I have no idea how many of their regular center cupola caboose (a.k.a. “Northeastern Style Caboose”) American Flyer made, but there have to be THOUSANDS of them! The same shell was made in different colors and road names in later years, but American Flyer Lines was by FAR most common. These cars are dirt cheap in battered condition, and not too much higher in good enough shape for bashing.
Really nice ones with lights even sell relatively inexpensively, and working “operating” cabooses with brakeman in this style are usually higher, but not out of line financially. I got two complete #930 lighted cabooses at the last Spree for ten bucks each. The vendor GAVE me a junker for parts as well! One caboose had a broken step and the other a chipped roof walk end, but the lights in both of them worked. Therefore, these are an excellent customizing project.
I started, as always, with disassembly. These two cabooses had the body mounted by pins in each corner which must carefully be pried loose and then pulled out with needle nose pliers. The body then almost falls off. Inside, there are a couple of sheets of what was probably white paper at one time, to “diffuse” the light from the single center light bulb. (Actually, the paper looks better from the outside in its aged color than new white paper, so I saved it to use again!)
The window “glass” is thin, clear plastic cards attached to the body, which most also be removed. They are glued onto the body, but age and heat has made the glue less than secure and you can carefully peal the windows off.
The brass end railings/ladders are held by two bent tabs (top and bottom) at each end of the body. Just straighten the tabs and the end parts will pull off.
Other than clean the wheels and electrical pick up tabs, the chassis was set aside to concentrate on the body.
These are fairly plain cars, so you can make a lot of visual impact with a few easy changes. I’ll start with the roof. You might have noticed that there are no roof walk platforms on opposite corners where the brakeman would climb from the ladder to the roof walk itself. I made these out of 1/8” scribed balsa sheet, which is about 1/16” thick with lines scribed 1/8” apart. This is very close to the roof walk plank spacing. I cut the pieces ¼” wide by 5/8” long with the planks,
running the same direction as the roof walk itself. They were then glued into position above the ladder at each end of the car.
I then decided to add roof ribs on the plain roof to give it some texture. These were made out of strips of card stock a little less than 1/8” wide and 13/16” long. They were spaced from each the end of the roof 9/16” apart toward the cupola.
Something I debated, but didn’t do, was lay ¾” wide masking tape on the roof to give the texture of roll roofing.
The last roof top modification was the steel pin stack. This needs a top on it to stop rain from going right down the stack and put out the fire in the conductor’s stove! I used a small piece of brass tubing to create a “T” top for the stack. Small diameter plastic tubing will work too.
On the sides of the car, I made window shades out of 1/8×1/8” strip wood, filed to a triangular cross section and glued above each window. On the cupola, I used a single shade for both side windows. There were no shades for end windows.
Setting these modifications aside, I moved to the stamped end railings/ladder parts. These appeared to be stamped brass, and might have looked really good polished up, but I fought the urge to do that. Unlike very expensive locomotives or flashy passenger cars, cabooses were often rated as barely above freight cars by the railroads. In the era when cabooses were assigned to crews permanently, the men sometimes dressed up “their” cars though.
I decided to match the ends to the rest of the car and paint the railings and ladders a more realistic “Safety Yellow.” The brake wheels were left black, and since the curved area of the railing next the brake wheels are actually supposed to be chains, I painted this area black too. This area could be cut out and scale chain placed where it is supposed to be.
The platform and roof tabs on these parts were painted black as well to match my color scheme for the car.
On this one, I decided that my version of a Baltimore and Ohio red car with black roof and platforms would be nice. No, not all of B&O cabooses wore this paint job, but it was very common in the forties and fifties. Handrails on these cabooses were “Safety Yellow” making for a colorful, yet traditional looking “Little Red Caboose.”
The finished paint job was decaled and then given a coat of Testors “Gloss” before re-assembly. The car looks like it is fresh from a shop rebuild (which it is!)
Compared to the original Flyer 930 caboose, the differences are striking!