Drovers Caboose, American Car & Foundry, 1909
This unusual car was built to transport stockmen and cow punchers in stock trains so that they could care for the animals at watering and feeding stops, and assist with unloading at markets. The interior was equipped with eight overhead berths and seating for 32 passengers, a coal stove at each end of the car, one toilet, and a sink with water canteen. The lower seats could be converted into bunks by folding the seat cushions down. Drovers cars first appeared on the Chicago & North Western around the turn-of-the-century. By 1917, a fleet of some 83 cars were rostered in three groups.
#10802 is believed to be built in 1909 by the American Car & Foundry Co. in the number series 1516-2181. Thirty-three drovers cars were built by AC&F in this lot. They had similar design/construction characteristics to standard C&NW cabooses built at the same time. The drovers cabooses originally featured a cupola and unique double-sash side windows. The cupola was used by the train’s regular conductor as the car was assigned to him in regular pool stock service. By the late 1920’s stock business had declined. Drovers cabooses became “tramps,” bumming around the system for occasional assignments. Many were stored out of service at C&NW’s 40th Street yard in Chicago. At an unknown date, the car was renumbered to #12660.
In 1937, C&NW embarked on a major rebuilding of fifty wooden cabooses. Sixteen of them were drovers. The cupolas were removed (the double sash windows had already been replaced with standard design in a 1923 rebuilding), the carbody completely resided, and a steel underframe applied. The cars retained their old 5-foot wheelbase trucks, but they were strengthened with steel plating. The drovers were painted in a boxcar red oxide paint and renumbered in the 10800-series (even numbers only). The interior configuration was unchanged.
In 1941, C&NW adopted a new paint scheme for its caboose fleet: bright vermillion red. The drovers eventually received this color one by one. They were also converted to AB-type air brakes as required by the ICC (Interstate Commerce Commission); #10802 was converted on June 24, 1952 at Norfolk, Nebraska. By the 1950’s stock trains were becoming rare. Drovers cabooses were retired one by one. The survivors were often used in work train service to accommodate traveling track crews. By the early 1960’s only two C&NW drovers cabooses remained. One ended up at the Black Hills Central tourist operation at Hill City, South Dakota. The other was #10802. Mid-Continent members chipped in $400 to buy the car from C&NW and it was delivered to North Freedom on October 18, 1965.
#10802 was used briefly in train service at Mid-Continent. In 1968, it was painted a dull green and lettered for the New York Central for filming of the Swedish production “The Immigrants.” In the 1970’s the car sat in storage, suffering the ravages of Wisconsin weather. In 1985, restoration began. By May 1995, the car was resided, received a new roof, and was painted and lettered as it appeared after its 1937 rebuild. It performed in freight train service for the C&NW Historical Society’s annual meet held at North Freedom in May 1995. The interior was restored and the trucks rebuilt a few years later. Today #10802 is in service and on display in the Coach Shed. It is occasionally used at special events to increase passenger capacity.