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Union Pacific Cabooses

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Caboose Lettering

This page was last updated on September 11, 2015.

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Detailed information on lettering practices in the pre-Harriman era has not yet been found. Lettering drawings from the early 1900s to the 1920s specify white lettering on a freight car red body. The road number and UNION PACIFIC were in 8-inch high Railroad Roman letters and figures. The railroad or subsidiary initials (with periods) were in 3-inch letters above the road number. All of this was below the cupola and more or less centered between the windows. An exception to this was the lettering on OSL cabooses, where O.S.L. was in 8-inch letters with 3-inch Oregon Short Line beneath it. The caboose class was stenciled low on the side in 2-inch letters. The reporting marks were also stenciled above the end doors in 3-inch letters and figures. This lettering scheme lasted until 1939.

In the mid-1920's UP adopted the ARA (later AAR) recommended practice of putting 1-inch horizontal bars (or stripes) above and below the reporting marks on the sides of its freight cars. However, these bars were not adopted for UP cabooses at that time. Horizontal bars were not used on cabooses until the change in lettering style in 1939. At that time, the 1-inch horizontal bars were not just placed around the reporting marks, but the top bar was placed above UNION PACIFIC on the sides. While the drawings show upper and lower bars for both the wooden and steel cabooses, photos indicate that the lower bar (under the road number) was not applied to the wooden cabooses. The reason for this is unknown.

In 1939, UP made a system-wide lettering change to the more modern Gothic style, but the color remained white. The lettering size and placement on cabooses remained the same, with 8-inch road number and UNION PACIFIC and 3-inch initials with periods above the road number. And the reporting marks were still above the end doors in 3-inch lettering. As mentioned above, a 1-inch horizontal bar was placed above UNION PACIFIC.

With the arrival of the CA-3 in 1942, a 1-inch bar was applied below the road number, and the caboose class was increased from 2 to 3-inch letters, on the steel cabooses only. In 1943, the CA-3 cupola running board was removed, and "Keep Off Cupola" was stenciled on the ends of the cupola in 3-inch letters, again for steel cabooses only. During the remainder of the freight car red paint scheme era, which lasted until about 1950, the major lettering on all of UP's cabooses remained white Gothic style.

With the change to yellow body color in June 1947, the lettering color was changed to red stencil paint, which was a bright red. Lettering on any black surface (trucks or underframe) was to be Armour yellow. The size and placement remained the same, with the exception that the wooden cabooses finally started receiving the 1-inch bar below the road number.

The reservoir stencil was changed in August 1951. In 1952, the one-inch bar above the lettering and below the number was removed from the drawings. Safety slogans were started in the mid-1950's and are discussed in the following section.

With the introduction of the changeable slogan boards on the CA-6 class in 1955, the reporting marks were moved lower on the sides of cars so equipped. The reporting marks on wooden cars were changed to just U.P. initials in 1958, and the subsidiary initials were placed high on the side to the far left in 4-inch letters. Five-digit car numbers were instituted in 1959, on the steel cabooses (with the wooden cars first receiving five digit numbers in 1962). Also in 1959, the UP initials in the reporting marks were changed from 3-inch to 8-inch and placed in line with the road number for classes CA-6 and CA-7, which had the changeable slogan boards. In 1964, battery and radio symbols were introduced for cars so equipped. And in early 1969, ACI labels were initially applied.

After the late 1960s, a special colored 20-inch letter was added to all sides of the cupola denoting different special service. A red P was used for cabooses that had received the required improvements that allowed them to be operated in system-wide Pool Service and on through trains with other railroads. A green K was added for cabooses assigned to the Kaiser unit coal trains operating in Utah, Nevada, and California, and a black T was added to cabooses assigned to terminal transfer service.

The size of the reporting marks (UP and the road number) changed from 8-inch to 14-inch in mid-1971, and UP was now in-line with the road number for all cars. The change from 8-inch UNION PACIFIC letters to larger 16-inch letters began in late February 1972.

The exact date for implementing Scotchlite lettering for the road name and reporting marks has not yet been determined. However, it is known that Scotchlite was used in the mid-1960's and that all pool service cars had Scotchlite lettering.

As early as April 1983, a narrow black border was added to the letters for the road name and reporting marks. (The drawing showing the change was completed in 1986, after hundreds of cabooses had already been retired.) At the same time, the road number and initials were increased in size from 14 inches to 16 inches, to match the size of the UNION PACIFIC lettering. The 1986 drawing also shows a 30-inch medallion to the left, though apparently few cabooses got that before retirement.

Lettering for the bay window cabooses and cabooses in MOW service is discussed in those sections.

