Union Pacific Cabooses

(Return to Union Pacific Caboose Index Page)

By Don Strack


When I first expressed a willingness back in 1993 to complete a history of Union Pacific's cabooses, the response and interest was surprisingly intense. A history of UP's caboose fleet has captured my interest since the mid 1980s, and having completed several books and magazine articles about Union Pacific's diesel locomotive fleet, it seemed to be a good time to pursue the road's caboose fleet.

Work began in mid 1993, and the first task was to assemble previously published works and compare them. As with any subject of railroad research, it soon became obvious that much more research would be needed. I asked noted UP historian James L. Ehernberger for some help, and Jim soon became involved in a more general search for additional information. As work progressed, Jim's assistance in acquisition of photocopies of original Union Pacific records was what really got the project moving. During June 1995 I was able to make a trip to the UP archives in Omaha, Nebraska, at which time additional research was completed, with the help and advice of Union Pacific's archivist, Don Snoddy.

Much of the data presented here was gleaned from Union Pacific records. Sources include the Union Pacific Railroad's mechanical department equipment record book, which dates from 1926. The large ledger book was actively maintained by the railroad's clerical personnel until about the mid 1980s, at which time the property ownership records were transferred to digital formats and maintained on the company's large central computer system. Other direct sources include records of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), and include equipment registration forms from the ICC Division of Valuation, and forms from the ICC Bureau of Valuation.

This history of UP's cabooses fleet could not be told without the use of photographs. As work on the text and roster progressed, Jim Ehernberger agreed to help out by examining his own extensive collection for photos of UP's cabooses, and his assistance is obvious throughout this book. Jim continued to glean photos from numerous and varied sources, and his willingness to help is really what made this project possible. (Unfortunately, no photographs can be presented as part of these web pages.)

Other than Jim Ehernberger and his great photographic collection, one other person has been particularly helpful. I first met Dick Harley at the 1998 convention of the Union Pacific Historical Society in Salt Lake City. Over the succeeding years, Dick has willingly shared his extensive research on many things about Union Pacific's paint schemes and equipment. His help on this caboose project culminated after he was able to make several trips to the Union Pacific archives in Omaha during 2001. His research and meticulous attention to detail has forced new thinking on many aspects of UP's caboose fleet. Thank you Dick.

Earlier correspondence with George Cockle at Union Pacific in 1988-1991 brought with it considerable information about the railroad's caboose donation program. George also contributed several historic diagram sheets for Oregon Short Line cabooses.

Correspondence in 1994 and 1995 with Virginia Abel at Union Pacific brought copies of all available donation data from within the company's records. Virginia continued to furnish updates until her retirement in mid 1995. Her willingness to assist is greatly appreciated, and her attention to detailed record keeping is sorely missed.

Thornton Waite furnished copies of the ICC Bureau of Valuation forms for UP, OSL, OWR&N, and LA&SL. Mark Hemphill helped by researching various issues of older Railway Age magazines. John Sorensen was very helpful with the preliminary background for the wooden cabooses, and later provided photos and many valuable comments, along with several general arrangement drawings of all of the steel designs. Jack Pantry helped by pointing out in finer detail the many differences in the appearances of the steel caboose fleet. Rick Varley has spent much of his own time in compiling his own observations of the variations of UP's caboose fleet, and readily shared that information. Gary Binder, UPHS board member, has graciously and without hesitation, assisted whenever possible. Several of his photographs are presented here and they help to tell the story of the latter days of cabooses on UP. Richard Briggs shared his copies of drawings of the wood beam truck and of the CA-class wooden cabooses. Ed Workman helped by comparing the Harriman-era CA-class with his information about comparable Southern Pacific cabooses, and by furnishing a copy of the SP version of the CA design drawing. Doug Brown furnished photographs that helped where drawings have been insufficient. Jim Booth Jr. shared his drawing of the CA-1 standard design. Warren Johnson dipped into his extensive collection and shared many fine photographs.

Several notes of thanks go out to the subscribers of the electronic mail discussion groups that are dedicated to Union Pacific subjects. The author made several inquiries the various UP and SP groups and received several responses, both via postings to each of the lists, and by private email.

Thanks also goes to Roger Kirkpatrick. Roger is very active in maintaining a list of surviving railroad cabooses, including locations of Union Pacific cabooses. His willingness to share this information is much appreciated. Roger also shared several photographs of UP cabooses in their new locations, either on other railroads, or stuffed and mounted for public display.

While many people lent an helping hand, and every effort has been made to present this history of Union Pacific cabooses as accurately as possible, any and all mistakes are solely those made by the author.

Although this history of Union Pacific cabooses is as complete as possible using available data, more work is still needed. Hopefully, the information presented here will serve as groundwork for additional research by others that will tell a more complete story.

Don Strack
Centerville, Utah
March 2003