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The lonely caboose

Very few cars in a train are as iconic as the caboose. For years the caboose signaled the end of the train, and many times a friendly wave from the conductor. Prior to the 1980’s, the caboose served as the office of the conductor and train crew. From their location at the end of the train, they monitored the train for any issues, and could notify the engineer if there was any trouble. The caboose also provided a way to stay warm in the winter and get out of inclement weather, in addition to providing a rest room for the crew.

Beginning in the early 1980’s railroads began eliminating the caboose in favor of an End-of-Train (EOT) device that could monitor the air pressure and send an electronic signal to the engineer in the cab of the locomotive. This new technology also was accompanied with a reduction in crew sizes, and the caboose’s days were numbered.

While not very common, you can still occasionally see a caboose on a train in 2020. Several railroads have converted their cabooses to “shoving platforms” to provide protection for the crew on long reverse shove moves. It is much safer and comfortable for a crew member to ride the rear platform of a shoving platform than hang on the side of a car for many miles. Some shoving platforms have been equipped with horns and lights to add additional safety for the shove move. These shoving platforms usually will have the windows plated over and the doors to the interior locked.

The Georgia Northeastern Railroad has a couple of cabooses in their roster. When I began modeling the GNRR I decided to custom paint a caboose to reflect one that I had seen on their roster. On the original model, I left the roof walk and ladders that went to the roof. While this looked acceptable, it still was not close enough to the prototype for me. I decided to rework another caboose model, changing the hand rails on the end platform and remove the roof walk to more closely represent the prototype.

I began the project by removing the ladders as well as the roof walk. I used styrene rod to plug the holes left in the roof when I removed the roof walk. One detail that I noticed on the prototype was that the roof was longer and extended slightly past the rear platform. To extend the roof, I used a small piece .060 styrene and attached it to the end of the original roof. I created a gable end for the roof using .020 styrene. Once I had the roof extension installed, I custom made the handrails using .020 wire. The handrails are very delicate and difficult to solder together, but I was finally successful. I custom painted the model and added the Georgia Northeastern Railroad caboose decals that came in the GNRR decal set. I applied a heavy coat of weathering with powders and Pan Pastels.

I figured that I would use the caboose as a shoving platform during operating sessions. Upon doing some prototype research, no one could ever remember seeing the caboose being used that way, so I abandoned that plan. Now my caboose sits in the yard, just like the prototype, and dreams of the days when it rode the rails.

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