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Wooden Caboose Retirements

The page was last updated on April 5, 2003.

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The last UP wooden caboose was delivered in November 1924. Between 1930 and 1941, 206 wooden cabooses were retired from the active roster. Many were retired due to wreck damage. Wooden cabooses were fragile, and susceptible to severe damage when involved in accidents. The practice of locating a wooden caboose behind a rear-end helper locomotive is a direct reflection of the wooden caboose's fragile nature. The steel underframes on the CA-1s in 1914, and the steel reinforcements to the CAs from the 1920s on, eased their vulnerability somewhat, but for many years, cabooses were regularly retired solely due to wreck damage.

These, dramatic views of the December 11, 1950 wreck at Ozone, Wyoming, show just how, fragile UP's wooden cabooses were. Ozone is located two miles east of Granite, on Sherman Hill. Challenger 3958 collided with the rear of a preceding train, and demolished caboose 3267.

More, powerful locomotives and more efficient operations both contributed to fewer, numbers of trains, with an accompanying need for fewer cabooses. The need for, fewer cabooses lead to the retirement of the older, all-wood cars. With the, arrival of the first steel cabooses in 1942, wooden cabooses began to be, retired due to being "worn out." But still, wrecks continued to take, their toll.

Surprisingly, the arrival of the steel cabooses did not lead to wholesale retirements of, wooden cabooses; traffic was simply growing too rapidly during the World War II, years to allow retirement of these important end-of-train pieces of rolling, stock. Careful examination of retirement records reveals that an average of 35, to 50 cabooses were retired each year from the mid 1940s through the mid 1960s, many still due to wreck damage, but most to being worn out, as can be imagined, for cars that were on average all between 40 and 50 years old.

While, research does not yet support it, the 1963 ruling by the California Public, Utilities Commission that ended the use of wooden cabooses by railroads in, California, may have had a direct effect also on the use of any wooden caboose, all across the UP system. Although the plan to renumber all cabooses to the, 25000 series came in late 1958, the renumbering of the wooden caboose fleet did, not begin until April 1962. This may have been in direct response to the fact, that only steel cabooses would soon be allowed in California. To maintain a, fleet of steel cabooses for use solely in California, UP may have had to bring, the fleet of remaining wooden cabooses up to current standards for mainline use, on the rest of the system, including renumbering them into the 25000 series, numbers.

While, there were likely earlier examples, the first recorded donation of a wooden, caboose came in 1955 when Non-Common Standard caboose 2252 was donated to the, town of Wahoo, Nebraska. In 1960, CA number 3601 was donated to Grand Island, Nebraska. Non-Common Standard number 3505 went to Brigham Young University in 1962, and, in 1963, N.C.S. 25703 (the old 3506) went to Caldwell, Idaho. In 1964, CA, caboose 25722 was donated to the Western Logging Museum in Tacoma, Washington. (now, known as Camp 6 Logging Museum).

The first CA-1 noted as being donated went to, Ogallala, Nebraska, in 1965. In July 1967, CA-1 25755 was donated to an unknown, location. Available retirement dates show that the wooden caboose era on UP, came to an end in 1968 when the last six wooden cabooses were retired, after, the arrival of the 100 CA-9 steel cabooses in 1967. The very last UP wooden, caboose, UP 25766, was retired in 1971.

During, 1970, the Stuhr Museum in Grand Island, Nebraska, received two CA-1s for display, with one being the former Mount Hood Railway number 7, formerly UP 3201. The, last CA-1 to be retired by UP was 25766, a side door CA-1 that had been in, regular use on the Coalmont Branch, and before that the Sandy Local and the, Malad Local in Utah. UP 25766 remained as part of the historical collection at, Cheyenne, Wyoming, from its retirement in 1971 until its donation to the Union, Station Museum in Ogden, Utah, in 1982. At Ogden, the caboose remains on, display at the Utah State Railroad Museum, having received a full exterior, restoration in 1996-1997.

In, addition to formal donations by the railroad, over the years between the mid, 1960s and the mid 1970s, Union Pacific also sold numerous wooden cabooses to, any interested party or individual. Many can be found today on display, or, situated on private property in use for a variety of purposes.

One example of a preserved wooden UP caboose is the ex LA&SL blind-end car at Rhyolite, Nevada. Many interested observers noted the car on photos of this old Nevada mining ghost town. An article was even completed about the car in Info, UP's employee magazine. Many people remember it, but recent visitors to the town have noted that it is no longer there. The mystery of the missing caboose was solved during a recent television program about Death Valley, California, which clearly showed that the car has now been moved to that town for continued presevation.

Examples, of previously unknown sales and donations will continue to show up, such as the, 1998 donation of UP 25729, formerly OWR&N 3575, a CA-class caboose built in, 1910. After its retirement in January 1965, the 25729 was apparently sold by UP, to the Portland Terminal Railroad in Portland, Oregon. Portland Terminal kept the, caboose in regular service until it was sold to a private individual, who used, the caboose as a cabin in the Lake Arrowhead area in Southern California. In, 1998, the well cared for caboose was removed from its mountain retreat location, and donated to the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California.

UP 2516

This is a story about a part of UP's past. It is a caboose, UP2516 - a class 'CA,' the first of the Standard Design cars, and was built for Union Pacific by the Standard Car Company in 1913. It was retired in 1947 and sold to my grandfather here in Cheyenne. He used it for storage until one of his sons got married in July 1948 and needed a place to live. (This couple would be my mother and father about eight years later.) They cleaned out the caboose and lived in it on a tract of land east of Cheyenne until they were able to finish building a house nearby in 1953. I still live in that house.

The caboose was donated to the Cheyenne Depot Museum in 2010, and funds were raised to build a frame so it could be moved. This was realized on February 22, 2012. It is hoped to get donations enough to get the caboose at least partially restored in time for Depot Days in 2013, the car's 100th anniversary. -- Bill Briggs