Union Pacific Steel Caboose Retirements

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This page was last updated on July 14, 2019.

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1940s and 1950s

The earliest steel cabooses to face retirement on Union Pacific were five cabooses retired due to wreck damage prior to the 25000-series renumbering in 1959. These included three CA-3s (UP 3710 in 1946; 3746 in 1947, and 3757 in 1959), single CA-4 (UP 3849 in 1947), and single CA-6 (UP 2721 in 1959).


These first retirements were followed by four CA-3s (UP 25001, 25002, 25005, and 25008) sold to Spokane, International, UP's newest acquisition, in June 1962 and July 1963, all to replace aging wooden cabooses.

UP 25146 was wrecked and retired in 1963, and UP 25071 was wrecked and retired in 1968.

Eleven CA-4s (UP 25120, 25124, 25134, 25143, 25163, 25165, 25167, 25168, 25172, 25194, and 25197) were retired and sold in November 1969. Seven of these 11 cars were sold to Montour Railroad (MTR), where they were numbered as MTR 31 and MTR 34-39. (Read more about the sale of these 11 UP cabooses)


Between January 1970 and March 1973, 22 cabooses were retired, 11 due to wreck damage. Two cabooses were renumbered and re-assigned to maintenance-of-way service as 903002 (ex-CA-4 25025, in 1971) and 903003 (ex-CA-4 25173, in 1970). The first recorded donations of steel cabooses took place in 1970 when 25061 was donated to the City of Albion, Nebraska, and 25004 was donated for use as a purple-painted visitor information center at Farmington, Utah. The other seven cabooses were retired and sold, with no record of who bought them.

In February 1972, a CA-5 (25250) and a, CA-6 (25344) were sold to Utah Railway, which interchanged coal trains with UP at Provo, Utah. In May 1973, 18 of the oldest steel cabooses, the CA-3s built in 1942 were sold. UP 25037 ended up in use as part of the offices of MJB Realty in Brea, California; the same location was later part of The Wine Depot.

Other sales and retirements continued as nine cabooses were vacated from the roster between July 1973 and February 1975, leaving an active caboose roster of 629 cabooses, of the original 700 steel cabooses in classes CA-3 through CA-9 delivered to UP between 1942 and 1967.

In February to April 1975, a total, of seven CA-3s (UP 25022, 25023, 25050, 25053, 25056, 25059, and 25098) and six, CA-4s (UP 25100, 25108, 25126, 25150, 25157, and 25186) were reassigned and, renumbered to derrick train service as 903217 through 903229.

Five cabooses were retired during 1976 due to being worn out and due to wreck damage, including UP 25113, 25109, 25081, and 25171, along with maintenance-of-way caboose 903222, which was in the same wreck as 25109 on 24 July 1976 at Rock Springs, Wyoming. UP 25135 was wrecked in April 1975, but wasn't retired until April 1977.

Another large block of cabooses left the roster in June 1977, as 17 cabooses were retired due to being worn out. One of this group was sold to the Great Western Railway at Longmont, Colorado, and is apparently still in service. Two others were shipped to Mira Loma, California. Included in this group of cabooses retired in June 1977 was UP's first steel caboose, numbered as 25000 (delivered in May 1942 as UP 3700). Prior to its retirement in 1977, number 25000 was seen coupled to several other, older cabooses moving eastbound through Salt Lake City. Upon closer examination, UP 25000 had suffered a severe fire that had apparently started in the vicinity of its stove, and which had almost completely gutted this historic caboose's interior. In a related side note, and admittedly a small matter of numbers that are applied to identical cabooses, but still worth mention, is the caboose at Heber City, Utah. The caboose displays the number of UP's first steel caboose, UP 3700, but is actually the former 25069, donated to the State of Utah in 1982.

