RDG Co. Northeastern Cabooses, Class NMj, #92832, Class NMp, #94074, Class NMl, #92909


The “Northeastern” caboose was never actually called so by the railroads that used it. The term was bestowed by railfans and model railroaders because the design was used by railroads that operated in the states that are today called the “Middle Atlantic” states, nevertheless in the northeastern quadrant of the nation. The main states were Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Maryland, with (on the peripheries) Ohio, Delaware, and West Virginia.

The design was originated by the Reading Company in the early 1920s as a reaction to proposed legislation requiring that cabooses operated on through freights in Pennsylvania be eight-wheeled and at least 24 feet long. The legislation was finally enacted in 1929, with the additional requirement that the caboose center sill be the equivalent of that on a forty-ton freight car.

After looking over various designs, Reading management finally settled on an all-steel version of a USRA design of 1920, which had wood sheathing over a steel frame. The changes in the appearance from the original design were due to the all-steel construction. The original USRA design was offered by American Car & Foundry, and purchased by several railroads, though it never became standard except on the Pittsburg & Shawmut.


The first ten Reading cabooses were built in July 1924, and by the time the last one was completed in April 1948, it had become the “standard” Reading caboose. The design spread to other railroads that connected directly or indirectly with the Reading: Western Maryland (1936), Lehigh & New England (1937), Lehigh Valley (1939), Pittsburgh & West Virginia (1940), Central Railroad of New Jersey (1942), and Lehigh & Hudson River (1942).

RDG Co. Northeastern Caboose, Class NMj, #92832 at Leesport yard, Spring 2002. (photo courtesy Mike Shirk)

RDG Co. Northeastern Caboose, Class NMp, #94074 at Leesport yard, Spring 2002. (photo courtesy Mike Shirk)

RDG Co. Northeastern Caboose, Class NMl, #92909 at Leesport yard, Spring 2002. (photo courtesy Mike Shirk)

Archival Photos

#94017, Class NMp at Bethlehem, PA Yard, September 1970. (photo courtesy Frank Szachacz, Bill Phillips Collection)

Northeastern Cabooses Specifications (as-built):
Builder: RDG Co. Shops, Reading, PA Length over strikers: 32' 8"
Dates built: 1936-1948 Carbody length: 24' 11"
RDG #’s: 9XXXX-9XXXX Truck centers: ?
RDG classes: • NMj (1936)  Andrews trucks
• NMk (1937)  Taylor trucks
• NMl (1941)  Birdsboro trucks
• NMo (1944)  Birdsboro trucks
• NMp (1948)  Taylor trucks
Carbody width: 9' 3"
Carbody height: 11' 0"
Cupola height: 13' 6"
Typical weight: 42,400 lbs.
RCT&HS Northeastern Caboose info
Conrail Cabins & Cabooses
(last updated: 2/08)

*(caboose information courtesy John C. LaRue and Railroad.net)

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