Re: Caboose restrictions

Charlie Vlk


This discussion came up originally on the CB& list because someone came across a photo of an 1899 20FT Burlington NM-1 Bobber body that has been preserved at the Pioneer Village, albeit on a cobbled narrow gauge four wheel underframe.  As one of only fifteen built it survived but the more numerous (almost fifty) 25FT NM-2 cars that appeared in a 1954 Model Railroader Article (CB&Q General Arrangement Drawing attached) and have been copied in cast metal pencil sharpeners and smaller keychain fobs found in RR Museum Gift Shops are all gone!

The question came up what triggered the rapid demise of the Bobber type after a slew of them were built for some roads right around 1900?

A little bit of online research yields legislation and mentions thereof in trade journals state by state but here is a summary published in the Railway Age Gazette including The American Engineer Vol 47 1913 aka American Engineer The Railway Mechanical Monthly p87.

The summary covers the states of Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

The bulk of legislation regulating cabooses seems to have started around 1905 and most states had passed similar laws by 1920.

The regulations covered the strength,  number of wheels/trucks, length, size of platforms, doors, steps, hand brakes, air valves, cupola and other aspects of the car.   One key feature that especially impacted the continued use of Bobbers was strength requirements (steel underframe).

(the 2-4 designated two four wheel trucks, thus dooming pedestal mounted four wheel cars).

There were some exceptions for continued use of non-standard cars for transfer, terminal and construction train use which can explain some of the cars that survived into the 1930s and beyond.

Each railroad had its own genealogy concerning four wheel cabooses…for example the PRR used such cars well into the transition era while at the same time converting some cars to eight wheeled types. 

I have also noted that the Illinois Railroad and Warehouse Commission annual reports note requests and granting of temporary use of boxcars fitted out as cabooses detailed down to individual car numbers by railroad but I have not seen any mention of bobbers.

From references in the Brotherhood journals it is apparent that the legislation was driven by trainmen concerned about safety and comfort due to the carnage from on wood under fame cars with the advent of heavier power and trains and the lack of facilities on the smaller cars.

Not included in these discussions is the WWI and WWII “War Emergency” temporary boxcar conversions which many roads had which is yet another research topic.

Charlie Vlk


Join to automatically receive all group messages.