"A Chino Valley News article from June 1988 said that MJB Realty purchased six cabooses in 1979. The six cabooses were parked by their realty offices in Chino, Yorba Linda, Brea and three in Anahiem. Back then MJB Realty owned (or leased) the old PE depot and the [unidentified] caboose was there. It was moved about 10-15 years ago to its present location (a short distance away) when the highway was widened. The CA-3 #25091 is still at the Chino location (4790 Riverside Dr)." (Trainorders.com, July 13, 2019)


During the seven years between July 1977 and October 1984, when cabooses were first removed from use on mainline trains, Union Pacific retired 133 cabooses. The reasons shown in the records vary from being worn out, to still more cabooses being retired due to wreck damage. An accurate narrative of caboose dispositions since the late 1970s is difficult due to both the quantity of cabooses involved and the completeness of the railroad's records. It was during the late 1970s that records start becoming incomplete, with many cabooses shown with a retirement date, but no recorded disposition. Large groups of cabooses are shown as being retired in a single month, i.e. 12 in April 1980, four in June 1980, nine in November 1980, six in July 1981, nine in August 1982, seven in December 1982, and five in March 1983, but other research shows that the actual cars themselves had been out of service for a variety of reasons for as long as a year or more. Nine (and possibly more) cabooses were donated for display. Of note is the group of ten CA-6s, and a replacement CA-3, donated to the State of Nebraska in January 1984 for use as cabins at Two Rivers State Recreation Area near Venice, Nebraska, west of metropolitan Omaha. This unique adaptation of of railroad cabooses was available for public use by May 1986.

In March 1980, the Chicago, Rock, Island & Pacific shut down its operations and during the following month, returned 127 bay window cabooses to Union Pacific. The return of these leased cabooses to UP, built in 1966 through 1970 specifically for lease by UP to Rock Island, lead to the cancellation of UP's order for 100 new CA-12 cabooses, the next step in UP's efforts to modernize its caboose fleet. The ex-Rock Island, cabooses served essentially the same purpose, and allowed the retirement of at least 25 older UP steel cabooses during the remainder of 1980.

On October 7, 1984, Union Pacific's first official cabooseless train left westbound out of Salt Lake, City, Utah. The train was a double-stack container train for American President, Lines. The substitution of an end-of-train device for the caboose was the beginning of the end of caboose operations on UP. Within a week, cabooseless operations began in all directions from Salt Lake City, and within a month, cabooseless operations began in all directions from Cheyenne. Cabooses were required on trains in the Northwest until September 1985, when the State of Oregon allowed the operation of cabooseless trains. Down on the former Missouri Pacific lines in Texas, cabooses were required on all trains until November 1989.

There were still 740 cabooses in use by Union Pacific in October 1984 when that first cabooseless doublestack train went west out of Salt Lake City. These included the just mentioned 127 cabooses from the Rock Island, plus 50 new cupola-equipped CA-10s delivered in 1975, and 100 new compact body, bay window-equipped CA-11s delivered in 1979. During the following five years, 1984-1989, UP retired 547 of the 740 cabooses that remained in late 1984, including 40 in July 1985 and 76 in September 1985. Twenty-six CA-8 cabooses, and possibly more, were sold to Omaha salvage dealer, Aaron Ferer and Sons in December 1985.

Union Pacific merged with Western Pacific and Missouri Pacific in 1983, and the previously mentioned 547 quantity of cabooses retired between 1984 and 1989 included 54 of 59 Western Pacific cabooses, and 493 of 651 cabooses from MoPac, including 165 of MoPac's 400 unique compact body style that UP had copied for its CA-11s in 1979. Missouri Kansas Texas merged with UP in 1988, and brought with it 58 cabooses. Within a year, 26 of those MKT cabooses had been retired.

Caboose donations began in earnest in 1984, including the already mentioned donation of 10 CA-6s to the State of Nebraska. Seven more were donated to other groups in 1984; 32 in 1985; 24 in, 1986; three in 1987; and 22 in 1988. The repeal of the Texas caboose law in 1989 allowed 93 cabooses to be donated throughout 1989 and 1990. The destinations of the donated cabooses varied from the U. S. Army and the American Association of, Railroads, to almost every village, town, city, and non-profit organization along Union Pacific's route that expressed an interest in having its own piece of railroad history. And the style of cabooses varied from the original CA-3s, to the most modern cupola-design CA-10s, to the compact body bay window CA-11s, to the ex-Rock Island bay window cars, along with extended vision and bay window ex-MoPac cabooses, and the ex-MKT cars.

