by: Sean Hadfield [ ]
30-Foot 3-Window Wood Caboose
Scale : HO
Items : RND84381 (AT&SF), RND84390 (S.P.)
IntroductionRoundhouse Trains has produced the popular 30-foot 3-window wood caboose, ready to run, in HO scale at a reasonable $24.98 suggested retail price. Being a very common style, Roundhouse has marked them for 17 different roadnames for a total of 55 different numbers!
This review covers both AT&SF waycar #1430 and Southern Pacific caboose #783, in identical shades of boxcar red overall with white lettering.
Construction QualityThe lettering and stenciling is crisp. This is a neat, tidy car with wood planking texture but without many fine details, such as cable stays on the stovepipe, air hoses, or more than a hint at brake detail underneath. On both models, the end ladders stand loosely unattached at the roof, and the roof curls slightly to reveal a gap at each end. There seems to be a slight problem with the kit engineering that keeps the roof ends from settling down that last little bit. The wheels are very shiny, leaving the modeler to blacken or otherwise weather them later.
The body-mounted handgrabs are fine, but the end grabs and brake wheels are noticeably thick. This could possibly be an effort to make these models more rugged for younger railroaders.
HistoricalHistorical ATSF:Comparing prototype photos found on the internet, I learned that #1430 is a correct number for an Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe 30' wood waycar. I believe the 3-window type was numbered in the 1300's though. Photos of existing #1421 in Perris, CA and #1434 in Kingman, AZ show them to have 4 windows along each side, ladder grabs that extend above the roof (how else could you climb up and down?), window visors on the cupola, and distinct truss rods and a heavy wood underframe.
Historical SP:Some quick internet research of Southern Pacific cabooses show that 783 would have been a class C-30-1, built between 1917 and 1928 and numbered 586 to 899. This corresponds to the stenciling on the model "C-30-1 blt 10-27". While photos show the cupola narrower and slanted, I understand that many were modernized with a wider cupola as this model portrays. Unfortunately all SP cabooses of that class also seem to have had 4 windows per side, trusses on the cupola, window visors, ladder grabs above the roof, and commonly a large toolbox mounted underneath. If someone wants a more historically accurate model of an SP C-30-1 caboose, there are surprisingly three other choices! Walthers makes one (ID #932-7612) with the identical road number, but with the original narrow, slanted cupola and more intricate detail at an MSRP of $39.99. American Model Builders makes a laser-cut wood kit (ID #853) of SP #876 as built, without trucks or couplers, for an MSRP of $46.95. AMB also makes a kit (ID #876) of modernized SP #196 with options including either cupola, but without trucks or couplers, at an MSRP of $49.95.
OperationI'm an operating guy, and I was happy to see that these cars both check perfectly on an NMRA gauge for coupler height, wheel spacing, and flange height. They're hefty weight-wise, with metal wheels and axles in plastic trucks, so they roll flawlessly and trail well. The couplers are plastic, but the springs are metal, and the trip pins are magnetic. The couplers are made by McHenry, which is another member of the Horizon Hobby family. They are secured in their boxes by a screw and easily changed out if a different coupler is desired.
SummaryDespite accuracy issues, Roundhouse has done a fine job of providing a universal 30' wood caboose, lettered for all the popular railroads, so few modelers will feel left out, and detailers can add detail as they see fit. Straight from the box, it looks nice and runs well, and the price isn't outrageous. All in all a good deal.
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