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Caboose Restoration B&O C-1902

Caboose Restoration B&O I-5 C1902

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C-1902 History By Railroad Historian Dwight Jones.

B&O Caboose C-1902
By Dwight Jones

In general, how the railroad caboose was born has been the subject of much speculation over the years, and various stories exist which have tried to capture this beginning.  Some have tracked it to the 1840s. 

With the introduction of railroads in the
United States, and the subsequent birth of freight trains, it was necessary for some crew members to ride the rear of the train, watching for problems, providing rear flagging projection against following trains.  This rear car also served as an office for the train “conductor”, and to provide a transportation car for brakemen, which had to leave the car and scurry over the tops of freight cars to set brakes, before the introduction of the air brake.  Normally an empty box car served this purpose.

 By the 1840s it was beginning to emerge that a specialized car for these purposes was necessary—and the caboose was born.

 Baltimore & Ohio reported that they had 4 cabooses in 1866.  In 1873 that number had grown to 121 cabooses.  B&O caboose ownership peeked at 1,346 cabooses in 1928.

 On the Baltimore & Ohio, the standard caboose of the 1870s and into the early 20th Century, was the four-wheel “bobber” caboose.  By 1912 there were nearly 1200 of these cabooses in service on the B&O.

 The state of Ohio passed a law in 1913 effectively banning the four-wheel “bobber” caboose in Ohio, and railroads had to design and construct new eight-wheel cabooses which were much larger than the “bobber” cabooses then in service.

 The first new B&O eight-wheel, system-standard cabooses emerged from B&O shops in 1913, and were assigned caboose class I-1.  Improvements to this original design were made in subsequent years and by 1922 additional new cabooses were built, in B&O shops, which were classed as I-1A.  These early eight-wheel cabooses were constructed almost entirely of wood, following the car building practices of the time.

 Further improvements to these early eight-wheel caboose designs were made by B&O car engineers, and beginning in 1924, B&O started to build the class I-5 caboose.

 The I-5 caboose featured many upgrades over predecessor B&O cabooses.  For the first time steel was used in the construction of the caboose bodies.  A steel frame was a key feature of the new cars, and the ends were constructed of steel sheathing, resulting in the first composite steel-wood cabooses on the B&O.

 The first car, numbered C-1900, was built in B&O shops, Baltimore, Maryland.  B&O car engineers were housed in an office adjacent to the shops and this allowed them to study construction of this first caboose, and to make necessary drawing changes, revisions, and clarifications to shop workers quickly.

 This first car was sent around the B&O system for inspection at various facilities by company officials and operating department employees.  Feedback received from this exercise allowed additional modifications to be made prior to building the balance of the quantity that B&O needed.

 The balance of the order was assigned to the B&O shops at Washington, Indiana, and a total of 401 class I-5 cabooses were constructed between 1924 and 1929.  Only 400 cars were planned to be built, but one car was wrecked shortly after being built, and a replacement for it also was built, resulting in 401 cabooses being assigned the 400 road numbers from C-1900 to C-2299.  This was the largest batch of cabooses ever built by Baltimore & Ohio.

 The class I-5 cars also were the last cupola cabooses built by the road.  Beginning in 1930 the first bay-window caboose was built in B&O shops, and from that time on, every new caboose added to the B&O caboose fleet was of the bay-window style.

 B&O caboose C-1902, was built at B&O shops, Washington, Indiana, in November 1925 as part of that large lot of class I-5 cars.

 These class I-5 cabooses were used all over the 13-state B&O system.  Because of operational problems, many of them received extensive modifications during their service years.

 One of the earliest, and most serious, of the problems with the I-5 cabooses is that they were prone to be pushed off the track in the mountains of West Virginia and Pennsylvania when large steam locomotives were coupled behind them to help push trains over the steep mountainous grades of the region.  The problem was particularly prevalent when the train would go around a sharp curve while being pushed uphill.

