CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Thursday, February 23, 2017

HO Roster: D&H Cabooses

Even as my benchwork is being built, I am still working on other projects. I thought I would slowly go through my roster of equipment which I have collected that will someday make an appearance on the layout. While I am pretty much sticking to a time frame of 1984 for my D&H models I will occasionally bend the rules slightly if there is a good reason for it, and I will also go completely off the rails when I see something I like. If you have a layout of your own, I don't need to say anymore as I am sure you know where I am coming from.

Recently I was working on building some models of cabooses, so that seemed like a good place to start. One of the reasons I selected the early 1980s to model the D&H (as opposed to a later time period) was that they still used cabooses. I don't know when the practice was discontinued on through trains, but even today Canadian Pacific still runs their local out with a caboose in the consist though sometimes it is in the front and sometimes at the rear. It might be for a shove move, or perhaps just a place for the crew to rest in.

The D&H also had a ton of variety as would be expected from a railroad that was over 150 years old. Even into the 1980s, they were using bay window, extended vision window, Reading northeast style, and transfer cabooses, as well as a few home-built jobs. Most were red with black roofs, with several different styles of lettering and insignia designs. The D&H colorguide book is an excellent resource in this regard. 

Like all of my equipment, I try to purchase it inexpensively and I don't focus too much on details which are fragile and easily broken. The great modeler Allen McClelland of Virginia & Ohio Railroad fame popularized the "good enough" approach for modeling, at least at the onset of a layout, and I have adopted this approach. As my time and finances increase, I may start to replace earlier models with more detailed ones or build contest-quality models as part of my MMR merit badge. But, for right now, my roster is made up of Athearn and MDC/Roundhouse kits and some Atlas Trainman ready to run models.

Right now, I have ten cabooses. There is no way I will need that many on my layout for operations, as I doubt I will even be able to run more than two trains at the same time. Since I am not modeling one of the classification yards (Kenwood, Mechanicville, Colonie) I don't even need them to sit on the caboose ready track. But, I like them. 

Mechanically speaking, one thing I did to standardize all my cars was to convert them all to Intermountain metal wheels when practical. I also have adopted Kadee #58 and #158 couplers as well, and so the horn hooks, Accumates, McHenry, and Kadee #5s were removed (though I kept the Kadees for other projects). Next, I added weight consistent with the NMRA recommended practice. I build boxes of styrene and fill them with lead shot that I ordered online (try explaining why you need to buy it loose at a gun store and they look at you funny). Before that, I used BBs but they are larger and less dense so I generally don't use them much anymore. I mix up epoxy or wood glue, stir in the shot, and then pour it into the styrene boxes. Once cured, I use double sided tape to attach them to the caboose frames.

Aesthetically, I also upgraded the cabooses to give them a used, family appearance. All the wheels are painted in a jig that Tony Koester once described in MR. The frames and weights are painted flat black. Handrails and other trim are picked out in yellow the best that I can manage, but I always prefer to leave it unpainted rather than poorly painted. The windows are glazed from the inside with clear styrene, though no attempt is made at an interior. The roofs are all painted black, including some custom-painted Bev-Bel cabooses that had the roofs red. I couldn't find any picture documentation for that. Finally, the cars are weathered, usually heavily, as the D&H Alco engines threw up a tremendous about of black smoke. A clean caboose was a rarity. In looking at the picture above, I see that I probably should add more weathering to a couple of the models.

There are some anomalies in my roster. For example, two different extended vision cabooses are Athearn models painted by Bev-Bel and have the same road number (#35712) but the font size and location is different on both. I don't know why they did that. Also, I believe that the D&H had some roof-mounted electrical radio equipment (one of my kits came used with parts for this in the box) but I haven't bothered researching it.

I don't yet have a model of the D&H sesquicentennial scheme with the round emblem though I want one even if it didn't exist in 1984. Sadly, the attractive yellow bay window cabooses delivered to the D&H in 1968 weathered poorly and were repainted red in the early 1970s so I won't buy one of those kits. I purchased my tenth kit recently because it was only $3, and with that I am closing the book on D&H cabooses. It is the one in the back awaiting construction.

Sadly, there are lots of junk train set cabooses on EBay. What I find surprising though is that very few even attempt to be close to realistic. For example, Life Like has Reading-style cabooses in two different paint schemes- one is bright orange with black shield outlines and the other is gray with yellow shields- but had they painted it red it might have been passable. Some company actually did a red D&H caboose but they used a streamlined Wabash style car and picked the round D&H insignia. I imagine they will be for sale on EBay forever.

For the most part, I am ready to move on from D&H cabooses. However, the D&H ran through trains in conjunction with the B&M and Maine Central during this period and they swapped equipment frequently. So, I can always pick up a couple of cabooses for either of those roads. Yay!


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