Medford Railroad Park
SP Caboose 1107
Representing literally hundreds of Southern Pacific “cupola type” cabooses is SP1107. This caboose was one of 135 Class C-40-3 cabooses built by Southern Pacific's Los Angeles General Shops between 1940-1942. SP also constructed 30 more C-40-3 cabooses for its subsidiary Texas & New Orleans Railroad in 1942. SP built no more “cupola” cabooses after that.
This caboose is typical of the type of caboose generally thought of by the public. The conductor and rear brakeman would ride up in the cupola as their train rolled along. They would be on the alert for problems such as overheated journals (‘hot boxes'), derailed equipment ahead of them, shifting loads and other dangers to train operation. The caboose was the “brains of the train” in that the conductor would perform all the paperwork associated with the delivery and switching of cars en route to their respective terminals.
SP1107 was constructed in 1942 and spent most of its career on SP's Shasta Division. General maintenance and repairs on this caboose were at Sacramento and Dunsmuir. SP1107 has friction bearings, like the three other cabooses at the Medford Railroad Park . Today friction bearings are outlawed from interchange with other railroads. All cabooses running on freight railroads today are equipped with modern roller bearings.
Built at a time when railroad equipment was needed to move tonnage for World War II, these cabooses were somewhat Spartan. In fact, this caboose used kerosene lanterns for lighting until replaced with electric lights in 1955! After 1955 batteries were used to power the lights and the early two-way radios. This setup placed a need to find a reliable way of recharging the batteries. The most reliable recharging in the early fifties was an on-board diesel generator) with an exhaust near the cupola on the short end of the roof), but in later years new technology has allowed this feature to be eliminated.
A few of these C-40-3 SP cabooses received special aluminum paint with red and black lettering for assignment on the hot San Francisco to Los Angeles piggyback trailer service. SP1107 was one of many, many SP cabooses later downgraded to local train service. Six of the side windows were plated over with steel sheeting for train crew protection from rock throwing juveniles.
The Southern Oregon Chapter is grateful to the National Railway Historical Society for a grant to help in the restoration of this piece of Southern Pacific history.
Southern Pacific Railroad donated this caboose to our chapter on April 24, 1981 and soon thereafter it was placed on display at the Medford Railroad Park . Sometime before a park perimeter fence was installed, a transient got inside burned part of the caboose's interior.
In March 2003 the caboose was moved across a path to a new display site within the park. Also at this time a plan to restore this caboose back to its 1942-bult appearance began with the removal of the steel plates over the six windows, plus the removal of the stove fuel tank, vent pipe, radio conduit and other items that were installed by SP long after the caboose was built.
Next came the stripping and painting of the exterior in authentic SP “Mineral red” paint. All the caboose windows have newly fabricated wooden window frames and safety glass. The combination of fresh paint and new windows has greatly enhanced the caboose's appearance. The SP lettering, correct for 1942, has been applied.
Inside the caboose the fire-damaged sections have been removed and replaced with correct tongue and groove boards. Railroad insulation of the caboose was minimal at best, so we decided to take advantage of the situation and install R-11 household insulation between the steel exterior and the boards. It gets very hot and cold in Medford and already we are experiencing the benefits of now having good insulation.
The entire interior painted roof area, as well as most of the interior walls, was baked with soot from the old fire. The damaged paint was removed and the boards sanded and painted. The seats in the cupola are well-worn. New cushions have been made for all seats.
Years of hard freight service created weak support areas under the cupola seats. All have since been repaired. All closet doors and drawers for the conductor's desk were missing, so new doors and drawers have been fabricated. Holes in the floors are repaired and a coal bin and stove have been installed next to the conductor's desk.
The SP 1107 caboose is open to the public with a docent to explain its features answer questions. Kids of all ages love to sit up in the cupola, view the Railroad Park from above and watch the Live Steamers' trains pass nearby.