Re: Bobber 4-wheel cabooses

Bruce Smith

Obviously, many of you missed my PRR N4 cabin car clinic at Prototype Rails, Cocoa Beach. I spent about the 1st 1/3 of the hour addressing the "bobber problem". This is well spelled out, with respect to the "caboose laws" that were promulgated in the PRRT&HS' new cabin car book (or should I say, cabin car BIBLE!) The short of it is that many railroads including the PRR were building new bobbers into the first decade of the 20th century. Around 1910, the first "caboose law" was proposed in New York State, which, among other features, required 4 wheel trucks. These laws were typically formulated by the states in alliance with the "botherhoods" and the laws were defined as worker safety and comfort, thus allowing states to make rules governing inter-state commerce. Much negotiating then occurred as the PRR had built hundreds of new bobbers, with steel underframes, in class ND. Eventually, the states, botherhoods and railroads came to a consensus about the laws and they started to go into effect circa 1915. Often the laws differed somewhat from state to state but there were some general commonalities, such as steel underframes, 4 wheel trucks in mainline service, specific minimum bunk length etc... In general, the laws did not outright ban bobbers, but they were typically confined to local and yard service. 

On the PRR, the ND cabin car served into at least the late 1950s and some may have even made into the 1960s. 

Interestingly, the PRR took different approaches to the cabin car issue on Lines East vs Lines West. On lines east, they focused on building new steel cabin cars, the N5. There were a few experiments, such as the 13 NDA cabins, where trucks were fitted to ND bobbers, and the singleton N4, where an ND was lengthened and give trucks. On Lines West, their bobbers were predominantly older wood underframe cars. Lines West jacked up the bodies, rolled steel underframes under them, and lengthened the bodies, generating over 1000 N6A and N6B class cabin cars, with the N6B remaining the single most numerous cabin car on the PRR in the 1956 cabin car census!

The PRR ND is available in resin in HO from F&C and on the secondary market in the for of wood and cast metal craftman kits from GoorCraft.

As noted previously, several calss ND bobbers were preserved and you can even ride in one on the Strasburg Railroad.

Bruce Smith
Auburn, AL

From: <> on behalf of Eric Hansmann <eric@...>
Sent: Sunday, January 16, 2022 10:28 AM
To: <>
Subject: [EXT] Re: [RealSTMFC] Bobber 4-wheel cabooses
CAUTION: Email Originated Outside of Auburn.

I don’t have a definitive answer. I model 1926 and will need a few of these 4-wheel cabooses for the industrial branch I plan to model.

Some states banned the use of 4-wheel cabooses in the Teens. I think many survived in yard, industrial, and short branch line service. The B&OCT certainly used them late, as did the Cumberland and Pennsylvania (not a class one). 

I suspect many were sold or scrapped in the 1930s as traffic slowed. Many lines already had larger 8-wheel cabooses by the 1930s, so older equipment would be deemed as excess.

Interestingly, the Western Maryland Railway didn’t add any 8-wheel cabooses until the mid-1930s, so their 4-wheel cabooses would have been used extensively to that point.

It boils down to the location, years, and service to determine longevity for these classic cars.

Eric Hansmann
Murfreesboro, TN

> On Jan 16, 2022, at 10:03 AM, Robert G P <bobgp5109@...> wrote:
> And how long did these typically last in service? Ive always wondered if any lasted into the late transition era on a class 1 carrier.
> Great topic!
> -Bob

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