Safety Slogans

Union Pacific has always been a safety conscious railroad. As early as 1946, this safety-awareness appeared on a freight-car red CA-4 caboose (UP 3818) in the form of white ends. In 1947, a variation appeared as black and white diagonal end stripes on CA-4 3857.

Safety slogans were adopted in 1953 with several cabooses that had their entire sides painted white to serve as a billboard for the railroad's safety program. The white-sides and slogan era lasted until 1956.

In a follow-on program, in 1955, the CA-6s were delivered with side-mounted frames centered beneath the cupola. These frames allowed safety slogans to be changed. This feature was first used on the CA-6s, and continued to be applied to cabooses through to the CA-9 class in 1967. New examples of the changeable safety slogan panels continued to appear as late as 1970.

In a continuing effort to remind its own employees and the public about the importance of being conscious of safety, in 1973, UP began painting a new series of safety slogans on its cabooses. In this series, there were at least 37 different slogans, all painted directly on the caboose sides. This later program lasted until about 1975, and the delivery of the CA-10s. In 1979, the compact-bodied CA-11s were delivered and all except the last seven received the popular "Keep On Truckin' . By Train" slogan. (The last seven CA-11s received a different slogan that read, "I Follow The Leader.")

Safety Slogans - White Body Sides (1953-1956)

The first safety slogans were adopted in late 1953 or early 1954. This program consisted of a slogan painted on the side of the caboose body, which had been painted completely white as a background for each slogan's green lettering. According to the trade publication Railway Age, in July 1954, 23 cabooses were painted with white sides and lettered on their sides with "Drive With Care Everywhere." On most of the cabooses that received slogan painted on white sides, the sides of the cupolas were painted white as well. However, at least two cabooses are known to had yellow cupola sides instead of white.

The practice of using slogans painted on white sides lasted until about 1956. The CA-6s were delivered new in 1955 equipped with the mounting frames for the later four-foot by six-foot series of safety slogans that replaced the all-white painted sides.

Following is a listing of cabooses known to have safety slogan painted on white sides:

Wooden Cabooses

Number Class Photo Date Slogan
UP 2558 CA-1 Dec 1954 Safe-Happy Holidays To You (UP Color Guide, Volume 2, by Lou Schmitz, page 59)
UP 2654 CA-1 Jun 1954 Drive With Care Everywhere - Union Pacific
UP 3253 CA-1 Dec 1953 Safe-Happy Holidays To You (date from photo in "West From Omaha" by Jack Pfeifer)
UP 3274 CA-1 1958 Remember No Accidents In August (yellow cupola)
UP 3285 Transfer Oct 1954 Drive With Care Everywhere - Union Pacific

Steel Cabooses

Number Class Photo Date Slogan
UP 3701 CA-3 Feb 1955 Make Courtesy Contagious - Union Pacific
UP 3721 CA-3 1955 Remember No Accidents In August (yellow cupola)
UP 3779 CA-3 Nov 1953 At Grade Crossings Every Time Is Train Time Be Careful (yellow cupola)
UP 3790 CA-3 Oct 1953 At Grade Crossings Every Time Is Train Time Be Careful (yellow cupola)
UP 3797 CA-3    
UP 3830 CA-4 Oct 1953 At Grade Crossings Every Time Is Train Time Be Careful (date from photo in "West From Omaha" by Jack Pfeifer)
UP 3840 CA-4    
UP 3856 CA-4 1955 Make Courtesy Contagious - Union Pacific
UP 3859 CA-4 1954 Drive With Care Everywhere - Union Pacific (white cupola, lavatory side)
UP 3859 CA-4 1955 At Grade Crossings Every Time Is Train Time Be Careful (yellow cupola, non-lavatory side)
UP 3881 CA-4 Aug 1958 Make Courtesy Contagious - Union Pacific
UP 3960 CA-5   Make Courtesy Contagious - Union Pacific
UP 3978 CA-5 1955 At Grade Crossings Every Time Is Train Time Be Careful (yellow cupola)

Safety Slogans (1955-1970)

The second series of safety slogans were adopted in September 1955 and were painted on four-feet by six-feet pieces of sheet metal with hand openings, that were mounted to the center of the caboose side in a frame. UP called the sheet metal sign a "slogan board." Photographs of new CA-6s in 1955 suggest that most of these cars received the new safety slogans upon delivery. These safety slogans were painted with green (black in later years) lettering on a white background, with the program lasting until about 1970. Research in other photographs also suggests that it was mostly the CA-6s that received this series of safety slogans. Very few cabooses in other classes have been discovered to have the slogan board safety slogan, including four CA-7s, two CA-8s, and two CA-9s. In later years many cabooses were seen with just the empty metal frame.

