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

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

A Streamlined Caboose?

One cannot say that Myron P. Davis was not a man of vision. Seemingly single handedly he produced a line of locomotives and other unusual and mostly large OO models in the 1950s. An overview of his products may be found here. 

Then we get to the streamlined caboose, seen here as it looks today. At least that is what we’ve been calling it for years; what Davis called it is not clear to me, it is not in the 1954 pricelist that I’ve seen. This model has much of the feel of being the product of a dream, and this specific example, once part of the George Miller collection, was I believe built by Myron P. Davis himself. I think his idea was to make a hybrid car that is like a very short streamline passenger car, but is actually a caboose or maybe an inspection car (or even a very deluxe drover’s caboose). The bronze cupola casting is styled like the dome on a dome passenger car, but about half as long. The body itself has very nearly the same profile as a Zuhr streamliner. It is a large model, close to twice as large as a Lionel or Scale-Craft caboose.

In a prior article (here) I relayed that I have the essential parts (cupola, steps, body, ends) for three more of these cars, apparently the ones that he did not sell, along with a steel tool used to bend the body, and more. Based on the foundry receipt received with the parts, 18 of these models were produced in 1955. How many other parts or models are out there today, I have no idea. This is a very rare model.

The car itself is soldered together and all brass and bronze. Based on the size of the parts almost certainly he used a torch, and this was not an easy car to get to where it is now. I don’t know if he used several grades of solder, but that would be a good idea, working from harder to softer solder as the model is completed. The idea is to use the higher temperature solder on the first parts put on and lower temperature solder on the later joints, so that the initial connections won’t fall apart. The only screws are the ones holding the trucks on. I think it would have been a good idea to make it so the model comes apart somehow, at least the floor separate from the body.

He also must have had a press with steel tools to stamp out the body, or have had a metal shop punch out the parts. I puzzle about that body, I’m not sure how he was thinking the interior would work. Looking at prototype dome cars, maybe it is possible to have seats and windows directly below the dome, there is more room inside than would be found in a standard caboose.

And then we get to the steps … neat in a way, artistic even, but would you actually want to use them to enter anything? Are they safe? But they are a very essential part of the look of the car, and with the parts I have the actual master patterns, cut from hardwood, and a set of four extra of these bronze step castings.

Some details are a bit rough in his work, the dome being slightly tipped to one end. It rides on Nason passenger car trucks and has never had couplers. I have with the car drawings (“instructions”) from Davis that clarify his plans for the model as to how the parts go together.

Looking at the completed car I’m feeling more inspired to try my hand at building one. By far the most difficult task will be cleaning up the dome/cupola, opening up the windows. I’ve done a lot of torch soldering though, so that part of it I’m kind of looking forward to. It would make an interesting winter project.

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