RF&P/PE cabooses [was USRA Cabooses]

Garth Groff <sarahsan@...>


Thanks for your information on the RF&P/PE cars. It looks like this knocks them out as USRA cars, and even clones, though they do have a similar appearance. Based on your information that 9 sold to the PE, their likely numbers are PE 1977-1985. There is no roster in Swett's book.

I have Richard E. Prince's THE RICHMOND-WASHINGTON LINE AND RELATED RAILROADS (most of which are completely unrelated). He offers photos of these cars on pages 198 and 206, though there is no roster or other data. RF&P 912 is shown at Acca in 1949, and is clearly plywood-sheathed though Prince describes it as steel-sheathed.

Some RF&P cabooses were longer, and appear to be about 40' over the sills in photos. One is 927, also shown on page 206. One of these went to the Nelson & Albemarle Railway where it was rebuilt with a side-door on one side only (all three depots they served were on the same side of the tracks). The car apparently had no number on the N&A. This car was used on the last train on 5 February 1963, shown here at Esmont, Virginia. (Photo from my collection, photographer unknown).

Yours Aye,

Garth Groff  🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

On 7/31/18 2:00 AM, James McDonald wrote:
Hello Garth, Bill, and list,

At first glance the RF&P cabs may appear to be USRA design, but they actually pre-date the USRA proposed caboose specs by some time and are dimensionally different.

The RF&P began building cabooses with 25’ bodies by at least 1904. It is not clear from the records whether earlier cabooses had similar dimensions, but the 25’ cars (initially RFP 803-845, not continuous) built in 1904-05 formed the core design to which the railroad’s subsequent cabooses would be built for almost forty years.

There were some design changes over time. The 1904 cars had archbar trucks and wooden underframes. In 1907 the railroad built 8 more of the same design but with composite underframes, these cars were numbered into gaps in the range of the wooden underframed cars.

In 1918 and 1919 the RF&P began retrofitting their wooden underframed cabooses with steel underframes as well as constructing additional cabooses to the same dimensions with steel underframes. These can be differentiated by the appearance of the side sill. The rebuilding process also included the replacement of steps.

It is presumed, but not confirmed, that the Washington Southern’s cabooses (WS 901-912), which were of the same design and also built by the RF&P’s shops, were also rebuilt with steel underframes at this time. It also seems that cabooses numbered WS 907-912 were constructed at this time and probably had steel underframes from their construction date. Records, to the extent they exist, are extremely contradictory. In fact, in some sources the WS and RF&P numbers are switched entirely, although this appears to be a clerical error. After the WS was merged into the RF&P the ex-WS cars kept their original numbers making the range of this car design RF&P 801-912, although the entire range was not filled.

Dimensionally the design barely changed from the 1904 specs. The carbody was 25’ 0” long. The distance between truck centers was 16’ 4” and the cars were 30’ 10” over strikers. Their extreme width was 8’ 10 3/4”. Their height changed after the rebuilding to steel underframes, lowering them slightly from 14’ 5” to 14’ 41/2”, encompassing their 3’ 8” tall cupola.

In the period after WWII the railroad began to sheath the cars in plywood, but restoration efforts on remaining cabooses have revealed that the railroad appears to have merely left the original tongue & groove siding in place and covered it over with ply. Contrary to Overland’s labeling, there were no steel versions of this caboose design. The first steel cabooses to arrive on the RF&P were the first order of ICC Wide Vision cabs 901-903 delivered in 1970.

My research also indicates that 9 of the 25’ RF&P cabooses were sold to the Pacific Electric in 1950. I’ve yet to determine their original numbers, but that hasn’t been at the forefront of my research into these cars yet. Any info about them would be welcomed.

All the best,



James McDonald
Greenbelt, MD.

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