1
ex RPO #475 Transfer Cabooses

see also John Mosbarger's Caboose Photo page


The C-30-1, C-30-2 and C-30-3 classes were composite steel underframe with wood body. AMB has released a lasercut kit of the C-30-1 composite cupola caboose, and Walthers has released a plastic RTR model of the C-30-1.

There were only minor and mostly invisible differences between the C-30-4 thru C-30-6 classes (as built).

The C-40-1 and C-40-3 were cupola types.

There was no C-40-2 class...

C-40-4 thru C-50-10 were bay window types, except the SSW as noted below,

SSW C-40-8 and C-40-9 were 'Wide Vision' types.

There doesn't appear to have been a C-50-1 or C-50-6.

The C-50-10 was a one only class.

General painting information:

  • Pre-war cabooses were originally finished in all-over mineral red, the lettering style was simply the roadname initials, post-war SP decided to spell out the company name in Roman script. 1955 saw the introduction of 'Billboard' or block lettering and painting of the end walls or bulkheads in Daylight orange. In 1961 the C-40-4 class and all cabooses repainted in that year? saw the entire bay being painted Daylight orange. After that just the end walls and the bay ends were painted Daylight orange. Orange stepwells were a feature of cabooses repainted after 1980.

  • The Cotton Belt 'Wide Vision' caboose paint is further detailed on those pages.

  • There quite a few cabooses painted in 'special' schemes, too many to list here, and 'we' don't have photo's for a lot of them. They are listed on the relevant page(s).

The ICC mandated the removal of roofwalks in the late 1960's, so these appliances and end ladders were removed over a period of time, often leaving the roofwalk supports in place. As well due to the 'antics' of 'rock throwers' windows were often plated over with sheet steel. All C-40-x's were originally equipped with 'frog-eye' roof mounted marker lights, some were gradually replaced with a single 'bug-eye' roof mounted marker light as per a 1978 spec. but then replaced again in 1980 with a single red light on the ends above the door.

Q....which is left and right on a caboose? How do you identify the B end?

A. from D. Scott Chatfield: Well, you're not the first to ask that question, so I'll post the answer to the list (sp mailing list) in case I've confused everyone else. I work from the convention that the brake cylinder points to the B-end. Then the left side is that which is to your left when you are looking at the B-end. Unlike many Athearn kits, the C-40-4 has its cylinder pointing at the correct end (as near as I can tell, at least). The battery box and fuel tank are towards the B-end, the smokejack towards the A-end, so the side with the little vent in the top right is the left side. The battery box is on the left side, the fuel tank on the right. Or if you prefer, the BL and BR corners.


  • SP Freight Cars Vol 2: Cabooses by Tony Thompson published by Signature Press.

  • 1981 Southern Pacific Motive Power Review by Joe Strapac - The feature article is titled SP Steel Cabooses 1937-1981. 44 pages of history and photo's of the SP/SSW/TNO steel bodied cabooses.

  • Cabins, Crummies & Hacks Vol. 4, (pages 68-70) by John Henderson from H&M Productions. Color photo's of SP/SSW cabooses. (good color photo's, but watch the captions...)
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Saturday, 4 December 2004