In November 1986, two CA-8s were retired and repainted as UP's two original cabooses, numbered as UP 25000 and 25001, for display supposedly at the mountain retreat of Mr. Drew Lewis (Union, Pacific Corporation's CEO and Chairman of the Board) near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Both cabooses remain in Pennsylvania, UP 25000 (ex-25505) is on private property, near Pottstown, and 25001 (ex-25519) is at the Pennsylvania Live Steamers in Rahns.


Changes to Union Pacific's caboose fleet became more dramatic in the 1990s as hundreds of cabooses were sold and scrapped by UP from points all along its now much larger system. In March through June 1990 alone, 115 UP, WP, and MoPac cabooses were scrapped by Alter Trading of Council Bluffs, Iowa. The scrapper's large metal salvage facility is located along the north side of UP's Council Bluffs yard, and many observers recall several tracks filled with cabooses that awaited their fate as scrap metal. There were so many cabooses to be scrapped that Alter developed specialized machinery to speed the dismemberment of the cars by chopping each one into four gondola-sized pieces in less than an hour. Other cabooses were scrapped by Aaron Ferer and Sons in Omaha, Nebraska by David Joseph Company in both Norfolk, Nebraska, and Plymouth, Utah, by Durbano in Ogden, Utah, by Lerner-Pepper at Lakepoint, Utah, and by Smith and Chambers at their Neodesha, Kansas, facility. Smith and Chambers also scrapped many cabooses using their mobile crews operating all across the UP system.

Caboose retirements continued throughout the 1990s. Sixty-four cabooses were retired in 1990, 22 in 1991, eight in 1992, and five in 1993. The last available records, dating from May 1995, show that there were still 10 ex-Rock Island cabooses in service, along with just 63 Union Pacific cabooses. The oldest still in service was a single CA-8 numbered 25571, built in October 1964. There were five CA-9s, and eight CA-10s, not counting the last cupola caboose delivered to UP, number 25749, retained in the Heritage Collection at Cheyenne, Wyoming. Of the original 100, new-in-1979 CA-11s, just 48 cabooses remained in service in mid 1995. Along, with the 10 ex-CRI&P cabooses, and 63 UP cabooses, there were still 74 former MoPac cabooses, all of which were the compact bay window style. None of the former Western Pacific or MKT cabooses remained on the active roster.

Former UP cabooses continue to be noted at locations all across the nation, although mostly at locations near UP's own tracks. Several are in use by smaller railroads, including: Magma Arizona, Railroad in Arizona; Utah Central in Ogden, Utah; Idaho Northern & Pacific, in Idaho and Oregon; and Fremont & Elk Horn Valley Railroad at Hooper, Nebraska. There is also a CA-4 that was sold to a construction firm in Omaha, Nebraska. Not all subsequent owners of former UP cabooses are known, as well as the myriad of locations, for retired UP cabooses, both wooden and steel. Interested readers are encouraged to share new discoveries via an email, so that this chapter in the history of Union Pacific can be better documented.

November 1996
"The caboose has become a scarce item on Union Pacific. UP had 201 cabooses on line at the beginning of 1996 compared to 1,265 in 1985." (Update Line, Union Pacific Communications Department, November 26, 1996)

January 1997
"Union Pacific has been receiving many requests to obtain surplus cabooses. Although the railroad still owns a small number of cabooses for special operations, there are no cabooses available for sale or scrap. Union Pacific discontinued the use of cabooses on most trains beginning in 1984. More than 250 cabooses were donated to various cities and museums until the supply was exhausted." (Update Line, Union Pacific Communications Department, January 9, 1997)

November 1969 CA-4 Sale

A total of eleven CA-4 Union Pacific steel cabooses were sold to Pittsburgh and Lake Erie in November 1969. At least seven were sold to Montour Railroad, a wholly-owned subsidiary of P&LE. Several were later sold to other companies upon the shutdown of Montour Railroad in 1983. The other four UP cabooses may have been sold to other P&LE affiliated companies, including P&LE itself and Youngstown and Southern Railway, or Pittsburgh, Chartiers & Youghiogheny Railway.

The sequence from UP number to Montour number is unknown; known Montour numbers were MTR 31, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39 (seven cabooses).

Youngstown and Southern numbers 31 and 32 were also ex UP cabooses.

