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Southern Pacific Freight Cars

Volume 2: Cabooses

by Anthony W. Thompson


SPfrt2 jacket

This is the second volume in a series on Southern Pacific freight cars. It covers just one car type, the caboose. The era is from 1871 through the end of caboose construction in 1980. The book contains an extensive array of rosters, photos and, where possible, drawings of the major car classes, along with other material as available, such as construction photos, publicity photos, lettering drawings, and so forth. Survival of the cars over the years is presented, as are numerous photos of the cars in service.

The book opens with an introductory section of background information, then covers the early wood cabooses (1871 to 1917), the massive number of Class C-30-1 cars of the 1920s, additional wood cars, and the all-steel cupola cabooses built from 1937 to 1942.

The coverage continues with the bay-window cars, first the early 30-ton cars just after World War II, then the 40-ton cars of the 1960s and Žnally the 50-ton cars built up until 1980. A separate chapter describes the various caboose conversions, from box cars, passenger cars, and locomotive tenders (into yard cabooses).

Freight car history has a number of dimensions. Built dates, car numbers, car characteristics are only the bare bones. Also of importance are reasons for construction of a particular car class and exploration of its design heritage, and indications of the longevity of the class, culminating in rebuilding or scrapping. This book endeavors to offer much of this type of history for the caboose fleet of the Southern Pacfic.

Cabooses represent an essential part of the history of any railroad. The book's 681 photos (102 in color) of SP cabooses, most from company and museum archives and never before published, together with 17 drawings, extensive rosters, and bibliography, make it unusually complete and authoritative. This book provides a coverage that every railroad enthusiast, and of course Southern Pacific fans in particular, will enjoy.

Noted rail artist John Signor has created for the book the painting shown here, depicting a Southern Pacific yard scene containing the subjects of this series of books.

The well-known SP freight car historian Anthony W. Thompson has authored magazine articles on many SP cars, as well as researching and writing the car section of the book, Pacific Fruit Express, previously published by Signature Press, as well as Volume 1 in this series on gondolas and stock cars. Once again, a strong contribution to the history of the Southern Pacific and of the West has been furnished by Signature Press. Enthusiasts of those subjects will find this a superb book.

A comment on the first volume in this series:

"More than a decade ago, the late Terry Metcalfe published the first book devoted to a detailed account of the freight cars of a single railroad. Since Terry's pioneer book on Union Pacific freight cars appeared, similar volumes have been written on the cars of several other railroads. The Southern Pacific, however, has been largely ignored--until now. Tony Thompson's new work is the first of a series of books by Signature Press which will cover all of the SP's freight car fleet from the turn of the century until well into the diesel era, and an impressive beginning it is. Extensively illustrated and painstakingly researched, it provides a highly detailed history of the Southern Pacific's gondolas and stock cars during the 1900-1960 period, complete with roster information and other data gleaned from the railroad's surviving documents. A large number of well reproduced photos combined with authoritative text and captions render this an essential book for Southern Pacific devotees and modelers, as well as for other readers who are interested in freight car history. "

-- Richard Hendrickson

A comment on Volume 2:

"This is a rich, authoritative, well-researched book, as was Volume One before it. I expect to use it in my own research for years to come."

-- John Sipple, Model Railroad News

Also available: a full review of this book as well as the Table of Contents of the book.


Particulars: Southern Pacific Freight Cars, Volume 2,by Anthony W. Thompson
List Price: $70     Size: 392 pages, 8.5" x 11"; 681 photos (102 in color); 17 drawings, bibliography, appendices, index
ISBN: 1-930013-10-8     Publication date: January 31, 2003
Distribution: Western Star Distributors, Lompoc, CA; or direct from publisher.