Soo Line #203

Cupola Caboose, American Car & Foundry, September 1906

#203 on display, August 21, 2004.

#203 on display, August 21, 2004.

#203 at North Freedom, May 29, 2001. Paul Swanson photo

#203 at North Freedom, May 29, 2001. Paul Swanson photo

#203 is a legacy from an era of rapid growth for the railroad. During a portion of this period, the Soo Line greatly expanded its caboose fleet and shared a single caboose design with its leased subsidiary, the Wisconsin Central. Between 1906 and 1913, 115 of these cabooses were built by the American Car & Foundry Co. Also in 1913, the Soo Line constructed nine additional cabooses at its Shoreham Shops, bringing the total complement of cabooses built to the design to 124.

#203 was delivered with the initial order of 35 cars built by AC&F in September 1906, and included car numbers 127, 143, 149, 150, and 198 through 228. The 100-series numbered cars were built as replacements for earlier retired cabooses.

All of these cabooses were originally built with a wood underframe and truss rods. The most unusual feature was the single window concept employed on one side of the main body. The interior arrangement of the caboose did not lend itself to additional windows on this side.

Between 1924 and 1928 new steel center sills were applied to these cabooses at the Shoreham Shops. However, the truss rods were retained. Also at Shoreham about this time, Soo Line applied a new cupola design to these cars on an as needed basis. The new cupola was built with a random variation consisting of either one or two windows on the side. #203’s cupola has the single window configuration; sister caboose #99115 has the two-window variation.

#203 was privately purchased from the Soo Line and moved to North Freedom in May 1966. Its interior has been modified since becoming privately owned. It is presently used for bunk facilities. In 2004, #203 was cosmetically restored for the Soo Line Historical & Technical Society’s meet held at North Freedom on August 21, 2004.