Union Pacific Transfer Cabooses

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This page was last updated on September 5, 2019.

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Union Pacific's terminals at Kansas City, Omaha-Council Bluffs, Denver, Portland, and Los Angeles all saw a significant amount of interchange between UP and its connecting railroads. Throughout each day entire trains were interchanged in what were known as transfer runs and each transfer run required its own caboose. UP and each of its connecting roads handled these special caboose assignments differently.

During the early years, Union Pacific and its connecting railroads simply used older cabooses that had been displaced from regular mainline service. However, in most major cities the interchange transfer traffic warranted specially designed cabooses built for the transfer traffic. The special transfer cabooses were meant simply to serve as a place for the rear markers of the transfer trains, with the necessary safety appliances and minimal requirements for the comfort of the on-board train crews.

Union Pacific's terminals in Kansas City, Omaha-Council Bluffs, Denver, and Los Angeles, and to some degree in Salt Lake City, UP and its LA&SL subsidiary operated a fleet of specially built transfer cabooses. The large Northwest terminals of subsidiary OWR&N at Seattle (Argo), Tacoma, and Portland, (Albina) were among the locations that used older cabooses downgraded from regular road service.

While UP assuredly also used older cabooses for some of its transfer traffic, available records show that the railroad used at least 40 specially built transfer cabooses, all of which had short bodies and no cupolas. UP's transfer cabooses came in two different styles. Using unofficial and informal designations, these are shown below as Style A and B.

Style A -- Eight transfer cabooses, UP 3275-3282, were rebuilt from UP class B-50-2 steel underframe wooden boxcars. The eight cars were without cupolas and were completed at Omaha shops in 1930 (UP 3275, 3276), 1931 (UP 3277, 3278), and 1939 (UP 3279-3282) by cutting the pressed steel underframes down from 41 feet to 30 feet. The finished caboose bodies were 24 feet long and equipped with a door centered along each side. All eight cars were retired between 1951 and 1956. The first to leave the roster was UP 3278, which was destroyed in the devastating July 1951 flood in Kansas City that also claimed four of UP's regular cupola cabooses.

Style B -- Seventeen later transfer cabooses, UP 3283-3299, were rebuilt in the early 1950s to replace the previous series of retired transfer cabooses. The conversion was completed by UP's Pocatello, Idaho, shops in 1953-1955 from retired wooden single sheathed box cars. Five LA&SL transfer cabooses, numbered 3300-3304, were completed also at Pocatello immediately after 1955-1956.

With the 1959 renumbering of all UP cabooses to the 25000-series, the 22 remaining transfer cabooses, UP 3283-3299 and LA&SL 3300-3304, were assigned the number series 25900-25921. However, the cabooses did not actually receive their new numbers until 1962 to 1965. Ten additional Style B cars were completed in 1965 and were given numbers 25922-25931, numbered following the earlier cars.

At some time during the cars' service life, their steel frames began showing signs of fatigue and had gussets applied to strengthen the bodies.

Retirements began in 1970 when UP 25927 was removed from the active roster. The last transfer caboose was UP 25914, remaining in service until 1978.

In later years, and as the special transfer cabooses were retired, cupola steel cabooses were assigned to transfer service. These cabooses displayed a large red T on the sides of their cupolas.

The following table shows UP's fleet of transfer cabooses (3200-3300 series):

Style Car Number Qty Built Dates Retired Later
A UP 3275-3282 8 1930-1939 1951-1956    
B UP 3283-3299 17 1953-1955   UP 25900-25916 1
B LA&SL 3300-3304 5 1955-1956   UP 25917-25921 2


  1. UP 3283-3299 were renumbered to UP 25900-25921 in 1962-1963.
  2. LA&SL 3300-3304 were renumbered to UP 25917-25921 in 1962-1965.

The following table shows UP's fleet of transfer cabooses (25900 series):

Style Car Number Qty Built Previous
Dates Retired Notes
B UP 25900-25916 17 1953-1956 UP 3283-3299 1970-1978 1
B UP 25917-25921 5 1955-1956 LA&SL 3300-3304 1975-1976 2
B UP 25922-25931 10 1965   1970-1975  


  1. UP 25900-25921 were renumbered from UP 3283-3299 in 1962-1963.
  2. UP 25917-25921 were renumbered from LA&SL 3300-3304 in 1962-1965.

Roster Listing

UP 3275-3282

UP 3283-3299

LA&SL 3300-3304

UP 25902-25931