several years I have wanted a bobber caboose, which is commonly known as a
logging caboose. My preference was in the style of the West Side Lumber
Company’s two truck caboose as opposed to the often modeled two axle style. The
idea was put on the back burner for years while other large scale projects took
priority. That is until a good friend mentioned a kit he had purchased many
years ago and had never gotten around to doing the conversion necessary to make
it a working piece of 7½" gauge rolling stock. I offered to purchase it;
however, he generously gifted it to me just to see it get built.
|The kit originally cost $17.95, produced by Fesco
and marketed to the live steam community by Koster's Miniature Railroad Supplies
out of Homestead Florida c1973-1974. These kits were made of a very thick and
durable plastic. The entire bottom was one molded piece of the steps and truck
side frames. The walls and roof pieces were all snap on for simple no tools
construction. Although very basic in design, it did have enough detail to make
it useful as a 1½" scale caboose, so much so that an article on how to convert
one into a working model was published in the March 1973 issue of Live Steam
magazine. It was apparently a fairly popular item for a while. After starting to
work on this one, I have noticed a few others in photos from other railroads
around the country of this item that was marketed over 30 years ago, converted
into a working caboose.
The original kit was actually a child’s toy box, as seen here behind the future
under frame and trucks.
Test fitting after cutting roof to move cupola.
Getting the roof back together took three days because I could only do one joint
at a time.
As the railroad I run at requires safety chains, I notched out a piece of 1"
steel angle iron to hold the chain eye bolts (bottom of photo).
|I could have built it as an end cupola and saved
myself a lot of time and effort; however, I really desired to have the center
cupola version so I was left with making several extra cuts in the roof to move
the cupola. The platform and steps that came on the molded bottom were actually
very nice and well suited for use on the caboose so they were simply cut off the
center section, which was tossed out. After making all of the cuts to the one
piece roof section, I used tape to test fit everything to get an idea what was
going to be needed to put it back together again with out looking like a toy box
|The Arch Bar style trucks came from
Mountain Car Company, which I do not think offers these any longer as they were
more expensive than modern trucks with a declining market for them. I used a one
piece center beam for the main frame and coupler pockets. Since our railroad has
card-order operating, the caboose will wind up between a locomotive and a string
of cars being switched. All of the train weight and stress will pass from
coupler to coupler through this single tube with no stress to the caboose body.
The safety chains I installed are required for good reason at the railroad I
run on. It is mostly on grades and trains do come uncoupled as evident by one
member’s caboose coming uncoupled before chains were required and rolling 900’
down a 2% grade and off the end of the track under construction. The sudden stop
destroyed the end platform and steps.
Normally the caboose walls would be permanently attached to the floor;
however, as it had to be transported in a compact car trunk to the railroad
after being built, the roof and walls had to be removable. As it is now stored
at the railroad, the walls will likely soon be more securely attached to the
floor. The roof and cupola will remain removable.
I’m going to run it, as is, for a while before deciding on finishing it to
finer detail. Equipment in riding scale railroads gets handled a lot more than
smaller scales so fine detail work can get damaged easily by someone brushing by
accidentally. For now I may just add the road number 308.
All of our cars use the same safety chain arrangement. You’ll note the open hook
is to the left.
This safety chain bracket is held in place under the center beam with the couple
|In retrospect this was not a really cheap way to
get a new piece of rolling stock. The $17.95 caboose cost an additional $550 to
$600 once you added in the Arch Bar trucks, couplers, other hardware and
materials necessary to complete the entire project. If people don’t look too
close, most will never realize it started life as a cheap plastic toy box from
the last century.
The brakeman riding the rear platform was from a 9" tall fireman figure found in
a Dollar General Store toy section.
The floor has plenty of room for a battery for lights should they be added in
|When I found the figure to act as
brakeman, I was surprised to find that most of his joints were very flexible,
including his fingers that wrapped around the handrail. He had fireman’s boots
that I cut down to work shoes. After gluing him to the rail and steps, he turned
out to be an attractive $5.00 addition.
Should you chance to still have one of these toy box kits laying around that
you never got around to building, there would be any number of people today that
would be happy to purchase it and put it to good use. Consider listing it on
Discover Live Steam and you may see your kit finally put to good use. You may
even make a little money on your $17.95 investment…
Do you have one of these caboose toy boxes?