 B&O lengthened the wheelbase on many cars from the class from 15 feet to 19 feet to help stabilize the cars when used in mountain pusher service.  This resulted in the modified cars being reclassed as I-5C.  This helped some, but was not the ultimate solution.  B&O shop forces next stripped the interiors from many cars and poured concrete floors in the cabooses, which were further weighted by adding scrap metal in the concrete.  This additional weight increased the cars’ overall weight from 20 tons to around 31 tons.  This added weight, plus the lengthened wheelbase solved the problem, and resulted in modified cars being reclassed as I-5D.  Throughout the years a great many of the original I-5 class cabooses were modified at several B&O shops to the heavier I-5D version, including caboose C-1902 on the Whitewater Valley.  It was modified to an I-5D at B&O’s Washington, Indiana, shops in December 1957.

 Baltimore & Ohio assigned a major caboose refurbishment program to the Chillicothe shops in 1970-1971.  From all over the B&O, old red I-5 family cabooses arrived at Chillicothe for repair and repainting.  Several dozen of the I-5 family cabooses were outshopped from the Chillicothe shops during this program—as were cabooses from other of B&O’s caboose classes.  The cars gave up their red caboose paint at Chillicothe and the repaired cars were repainted bright yellow—as directed by B&O parent Chesapeake & Ohio.  C&O cabooses had long been painted yellow.  B&O        C-1902 emerged from the Chillicothe shops in bright yellow paint in September 1971, at which time plywood sheathing was added over the tongue-and-groove side sheathing.

 The I-5 family cabooses served the B&O well, with some cars remaining in service for over half a Century.  The last of the 400 cars was retired by B&O in the early 1980s.

 Many cars were acquired by private owners and museum groups for display after their railroad careers were finished.  Nearly 200 of the original 401 were sold by B&O to private individuals or organizations.  Many of these were donations—given away by B&O for worthwhile public display.

Copyright © 2005 by Dwight Jones

This history of B&O caboose C-1902 has been compiled by B&O caboose historian Dwight Jones of Columbus, Ohio, who has spent over 30 years researching the history of B&O cabooses.  Jones is the author of several books on caboose history, has authored numerous magazine articles on the subject, and has served as a consultant to the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

I-5 Date History By Railroad Historian Dwight Jones.
B&O Caboose C-1902
Selected Dates in the History of the Car
Compiled by
Dwight Jones

Date Event Description
11-25 Built new at B&O RR Co. shops, Washington, IN
3-53 Brakes upgraded to "AB" type at B&O shops
12-11-57 Converted to class I-5D at B&O shops, Washington, IN
10-20-61 Caboose operating into Ohio on the St. Louis Division
3-1-68 "COTS" work performed at B&O shops, Chillicothe, OH
4-68 Class 1 repairs made and repainted red at Chillicothe, OH

     (after shopping, caboose sent to Newark, OH, for service)
7-1-68 "In-Date-Test" mechanical inspection, Newark, OH
11-16-69 Automatic Car Identification (ACI) plate added at B&O shops
5-70 Caboose in service at Newark, OH
9-24-71 "In-Date-Test" mechanical inspection, Chillicothe, OH
9-24-71 Trucks repacked at B&O shops, Chillicothe, OH
9-71 Class 1 repairs made; repainted to yellow scheme, Chillicothe
9-71 plywood sheathing added to car sides at Chillicothe shops

     (after shopping, caboose sent to Newark, OH, for service)
11-73 Caboose written up for "Dismantle" at Newark, OH
1-18-74 Stored in Heavy Bad Order at B&O shops, Chillicothe, OH
1-31-74 Caboose sold to Whitewater Valley RR, Connersville, IN
3-1-74 Stored in Heavy Bad Order at B&O shops, Chillicothe, OH
4-74 Caboose officially retired from service on the B&O
11-16-81 Caboose in service on the Whitewater Valley Railroad
7-18-99 Caboose Removed from Service for refurbishment  Whitewater Valley Railroad
4-14-01 Caboose under refurbishment on the Whitewater Valley RR