Class Possible Interim
P&LE Number
Montour RR
UP 25120 CA-4     P&LE 530  
UP 25124 CA-4     PC&Y 97  
UP 25134 CA-4 P&LE 360 MTR 31 P&LE 532 To P&LE in June 1981
UP 25143 CA-4 P&LE 361 MTR 34    
UP 25163 CA-4 P&LE 366 MTR 39 Anthracite/Octoraro 88 Displayed at Hockessin, Delaware
UP 25165 CA-4 P&LE 363 MTR 36   Displayed at Volant, Pennsylvania
UP 25167 CA-4 P&LE 364 MTR 37 P&LE 533 To P&LE in June 1981
UP 25168 CA-4 P&LE 365 MTR 38    
UP 25172 CA-4 P&LE 362 MTR 35 Anthracite/Octoraro  
UP 25194 CA-4        
UP 25197 CA-4        

Montour Railroad was jointly owned by P&LE and Penn Central, and in 1975 P&LE purchased PC's half interest in Montour. The UP cabooses were purchased in November 1969.

During April 2015, Gene Schaeffer provided Roger Kirkpatrick the following information, detailing known P&LE numbers of seven of the eleven former UP cabooses. Mr. Kirkpatrick speculates that the P&LE 360-370 number series may have been used on the cabooses during their movement from Union Pacific to Montour rails in Pennsylvania. Mr. Schaeffer provided the following listing.

"Former UP cabooses sold to the P&LE then to the Montour, Y&S and PC&Y.

P&LE 531 was *not* a former UP caboose. P&LE 531 was the former PC&Y 99, purchased by PC&Y from Marshall Railway in 1974. Photos show P&LE 531 in fresh paint, and state that it was one-of-a-kind.

Pittsburgh, Chartiers & Youghiogheny Railway (PC&Y) was jointly owned by P&LE and Conrail. PC&Y started operations in March 1969 and ceased operation on December 6, 1996, and sold its assets to Pittsburgh Industrial Railroad (PIR) on December 20, 1996. PIR merged with Pittsburgh & Ohio Central Railroad Company (P&OC) on February 9, 2001.

PC&Y had two ex Union Pacific cabooses, numbered as PC&Y numbers 97 and 98.

Montour Railroad was shut down in either 1983 or 1984 (sources vary).

Montour caboose 31 was reported as being the last caboose to operate on Montour.

Montour caboose 32 was a wooden caboose, and therefore *not* a former UP steel caboose.

Montour caboose 33 was a steel caboose with a very low cupola, similar to the standard NE caboose used by several railroads in the northeast.

There have been reports that Montour numbers 33 and 34 were moved to a new owner in Nova Scotia.

Montour no. 36 (ex UP 25165) is displayed at a store in Volant, Pennsylvania (56 miles north of Pittsburgh), near the intersection of Main Street and Mercer Street.

Montour Railroad owned the Youngstown and Southern Railway, and two Montour (ex UP) cabooses may have ended up on the Y&S as Y&S numbers 31 and 32.

Two Montour Railroad cabooses, MTR 35 and 39, were sold in 1983 to Rail Development Corporation, which operated both the Anthracite Railway (ATRW) and the Octoraro Railway.

Anthracite Railway (ATRW) existed as a company from 1982 to 1989 to lease and operate the former Reading Colebrookdale Branch, abandoned by Conrail in 1982 and sold to the state of Pennsylvania. The lease was transferred to Blue Mountain and Reading Railroad in 1990 and the ATRW equipment was transferred to the Octoraro Railway, which was owned by the same investors.

Octoraro Railway took over Reading's Wilmington and Reading branch after not being included in the Conrail merger in 1976; ceased operations on June 30, 1994. The Octoraro Railway was sold to the Delaware Valley Railroad (DVRC) on July 1, 1994, and one of the former Montour cabooses went with the railroad. This car (ex UP 25163, ex MTR 39) was later sold to the Wilmington & Western Railroad, and as of early 2011 is displayed at the depot in Hockessin, Delaware.

Montour no. 39 (ex UP 25163) is displayed as Avondale Railroad Center number 88, along with PRR 0-6-0 number 60, at Hockessin, Delaware, east of intersection of Lancaster Pike and Yorklyn Road. (Hockessin is five miles southeast of Avondale, Pennsylvania)