Railway Preservation News

Rock Island Outside Braced caboose repair question
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Author:  Jason Midyette [ Tue Oct 27, 2015 1:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Rock Island Outside Braced caboose repair question

Has anyone out there had any experience replacing siding on a Rock Island (or similar) outside braced / single sheathed wood caboose?

Obviously the correct way is to remove the interior so you can then get at the exterior siding. As obvious is how much of a pain in the rear that will be, along with the fact that it will destroy the mostly intact original interior. I am hoping that there is some shortcut that someone has had some luck with.

Attached is s shot of the caboose in question, showing the need for some siding replacement. Siding is 2x6 T&G.


Jason Midyette

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Author:  sbhunterca [ Tue Oct 27, 2015 1:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Rock Island Outside Braced caboose repair question

How much of the siding is bad, Jason?

Given the huge task of replacing boards, I'm wondering whether this is a case where filling as much space with blocking from inside, and then building it up with a sculpted "board" from epoxy filler (Abatron or similar) might be worth trying.

You might be able to insert every second board from outside, sliding it through the frame and bolting it, to reduce the fakery to the minimum possible.

Be sure to use consolidant on any punky wood, and be sure to keep it well painted to preserve the temporary repair.

Not the greatest option, but fixing it properly could turn into a mammoth undertaking.

Steve Hunter

Author:  Dennis Storzek [ Tue Oct 27, 2015 2:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Rock Island Outside Braced caboose repair question

I second the emotion :-) Boards that are mostly intact can be consolidated with epoxy, either West System or Abatron, then missing material restored with either company's epoxy paste/filler. I would be tempted to treat the interface with some sort of rot preservative to kill any organisms remaining in the wood. Most of these preparations have been banned, but boric acid is still leagal, available premixed from Abatron and elsewhere as Bora-Care. If you want to try mixing your own, Roach-Pruf roach powder is the same basic material. One objection to boric acid is it's water soluable and could leach out in the rain. I think this is an advantage; once in the wood, the paint should shield it from the rain, any moisture that gets into the wood will just carry the preservative with it as deeply as it goes.

The planks that are almost completely gone along the floor line can be excavated, then replaced in sections just slightly longer that the area exposed between the steel framing. It would be nice to cut them all from the same board, in order, so the finished job looks like one continuous board. If they won't start in, one end can be tapered on the back so the board will "tip" into place. Slide it a bit too far to get the other end past the steel, then slide it back. If there are no bolt holes in the proper places, drill the steel, coutersink for flat head wood screws, and cover the heads with automotive body putty. I'd use stainless steel screws.

While this is certainly a BS job, these planks no longer have to withstand thousands of pounds of grain as they did when these cars were boxcars, and will keep from disturbing the original interior.

Author:  Les Beckman [ Tue Oct 27, 2015 5:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Rock Island Outside Braced caboose repair question

Jason -

Great to hear you are involved in restoring this caboose. Any chance you could furnish the cars Rock Island road number? Thanks.


Author:  Jason Midyette [ Tue Oct 27, 2015 7:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Rock Island Outside Braced caboose repair question

caboose is CRIP 17684 in Baxter, Iowa

Jason Midyette

Author:  NYCRRson [ Tue Oct 27, 2015 8:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Rock Island Outside Braced caboose repair question

Jason, I had reasonable success by planing pressure treated wood to half the final required thickness and then laminating two pieces together with gorilla glue (tm).

You may be able to slip two half thickness "interior" pieces behind the steel bracing with a vertical seam in the middle. Then insert two "exterior/surface" pieces that are a little short and have a seam that ends up behind a steel brace. You would want the interior seam to be at a different place than the exterior seam. If you give yourself enough gap in the seams you should be able to create a fairly strong laminated piece that goes behind several of the steel members and looks like one piece from the exterior.

The seams on the exterior pieces may have to be cut to align behind the tilted steel braces. If you can get wedges or shims behind the new exterior boards that would serve as a clamping means to hold the pieces in contact until the glue sets up.

They make plastic/composite shims that will not stick to the glue. You can pull them back out after the glue has setup.

Also the glue tends to swell up, this could help by forcing the pieces up tight against the steel bracing.

Could also be done with a tongue and groove joint along the edge by rabbiting the edge of the boards.

Might take some patience and trial and error, but I bet you could get a secure repair that looks like complete boards. Large wood beams are often made as "Glue-lams" which are a glued up set of thinner wood pieces.

Could also be plain untreated wood as well. I found that pressure treated wood held up better when in contact with steel.

Good luck, Kevin.

Author:  NYCRRson [ Tue Oct 27, 2015 8:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Rock Island Outside Braced caboose repair question


To be more specific, to repair the bottom most board in your photo;

1) Make a 1x6 piece that goes from behind the corner post to about 2/3 of the way to the first vertical brace

2) Make a 1x6 that goes from the end of the first piece to about the right hand side of the window

3) Make a 1x6 that goes from there to the third vertical post

Notch the ends of these so they clear the existing rivets

4) Make three exterior 1x6 pieces that go between the braces, make them just long enough so you can slip them behind the bracing and then center them under the braces. Notch the ends to clear any rivets, and you may have to taper the ends of the inside surfaces to get them in place.

5) Test fit and adjust the pieces

6) Install the interior pieces, apply glue to the exposed surface and then install the exterior pieces.

Use a few plastic shims (or small nails) to keep things from moving while the glue sets up.

Once the glue has setup you will have a laminated board that is almost as strong as the original, and looks like a single board from the exterior.

