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Wooden Caboose Retirements

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The page was last updated on March 20, 2019.

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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 preservation.

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.

Preserved Wooden Cabooses

(The following is an incomplete list of preserved UP wooden cabooses. Research continues...)

UP 2199

Built in February 1891; retired by UP in December 1949; Preserved at Heil Valley Ranch, Boulder, Colorado.

UP 2215

Built in December 1888; retired by UP in July 1929; UP records show this car as being wrecked in July 1929; one report has UP 2215 as being the caboose that was donated to Brigham City, Utah; later located at the Brigham City land fill, and currently (2003) preserved at the Golden Spike National Historic Site at Promontory, Utah. (Information from Roger Kirkpatrick)

UP 2516

Built for Union Pacific by the Standard Car Company in 1913. It was retired in 1947 and sold to a private individual in Cheyenne. It was used for storage until one of his sons got married in July 1948 and needed a place to live. The son and his new wife 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. The caboose was donated to the Cheyenne Depot Museum in 2010, and funds were raised to build a frame so it could be moved, which took place on February 22, 2012.

UP 2650

Plywood-sheathed caboose; preserved and displayed at Ogallala, Nebraska. A standard, three-window, sloped cupola, CA-1 caboose.

UP 2655

Built in May 1923; renumbered to 25779 in December 1963; preserved as UP 25779 Moffat Road Railroad Museum in Kiabab Ball Park in Granby, Colorado

OWRR&N 3505

Built in August 1882 by predecessor road Oregon Railway & Navigation in its car shop at The Dalles, Oregon. The caboose was initially numbered as ORy&N 104, then in 1890 when UP took control and leased the road, it was renumbered into UP's numbering pattern becoming ORy&N 1874. UP lost control of ORy&N with its receivership in 1893 and in 1894 when ORy&N became an independent railroad, the caboose was renumbered to ORy&N 206 when ORy&N again came under Union Pacific control in 1896, then in 1918 it was renumbered as OWRR&N 3505.

UP 3505 is an example of an N.C.S. (Non-Common Standard) road number in a Harriman-era CA replacement body. Built in 1882 by ORy&N at their shop in The Dalles, Oregon, the car originally had four side windows, an end cupola, and all-wooden frame members. At some point in the mid 1930s through to the early 1950s, the car was rebuilt (or the entire body replaced) to include steel underframe members and an off-set cupola. It retained four side windows (like other CA-class cars), but the fourth window was closer to the front of the car.

UP caboose 3505 was retired by Union Pacific in January 1962 and was donated to Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. BYU donated it to the Wasatch Railway Museum and Foundation and it was part of the Foundation's first equipment move to Heber, Utah, in December 1970, pulled by UP 2-8-0 618.

On December 5, 1970 (a Saturday), UP 2-8-0 steam locomotive 618 was steamed up for the first time since 1958. On December 7, UP 618 together with the UP caboose 3505 was moved to Heber City, 27 miles from Provo.

UP caboose 3505 was used for two seasons (1971 and 1972), operating as "the little red caboose" on the end of Heber Creeper excursion trains. Then in May 1973 it was moved for static display on a short piece of track on the corner Main Street and the turnoff for the Heber Creeper.

The caboose was sold to Nevada State Railroad Museum in February 1993 and moved to Boulder City, Nevada in 1994.

A historic photo of OWRR&N 3505 shows it sitting in the yard at Wallula, Washington. Also visible in the photo is a concrete arch highway bridge. Research has found that the bridge was built in 1932, and the area where the caboose is sitting was flooded when the waters of the Columbia river backed up behind McNary dam, which was completed in 1954. UP raised its tracks through the Wallula area in the very early 1950s.

This date between 1932 and 1954 indicates that OWRR&N 3505 received its replacement "CA-1" style body in the same 20-year time period. The Union Pacific practice of replacement bodies is known from comparing photos of UP cabooses before and after receiving new bodies, possibly due to repairs following wreck damage. There are at least eight known examples of replacement bodies on UP cabooses.

At Boulder, the car has been restored and was repainted in June 2011 to UP's all-yellow scheme, with red lettering. Its original wood beam trucks were rebuilt and placed under the caboose in January 2019.

The caboose at Boulder has been confirmed as being the former OWRR&N 3505, by lightly sanding the many layers of paint over the end door.

OWRR&N 25722

Built in July 1910; retired by UP in September 1964; Former OWRR&N 3564; preserved in Fife, Washington; restoration begun in 2001-2002.

OWRR&N 25729

A CA-class with a CA-1 body); renumbered from OWR&N 3575; built in July 1910 as a Harriman-era CA-class caboose. The car was eventually sold, and is now preserved at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California. Without considering what type of underframe it has, and as it currently exists, the car has all the classic features of a standard CA-1 (three windows, cupola towards the middle), but should have the features of a CA (four windows, cupola more towards the end).

UP 25741

Plywood-sheathed caboose; renumbered from UP 2545; preserved and displayed at Ogallala, Nebraska. A standard, three-window, sloped cupola, CA-1 caboose.

UP 25801

Built in November 1914; retired by UP in November 1968; preserved at Stuhr Museum in Grand Island, Nebraska

Rhyolite Caboose -- The former 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 preservation.

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