The online magazine on the history and operation of vintage scale model trains in American OO gauge

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Who Produced the First OO Caboose?

Back a couple articles ago I noted that the Nason caboose, while it looks early and is from an early manufacturer, is actually not the first caboose produced in OO as it was introduced in 1939. The early-looking Graceline caboose also dates to 1939.

The earliest caboose model any of us are likely to own is actually the die cast Scale-Craft caboose. This is one of the most common, least expensive items today as this was available from late 1937 until well into the 1950s and over that run was changed very little, the only real change being different batches of wheelsets and truck bolsters. It, like the very similar Lionel caboose, is a model of the PRR N5 caboose; some good prototype info may be found here. Of the two, compared to prototype photos, the Lionel model looks more accurate, especially in respect to the size of the windows. In the photo here a S-C caboose is on the left and a Lionel caboose on the right.

Both of these models have been tweaked a bit and have racked up plenty of miles on my layout. In deference to that both have upgrade wheelsets, the S-C car having Ultimate and the Lionel car having wheelsets that used to be sold by English’s (Bowser). The S-C car is one of my first OO cars and was decorated for the Orient in the late 1970s! The Lionel car was worked up from a junker car a few years ago.

But this was not actually the first OO caboose model produced. The earliest was almost certainly the model produced by Oscar Andresen and marketed through his firm Rockhaven Models. This photo is of one that was in the collection of the late Edward Morlok. Note that it is etched brass and really quite amazing for its time, being manufactured probably around 1935-6.

But certainly very few of these were produced (this particular model is the only example I know to exist) and as I posed in the recent article on Nason cabooses, American OO was truly a scale for craftsmen until the game changing products introduced by Scale-Craft in 1937 and Lionel in 1938.

The new 1937 Scale-Craft OO line was the key game changer with not only the die cast locomotive and cars sold as sets but also their line of sectional track. This all certainly caught the attention of Lionel and spurred Nason into developing a range of new products, which we will be looking at more in future articles.

UPDATE: At least two of the Rockhaven caboose bodies exist still today, in a collection in the east. There may be more; certainly this is a rare and important model in our history to be on the lookout for.

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