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This review is from Model Railroad News, Vol. 7, Issue 1, January 2001. Reprinted with permission of Lamplight Publishing.

Atlas O’s New Extended Vision Caboose                     

Review by David Otte

Crummys, Hacks, and Conductor’s Car, Cabins, and Way Cars – all are nicknames for one of the most beloved icons in American railroading, the Caboose. For over a century the caboose served as the conductor’s office and the train crew’s home away from home. Once numbering in the thousands, the caboose has become almost extinct on today’s railroads. But this end-of-the-train symbol has remained as important to the railfan and the model railroader as the locomotive is on the other end of the train.

So it is quite fitting that Atlas O, who has previously released an assortment of locomotives and modern rolling stock, issue an O gauge caboose to follow up their highly detailed line of scale models. They have chosen a relatively modern design based on the International Car Company’s Extended Vision Cupola Caboose. Available in both 3-rail and 2-rail ready-to-run, the car is being offered in the following roadnames: (First Run) Burlington Northern, Chesapeake & Ohio, Great Northern, Reading, Santa Fe, (Second Run) Seaboard Air Line, Chessie, Conrail, and Cotton Belt. Two roadnumbers will be offered per roadname. An undecorated caboose will also be offered along with a limited edition Burlington Northern car in the one-of-kind green and cream scheme.

Also known as a wide version or saddlebag cupola caboose, the EV caboose had its beginnings before the turn of the century. In the late 1880s, Haskell & Barker delivered several wooden cabooses constructed with cupolas wider than the main car body to the Chicago Great Western Railway. This arrangement permitted both overhead view and side view of the freight consist.

In the 1950s the idea of an extended cupola appeared again on the Monon. Here the railroad’s own shops added a bay windows to the side of a standard cupola on a steel caboose. Due to the larger sizes of modern freight cars, train crews needed this extended vision in order to see around the cars rather than over them.

It was also at this time that International Car Company began to realize the need for a modern manufactured caboose featuring an extended vision cupola. In 1953, they delivered their first EV caboose to the Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range Railway. Over the next two decades International would continue to produce EV cabooses for many of the railroads in the U.S.

Due to the fact that there was no real standardization of cabooses between one railroad and the next, International came up with a kind of modular system for their welded-steel car design. Wall panels with or without window openings could be arranged into any combination the customer required. Cupola height and location could also be adjusted as needed. A full array of options were also made available: sliding windows, toilet compartments, refrigerators, water coolers, oil heaters, electrical lighting, and radio equipment just to name a few.

All the cabooses were generally equipped with cushion underframes and the most up to date safety appliance such as: numerous safety railings located throughout the car, all interior corners were rounded, steps were recessed into the walls, and table edges were padded. Therefore, while International built EV cabooses are generally identifiable as such, one caboose may have a centered cupola and two windows located in the sides, while another road’s caboose will have a cupola offset to one end of the car body and three side windows.

Atlas O has chosen an EV caboose as built by International in 1970 for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad as the prototype for their newest addition to the Big O Rolling Stock line. Overall, the O scale model matches the prototype drawings almost inch for inch in dimensions.

The International cars appear to be based on a standard 23’ 2-1/2” wheelbase and the Atlas O EV corresponds. The model measures 10-3/8” or a scale 41’ 6” over coupler pulling faces, 2-5/16” (a scale 9’ 3”) wide over the steps, and 3-15/32” (a scale 13’ 10-1/2”) high to the top of the cupola side. Even the truck wheelbase scaled out appropriately for the 5’ 9”, 50 ton roller bearing swing motion trucks on the real thing – a sure testament to Atlas O’s insistence on accuracy.

If you are a detailed oriented person, then this caboose model is for you! Features include: separately applied metal railing and hand grabs, metal safety chains across the end railing, rooftop mounted smoke jack and bathroom vent, opening doors, windshield wipers on the end cupola windows, see-through steps and end platforms, and a hefty die cast metal chassis with full brake gear and battery box details.

As an added touch, Atlas O has provided for some interior details as well: conductor’s desk with high back chair at both ends of the caboose, cupola seating, and various interior compartments. Two individually modeled and painted figures occupy the interior, with the conductor reviewing his time table at the desk and a coffee drinking crew member seated in the cupola.

While Atlas O is to be commended for this list of amenities, the most striking accomplishment to me is their correctly modeled caboose trucks as I mentioned earlier. Other O gauge manufacturers have produced EV cabooses in the past, but most have failed to provide the proper trucks and instead use common freight trucks. For the sake of a better ride for the crew, real cabooses usually ride on leaf spring trucks and not coil spring as on freight equipment. Hats off to Atlas O for making their caboose correct from top to bottom!

If there is one assumption the O gauge consumer can make regarding an Atlas O product, it has to be their quality of fit and finish. Just read all of our previous product reviews associated with this manufacturer -- their track record speaks for itself. Our Great Northern decorated EV caboose sample is no different -- just superb!

The GN purchased 65 cars from International over a four year period beginning in 1966. Our review sample, numbered X104, was delivered during this first year and in the red paint scheme with the famous Goat herald. The GN caboose is very similar to the C&O prototype EV caboose, with three side windows and offset cupola, but the actual GN version was delivered with roofwalks and end ladders.

In operation, our 3-rail O gauge car’s metal couplers and trucks performed well, but note that the minimum curved track diameter for this caboose is 36”. The neatest operating feature of this model is the flashing rear end light. Although both car ends have a simulated red lens light, only the one end operates and can be turned off by a slide switch found on the underside of the car. The blinking warning light really adds some colorful animation to the end of the train.

For those of you who like to simulate night time running, the Atlas O caboose has interior illumination so you can enjoy those great details inside too. It is with this feature though, that my only true criticism can be found. When the car is operated with room lights out, I noticed that the interior bulbs shined through the car sides. Thus the car had an unprototypical red glow to it as it circled the test track. Whether this is a function of the color or not I am uncertain as we were unable to view any samples in the other paint schemes. I can say that the thickness of paint seemed appropriate for this scale model, and the plastic sidewalls did not appear to be unusually thin either.

Even though I encountered this lighting problem, I still proclaim, in my most humble opinion, that the Atlas O EV caboose is undoubtedly the best O gauge plastic caboose model available on the market today. This conclusion is based on prototypical accuracy as well as detail and decoration. For both tinplate and scale modelers alike operating modern era consists, the Atlas O EV caboose is a must!






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