Price: $ 70.00 Quantity:

Southern Pacific Freight Cars

Volume 5: Hoppers, Covered Hoppers, Tank Cars

by Anthony W. Thompson


SPF5 jacket

Southern Pacific, one of the West's largest and most historic railroads, operated a major fleet of freight cars. The history of those cars is extensive, and this book series is aimed at describing all types of SP freight cars and their histories. The first volume included gondolas and stock cars, while the second covered cabooses, the third addressed automobile cars and flat cars, and the fourth presented box cars. This fifth volume treats hoppers, covered hoppers, and tank cars, and its primary time period is 1865-1965, with some coverage after those years.

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 and service use of the class, culminating in rebuilding or scrapping. All those factors are addressed here.

The book opens with an introductory section of background information, then the hopper section begins with the early coal cars, followed by open-top steel hopper cars through 1965. The hopper section then turns to covered hoppers (SP regarded them as "H" classes too), from the first cars of 1946, through new designs, and into cars for special lading, such as "Airslide" and related cars.

The section on tank cars begins with the early cars, including the Huntington era of the 1890s, then addresses the time of design advances in the early 1900s, followed by Harriman and post-Harriman cars. Then come the several car classes of the period 1920 to 1942. A concluding chapter presents tank cars of the 1960s.

Throughout the book, roster information and builder photos, as well as in-service photos at various points in the life of car classes, document the history. Drawings and lettering diagrams of selected cars are also included. Four appendices (one on standard colors), a detailed bibliography and an index round out the book.

The book's 578 photos (77 in color) of SP hoppers, covered hoppers, and tank cars, most from company and museum archives and never before published, together with 109 drawings, extensive rosters, and bibliography, make it unusually complete and authoritative.

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, Volume 2, Volume 3, and Volume 4 in this series. 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 few comments from observers of the entire series of five volumes indicate the respect in which these books are held:

Comments on the Series

"This completes Tony Thompson's series of five books on the freight cars of the Southern Pacific. Altogether, the series is by far the most comprehensive and elaborately documented study of a single railroad's freight car fleet ever published, and the fifth volume fully measures up to its four predecessors in both contents and quality. It is a well-made book printed on quality paper which does full justice to the many photographs reproduced on its pages, and its historical information, roster data, and photo captions are unparalleled in their depth and detail. For devotees and modelers of the Southern Pacific it is an essential reference, and those who are interested in railroad rolling stock generally will also find it interesting and informative."

-- Richard Hendrickson

"Tony Thompson co-authored the best book ever on railroad history, freight car development and operations with his Pacific Fruit Express. These new books match it with never-before available information on the Southern Pacific freight car fleet, including details and photos of every class, written in a clear and enjoyable style."

-- Al Westerfield

"Only since the 1990s have rail book publishers taken an interest in producing books about freight cars. Author Tony Thompson, with meticulous scholarship and prodigious skills at photo collecting in a field dominated by locomotive and train images, has now brought us five comprehensive volumes on a subject that was unimaginable just a few years ago. Modelers and historians previously had no user-friendly source of Southern Pacific freight car information, but Professor Thompson's efforts have changed all that--while raising the bar for future publications in this field."

-- Joseph A. Strapac

Also available: the Table of Contents of the book; and examples of facing-page spreads in the book, for hopper cars and for tank cars.


Particulars: Southern Pacific Freight Cars, Volume 5, by Anthony W. Thompson
List Price: $70     Size: 448 pages, 8.5" x 11"; 578 photos; 109 drawings, rosters, bibliography, index
ISBN: 978-1-930013-24-7     Publication date: September 15, 2008
Distribution: Western Star Distributors, Lompoc, CA; or direct from publisher.