The little red caboose behind the train.
So ends the chorus of a popular children’s song celebrating the caboose. Cabeese (as many use for the plural of caboose) were favorites of popular culture. To this day many railfans rue their departure from trains in the U.S.
Undecorated C-50-7 Bay Window Caboose, With Lights
Bay Window Caboose
Railroads started using the caboose one hundred and fifty years ago. In ‘dark territory’ without Central Traffic Control and on some switching runs a caboose can still be found. According to the authoritative Rensselaer Railroad Heritage Website
The use of a cupola, which is the first spotting feature of a caboose , dates back to just after the Civil War, although even by 1906, they were enough of a novelty that the '06 Cyc. pointed out their presence, calling them "lookouts".
Supposedly the first caboose was an old box car with a hole in the roof. The conductor availed himself of this to hoist himself up and look over the train. During most of the 19th century, most caboose s did not have "lookouts" as the cupola was termed back then. This makes a certain amount of sense, as trains of only a dozen cars were the norm, so it wasn't hard to see the entire train from just the caboose platform.
There was another factor. Air brakes were not ruled mandatory until 1900, which meant that there were brakemen up on the roofs scattered the length of the train. THEY were in effect the person in the cupola.
As trains became longer it became challenging for brakemen in the cupola to keep an eye on the train. The first bay window caboose is attributed to the late great Louisville & Nashville Railroad
, which despite some tight clearances in coal country, had room to extend a bay from the sides of the caboose. Bay window ‘crummies’ were not practical on many railroads due to close quarters, although western railroads in the US had lots of terrirory with generous loading gauge to run them through.
HO Bay Window with DCC & Lights, Undecorated
Currently Athearn lists 78 choices of Genesis bay window cabeese on their website. This sharp model features the type of detail that, until about a decade ago, was only found on brass imports. Athearn lists the different body shells and detail sets unique to a specific version. Currently Athearn offers the C-50-4, -5, -7, -8, -9, and Western Pacific 481-class variants.
Athearn pride shows in their packaging. Athearn Genesis models are packaged in a sturdy glossy blue box with a cellophane window and decorated with gold Genesis branding. The caboose is securely held in a form-fitted cradle with a snugly fitted formed clear top, well protected from shock and jostling. The basic caboose is a one-piece styrene component, complete except for unattached separate bay windows; each end door is molded shut. The body is attached over a metal floor mounted on a plastic underframe, with a plastic ceiling included, and trucks installed. In addition to the basic caboose body are 11 bags holding the scores of separate parts and the DCC lighting board.
Documentation includes a DCC quick-start guide, an Athearn advertisement, and an exploded-view parts diagram and parts list.
• New truck tooling including axle-mounted generator
• Fully detailed underbody
• Prototypical details like antenna, marker lights, smoke jack and vent
• Separately applied wire grab irons
• See through end platforms and steps
• Etched metal window screens
• Detailed interior with seats, bunks, tables, etc.
• LED marker lighting installed
• Onboard lighting system by Soundtraxx supports advanced consisting and adjustable lights
• Directional roof-mount marker lights
• McHenry scale knuckle spring couplers installed
This model is somewhat modular to allow for five different versions of the C-50 design, and a Western Pacific 481 class. These include different window configurations, bay windows, end platform decking, end frames, underframes, battery boxes and supports, to name a few components. Athearn provides blackened metal RP-25 wheels. At 39-scale-feet long (without couplers) it weighs 3.1 ounces, which is a half-ounce light compared to NMRA RP-2O.1 Car Weight.
Fine recessed and relief detail is molded onto and into the body: weld seams, vents, fittings, bolts and rivets, window combing, etc. The molding is smooth and sharp. I found no noticeable flash, ejector marks nor sink holes. Some seam lines are noticeable on small parts like the fill-water nozzle.
The body has fine holes pre-drilled to accept the wealth of detail parts, unlike my Walthers undecorated cabooses, which even lacked the advertised installed wire grabs.
Into those holes you can attach an exceptional assortment of well molded parts. Most pieces are injection plastic and there is also a lot of photo-etch for the steps, decks, windows, and more. Some two dozen wire parts are provided for grabs and railings, including little eyelets. Both sets of end frames have brake stands and supports molded as a single piece, including a roof end fascia plate. Separate hand brake wheels with brake end actuator rods and chains, cut bars with brackets, and air hoses round out the detail.
Your interior features 17 parts: a plastic floor, seats, cabinets, bunks and bulkheads. What little flash and few ejector circles I noticed are on the chairs and floor.
Fourteen parts detail the underframe hardware, including belts and pulleys for the axle-powered generator. The AB airbrake system is represented by a mix of separate and group parts: separate quick-release, triple valve and reservoir, a wire train line, and a single part consisting of the cylinder, brake rods, levers, chain, and retainer brackets. My brake cylinder rod piece has a broken rod.
Detailing the topside are some 20 photo-etched plates for the steps and walkway deck tread, disc antenna, and window screens. Other metal parts include the stands for the marker lamps, antenna, and smoke jack stays. The open smoke jack and marker housing are styrene, as is a small ‘firecracker’ antenna.
Plastic trucks straddle blackened machined metal wheels. The truck frame surface shows an authentic roughness, and has manufacturer data. Three types of trucks are made for these models, including early and late-generator types. The blackening of the wheels is better than most, cutting down a fair shine. Brass wipers pick up power from the wheels for the electronics within.
Soundtraxx is used for the onboard lighting system. You will have to install it. My box did not contain any instructions for installing it. Soundtraxx automatically senses and adjusts between DCC and analog power. The factory assembled model lighting emits a bluish-white glow, illuminated via function 5 with DCC. Although the windows are relatively small, I can see chairs and other interior detailing with lights on. Marker lights operate and are directional. For those who crave more control, the DCC guide explains CV settings. These lighting features are demonstrated in the short video review.
I most definitely appreciate this model. Not being an Espee expert I cannot pick out any possible errors, although being undecorated, I suspect many people will buy it for their freelance road. I find this a well molded and detailed model. The wealth of detail parts is super. As expected with Genesis models, the wire grabs and the etched walkway treads are sharp. I have only a couple of minor concerns, the broken brake cylinder/rod piece, and the bluish cast of the interior lighting.
Overall I am very impressed with this caboose kit and happily recommend it.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here – on RailRoadModeling
 NEB&W Guide to Cabooses - Overview. John Nehrich. Rensselaer Railroad Heritage Website. 2010-03-12. http://railroad.union.rpi.edu/article.php?article=6068&q=caboose.