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Cab roof material?

Posted: Sun Jan 14, 2018 6:31 pm
by Greg_Lewis
Does anyone know for certain what material was used on Baldwin wood cab roofs, circa 1906. This would be wood cabs that were painted, after the varnish and brass era, just before the switch to steel cabs. I have one photo that suggests it was a thin material such as tar paper or treated canvas, but I can't tell for sure. And if you know whether it was one piece or strips and how wide those strips were, that would be even better. (As you might deduce, I'm a detail freak! :D )


Re: Cab roof material?

Posted: Sun Jan 14, 2018 7:31 pm
by 765nkp
I saw someone use denim from some olds jeans one time. It was painted black and looked really good. It was one piece across the entire roof. I am not sure if they used strips or one piece on the prototype.


Re: Cab roof material?

Posted: Sun Jan 14, 2018 8:07 pm
I used black denim from Jo-Ann fabric. Get a pint of "Stix IT" from you local hobby shop.
Just paint the cab roof two coats of it and let it dry. Stretch the denim over the roof.
Now all you need is an old iron to set the glue. BTW set the iron to "Cotton". Roll the fabric over the edge and trim. Use super glue on the edges. You can sand smooth the edge where you used the supper glue.
Paint it semi gloss black. +

John B

Re: Cab roof material?

Posted: Sun Jan 14, 2018 8:20 pm
by ccvstmr
Greg...John described the basic process used when I rebuilt my cupola caboose roof (he did in a lot less words). You can search for the cupola caboose rebuild article I posted here on Chaski a few years ago.

When using the SIGS Stix-It heat activated adhesive...make sure you're in a WELL VENTILATED area. The stuff has some high powered solvents in which is why it dries so fast. Use a brush you can throw away when you're done with the project.

If you don't have any old jeans material around, you can visit a fabric store...but watch out. You'll be surprised how many different grades of denim are available. Light weight, heavy weight, tight "grain", loose "grain". I tried to select a middle of the road fabric weight and grain.

Applied (2) brush on coats of paint and a several spray applications to lessen the jeans appearance.
Got any're welcome to PM me. Hope this helps. Carl B.

Re: Cab roof material?

Posted: Sun Jan 14, 2018 9:23 pm
by Greg_Lewis
Thanks for the tips, guys. Do any of you know what the original material that Baldwin used was?

Re: Cab roof material?

Posted: Sun Jan 14, 2018 11:51 pm
by jkimberln
The references I see state that the roofing material was 'composition.' Supposed to be fireproof. I didn't find anything that said strips, sheets, or what. I did see a reference to Johns-Manville as a supplier and that implies asbestos composition. The Baldwin archives are in Texas somewhere and may be accessible if you were on site.

Re: Cab roof material?

Posted: Mon Jan 15, 2018 1:32 am
by Glenn Brooks
I worked on a Bridge and Building gang (B&B 5) on the Alaska Railroad In 1966. I remember many of the older rolling stock, particularly work crew bunk cars, and ROW cars were 1940 and earlier. While not the era you are interested in, these old cars very much represented design considerations from an earlier age.

I can remember roof tops covered with painted canvas, nailed down around the edges and corners with wide headed canvas tacks, then seam sealed with asphalt. (Correction - not asphalt, more like modern day roofing tar). Then painted for water proofing. The top covering was often laid in strips. Sometimes the edge of the roofing material along the body of the car would be sealed and secured with a wood batten aka, trim piece runing the length of the coach line. The canvas would be turned down over the edge of the roof to seal the roof joint, and probably tacked or glued in place. Then the trim strips were nailed or screwed over the edge of canvas, affixing it to the upper edge of the sill, top edge flush with the roof.

If you choose to use modern day materials, you might consider “Sunbrella” awning cloth. Sunbrella is widely used in the marine industry as it is synthetic and waterproof, yet appears to be like canvas. Comes in a variety of colors.

Re: Cab roof material?

Posted: Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:38 am
by makinsmoke
When we were cosmetically restoring the Santa Fe 940 in Bartlesville, Oklahoma I ordered white Sunbrella for the cab awnings. I pulled the rods and made measurements, my wife cut and sewed them and I put them back on. That was in 2011. Six years later and it still looks great.

A running steam locomotive would probably be a lot tougher on it than just Mother Nature.

Rolled roofing was a very common roof covering decades ago, used not only on trains but structures as well.

Don't forget tarpaper.

Re: Cab roof material?

Posted: Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:43 am
by makinsmoke
Here's a Greg Elder photo from April 2017: ... id=4685010

Re: Cab roof material?

Posted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:36 am
by Glenn Brooks

Here’s a couple of photos trawled off the internet. Both are interesting because of their roof detail. Might be of some valve to you in deciding what to do regarding roofing materials.

The first phot is a 1942 troop train loading 93 Reg Engineers for a trip north to Alaska. Note the large nails used to fasten down the roofing around the top sill of the car.

The second photo is an interesting, 1900 era original passenger car used on the White Pass and Yukon narrow gauge RR between Skagway and Whitehorse. The roofing here seems clearly to be sheet metal. No telling if it is original or not, but that’s what it looks like now.


Hope these help.


Re: Cab roof material?

Posted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:13 am
by Greg_Lewis
Thanks, Jerry, Glenn and Makinsmoke. Every bit of evidence is worthwhile. Robert Williams forwarded to me some info from a website UtahRails,net on a roofing material called Mulehide, introduced in 1906 by a company that is still in business. While this pertains to Union Pacific cabooses, not Baldwin cabs, the Mulehide apparently was a common roofing material:

"Mulehide is canvas that is laid over the wooden roof, with hot asphalt brushed on to seal it. Usually, two or three coats of canvas and asphalt was used. This treatment was very waterproof, and very durable, thus the "mulehide" name. But, it also weathered rapidly and needed regular maintenance, which explains why metal roofs were used on freight cars. The color of mulehide would vary from new asphalt black, to highly weathered, old asphalt gray. It was never to be painted. At times, and depending on when it was last treated, the fabric pattern of the canvas is visible."

Re: Cab roof material?

Posted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 3:12 pm
by Fender
Not exactly answering your question, because this is not sourced from BLW practice, but here is how locomotive cab roofs were treated by the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad in 1906 (reference: Railway Master Mechanic - Volume 30 - Page 437 1906)
Note that this RR also applied a layer of sand between coats of paint to resist burns from hot cinders.