If you want to be careful about wood grains matching make a single full length exterior board and then cut out the gaps from that single piece.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, get some cheap disposable vinyl gloves before you do the glue up step. That Gorilla Glue ™ sticks to human skin like crazy. You will have to wear that glue for a week or so till it wears off.

Good luck, Kevin.

Author:  Les Beckman [ Wed Oct 28, 2015 1:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Rock Island Outside Braced caboose repair question

Jason Midyette wrote:
caboose is CRIP 17684 in Baxter, Iowa

Jason Midyette

Jason -

Thanks very much!


Author:  RDGRAILFAN [ Wed Oct 28, 2015 10:09 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Rock Island Outside Braced caboose repair question

I was poking around on the web and found an SP film, shows the removal of wood siding on an outside braced car at 1:30 in the film. Made it look easy!

Author:  Dennis Storzek [ Wed Oct 28, 2015 11:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Rock Island Outside Braced caboose repair question

That's after the "hot wrench" work is done... it helps if you don't really care if you start the car on fire or not.

That brings up the question, what is the interior finish in the caboose? T&G car siding? Plywood? I'm assuming since Jason stated he doesn't want to destroy the interior, that the inside of the boxcar was covered with something during the conversion, which is going to complicate plank renewal.

Author:  Jason Midyette [ Wed Oct 28, 2015 3:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Rock Island Outside Braced caboose repair question

The interior is T&G siding, attached (as best I can tell) directly to the exterior siding, with a layer of tarpaper between.

Were the interior not present, it would be one of, if not the easiest siding projects ever; cut the bolts, huck the old wood, stack the nice new T&G boards up, drill the holes, install new bolts and be done.

Jason Midyette

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Author:  Dennis Storzek [ Wed Oct 28, 2015 6:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Rock Island Outside Braced caboose repair question

That's what I thought. The strategies that several of us have outlined should work well, however. A couple additional points:

When you remove the deteriorated bottom board, you may find that the original siding (properly known as "lining", because it was exposed to the load) is thicker than 1 1/2". The ARA (later AAR) had three standard thicknesses of "lining for outside frame cars", 1 1/4", 1 1/2" and 1 3/4", the last intended for end lining, but who knows? The extra thickness will just make it easier to jockey the new short boards in, but they will then need to be pulled out tight to the framing, which is why I suggested drilling the framing for flat head wood screws, then covering the heads with Bondo. All should be 5 1/4" face, still a standard. You can't get T&G in this size, but you can't fish T&G into place anyway. Just caulk between the boards, you don't have to worry about grain leaking out.

You will need to cut the bolts off; I doubt they will unscrew after seeing this much water. Dig out the boards, cut the bolts behind the framing with a Sawzall, and see if you can save the nuts. Put the nuts on short bolts and tighten with the heads against the inside of the framing; there is no way to bolt the new plank in place without disrupting the interior, so don't even try. Just notch the new board to clear the heads.

I would not use pine. The wood sold as No. 1 White Pine (clear pine) today is usually Ponderosa Pine, which has absolutely NO rot resistance, and will rot out withing five years. See if you can find Douglas Fir. Yellow pine would be OK is it is all heartwood, but no way to specify that with standard lumber grades as come from a building supply. I would not use treated wood (Wolmanized, or whatever they call it today) the treatment leaves it sopping wet, and it will twist as it dries, pulling away from the fasteners and opening up gaps that will let the water in. Doug Fir is likely the best you can do. Redwood would be even more rot resistant, but very pricey.

Good luck with the project.

Author:  Les Beckman [ Wed Oct 28, 2015 7:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Rock Island Outside Braced caboose repair question

Dennis Storzek wrote:

Good luck with the project.

Yes. And if you can, let us know about your efforts. We can all learn from a photo story of a project like this, if you can take the time to document it.


Author:  crij [ Thu Oct 29, 2015 12:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Rock Island Outside Braced caboose repair question


How is the end wall constructed is it steel or wood? If wood and depending on the orientation, you might be able to slip the planks in from the end (sliding between the interior and the steel.

No matter what you do installing the bolts are going to be near impossible to do without disturbing the interior, as they were usually carriage bolts that secured the sheathing to the braces, I doubt they were extended to the interior, but you should be able to verify that easily enough.

Another thing is that depending on how well the tar paper aged and how many nails were used to secure the interior, you may be forced to replace parts of the interior boards anyways. By the look of the exterior boards, in some cases, you might only have thin shells of paint pretending to be interior sheathing. If that is the case then your life was just made easier..., well sort of. If you remove the bottom foot of the interior (mainly hidden by benches, the stove heat shield and the display case if it stays), then you could insert the boards from the inside and slide them up to mate with the old boards.

Make sure you paint all surfaces of the new boards with an oil based paint before you install it. Most latex paints create a hard shell that looks good, but traps the moisture that soaks in via the eventual cracks in the paint as the wood expands and contracts. Oil based paints soak into the fibers and moves with the board. The problem is exacerbated by the high gloss hard wear paints. Satin and flat latexes seem to flex and breath better, keep in mind that most paints up to the 30's were flat or satin as materials to produce gloss paints were expensive, thus were only used where needed (high value & impressive areas, trim, lettering, etc...). This is one reason why old barns lasted so long when compared to the exterior sheathing of houses, the barns got cheap flat paint that soaked in and moved with the wood through the seasons, where as the house got shells of gloss paint that chipped, puckered and bubbled after a few years.

Take care,
Rich C.

Author:  cumbres [ Fri Oct 30, 2015 10:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Rock Island Outside Braced caboose repair question

You might call Oklahoma RR museum at 405.424.8222. Their last newsletter had pics of their recently restored Rock Island wooden caboose. I don't know who ran the project but it probably would not be hard to call them and find out.

Mark Springer

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