Tuscarora Railroad

The Tuscarora Railroad is a 1:20.3 garden railroad located in suburban Denver, Colorado. The railroad is based on the East Broad Top RR which still operates today as a tourist line in Orbisonia, PA (south-central PA). Be sure to check out Garden Railway Basics , Kevin's book on building and maintaining garden railroads for information on how the TRR was built.

Location: Denver, CO

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The story of East Broad Top caboose #4

I'm not one to pass up a bargain if I think it can be useful. Such was the case this past June when I was at the Denver GRS swap meet, and I found an Accucraft 8-wheel caboose for $50. (Caboose Hobbies was "blowing them out" at $120, so this was a particularly good deal.) I was looking for a plastic caboose that I could leave out in the elements if I were running and had to go run an errand or such. My other cabooses are all wood, and they don't really play well with water; especially not some of the torrential downpours we can get through here in the spring and summer months. This caboose would work very well. Despite it being a D&RGW prototype, it had something of a generic look to it--kind of the "quintessential" caboose.

But since I model the East Broad Top RR, how would I justify such a caboose when there was no prototype for it? Well, as luck would have it, there may have been.

This is a photo taken c. 1913 on the EBT's southern end, believed to be around the town of Woodvale (Wood). It shows a medium-sized caboose that does not match any other photos of known cabooses on the EBT. It's too long to be one of two ultra-short cabooses built c. 1907 (unless they were not twins as is believed) and too short and has the wrong roof and cupola to be the 30' long caboose the railroad built in 1905 from a surplus flat car. It's unlikely that its any of the original 3 cabooses the railroad had, as they were all listed as "worn out" in 1890 corporate minutes. And it doesn't match a photo of another unidentified EBT caboose, as this one has an inset cupola, where the other has the side of the cupola integrated into the side of the caboose.

So, the photo is blurry, but knowing the length of the hopper cars in the train, we can estimate the length of the caboose to be around 23' long, with an 18' body. Hmm, that's got a pretty familiar ring to it... The D&RGW caboose is also around 23' long with an 18' body. The roof is the same, though the cupola is decidedly taller than that shown in the photo.

Well, ain't nuttin' a saw can't fix!

After a little work and a run-in with a lot of grime and coal dust, East Broad Top caboose #4 is now in service on the Tuscarora RR.  The idea was to give the caboose a well used, not-quite-neglected-but-definitely-an-afterthought look to it--with much heavier weathering than what I have given my other cabooses.

Cosmetically, I didn't do a whole lot to it. The biggest work was on the end platforms. The end beams, well, I don't know what the pattern maker at Accucraft was thinking when they designed the end beams--they looked like stacked legos with five horizontal lines going all around. (You can see them barely poking out behind the brake staff) I filled this in with Bondo and sanded it to give it some more realistic wood grain. I also cut off the cast-iron "D&RGW-esque" coupler pocket, and replaced it with a much more EBT-esque block of wood. I also replaced the original full-sized coupler with a 3/4-sized coupler (Accucraft's 1:32 coupler as opposed to their 1:20.3 version). The cut lever is the same.

I thought about replacing the end railings, but opted for expedience at the moment because I didn't want to fiddle with a new ladder at the moment. Eventually I'll replace them. Eventually...

I cut rectangles of aluminum duct tape and put them on the roof to give it some needed texture. I just cut narrow strips next to the wood walkway, as I didn't want to remove it to put tape underneath. The walkway was also trimmed back even with the edge of the roof instead of overhanging as it did originally. A new smokestack was installed, too, because the original one found the portal to a parallel universe that exists somewhere in my workshop.

The caboose was painted with some shade of red I found at the craft store. It was actually a bit more "purplish" than I really wanted, but the paint that was in that particular shade didn't cover well at all. It works with the weathering, though, so I'm not complaining. Again, it adds to that "not-quite-neglected" look I was after. The windows were washed with a dilute black paint (as was the entire caboose), then wiped away in the center with a Q-tip. The caboose has a very rudimentary interior, but I didn't add to it. I just painted it light green and left it at that.

The cupola was lowered by cutting off around 3/16" of an inch just above the windows. I wanted to do a bit more to better match the proportions in the photo, but the trim around the window would have had to have been removed, and I didn't want to do that nor scratchbuild a new cupola. This was a "quick and dirty" project, after all.

Tomar marker lamps adorn the corners of the caboose. I removed the 12-volt bulbs and replaced them with LEDs. I also added two LEDs to light the interior of the caboose. They're powered by a 7.4 volt Li-Ion battery, which should last a good long while before needing to be recharged--I'm guessing based on current draw, somewhere around 100 hours or more.

The lettering is dry transfers, which have been lightly sanded to show some wear. They're available from the Friends of the EBT Company Store

In the end, I got pretty much exactly what I wanted from this project. I got a weather-resistant caboose that can withstand getting rained on, looks good, and even matches our best guess as to what one of the EBT's cabooses may have looked like. Sure, there's a great deal of speculation in play, but what else can you do when your only source is a fuzzy photograph?


Blogger custom trains said...

Thanks for filling us in on the stories of East Broad Top equipment such as caboose #4. I consider myself very lucky that on a trip to Pennsylvania this summer, I was able to see 2-8-2 #15 in operation during a Civil War Reenactment. You truly have a great model railroad focused on a great subject, The East Broad Top

November 18, 2010 at 5:35 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I really like what you did with this caboose. The prototype that the original model was based on ranks with my favorite cabeese period. I plan to build one for my trains as I don't have a 1:20 caboose yet and can't afford to buy one outright. ;)

January 9, 2011 at 7:06 PM  

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