Following is a sample of safety slogans on changeable slogan boards, using photographs as the sources:

Number Class Photo Date Slogan
2716 CA-6 Feb 1959 Safety Is Everybody's Business (renumbered to 25316)
2767 CA-6 Jun 1956 Everyone Gains Where Courtesy Reigns (renumbered to 25367)
2769 CA-6 1960 Everyone Gains Where Courtesy Reigns (renumbered to 25369)
2795 CA-6 1956 Everyone Gains Where Courtesy Reigns (renumbered to 25395)
25340 CA-6 Oct 1962 Safety Is The Golden Rule In Action
25342 CA-6 Jun 1969 Everyone Gains Where Courtesy Reigns
25369 CA-6 Oct 1964 Everyone Gains Where Courtesy Reigns
25402 CA-7 Mar 1961 Safety Is The Golden Rule In Action (aluminum-colored car)
25402 CA-7 Aug 1967 Always Alert - Nobody Hurt (aluminum-colored car)
25415 CA-7 Nov 1969 Safety Is Everybody's Business
25441 CA-7 Mar 1961 Everyone Gains Where Courtesy Reigns (aluminum-colored car)
25471 CA-7 Feb 1965 Everyone Gains Where Courtesy Reigns
25534 CA-8 Dec 1964 Safety Is Everybody's Business
25535 CA-8 Mar 1965 Safety Is The Golden Rule In Action
25576 CA-8 Sep 1971 Everyone Gains Where Courtesy Reigns
25578 CA-8 Dec 1967 Safety Is Everybody's Business
25582 CA-8 Jan 1965 Safety Is Everybody's Business
25585 CA-8 Jan 1965 Don't Be Curt Be Courteous
25685 CA-9   Safety Is Everybody's Business
25692 CA-9 Feb 1968 Safety Is The Golden Rule In Action

Safety Slogans CA-3s through CA-10s (1973-1975)

In about March 1973, the third safety slogan effort began, and was the result of an annual system-wide contest among railroad employees in 1973, 1974, and 1975. These slogans were 96 inches long and 24 inches high, and were painted directly on the sides of the cabooses as they were upgraded for pool service.

Following is a table showing a random sampling, through photo research, of safety slogans from this era:

Number Class Photo Date Slogan
25193 CA-4 3 Sep 1980 Safety Plus, That's Us
25198 CA-4 15 Aug 1980 Safety is an Equal Opportunity For All
25415 CA-7 Aug 1987 UPpermost in Safety
25418 CA-7 19 Feb 1975 There's No Romance in Taking a Chance
25489 CA-7 18 Feb 1981 Trucking on Down the Track
25534 CA-8 June 1974 There's No Romance in Taking a Chance
25537 CA-8 Dec 1984 Go Big Train
25555 CA-8 2 Nov 1980 A Second Glance, Your Living Chance
25556 CA-8 29 Aug 1980 Carefully We Roll Along
25588 CA-8 12 Aug 1978 SAFETY, the living end
25592 CA-8 14 Oct 1973 Safety. Who Needs It? You Do.
25599 CA-8 16 Jul 1980 Safety. Who Needs It? You Do.
25610 CA-9 12 Aug 1979 SAFETY, the living end
25634 CA-9 1975 Be Careful, Don't Rush Into Us
25635 CA-9 4 Apr 1980 Safety Aware, Because We Care
25660 CA-9   SAFETY, the living end
25665 CA-9   A Second Glance, Your Living Chance
25673 CA-9 21 Aug 1980 Have Train Will Travel
25678 CA-9 4 Aug 1974 Safety. Who Needs It? You Do.
25681 CA-9 26 Jun 1981 Put it Here - We'll get it There
25733 CA-10 11 Jan 1976 We're A Great Big Rolling Railroad
25736 CA-10 30 Jan 1981 We're A Great Big Rolling Railroad
25741 CA-10   Safety Reigns On Our Train
25749 CA-10   Don't Get Carried Away, Think Safety

Safety Slogans CA-11s (1979)

The fourth safety slogan program was adopted with the delivery of the compact-body CA-11 class in 1979. The slogan "Keep On Truckin' . By Train", in a 24-inch by 96-inch rectangle painted on the caboose sides. This slogan was applied to all but the last seven CA-11s, which received a different slogan, "I Follow The Leader," painted in a 36-inch by 96-inch rectangle. In addition to the last seven CA-11s, CA-3 25007 also had the "I Follow The Leader" slogan applied to its sides.

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