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RMI Railworks Caboose Page
Narrow Gauge Cabooses in 2.5" and 3.75" Gauge
Early Caboose History
At first, railroads assigned a caboose to a conductor for his exclusive use. Conductors often decorated their cars' interiors with curtains and personal photos. They often stocked a pantry for cooking meals, so the caboose became their home away from home. But as trains moved faster and urbanization spread, cabooses were assigned to operating districts and began to take on the more utilitarian role of just bringing up the rear of the train.
For most of the 19th century and the first few years of the 20th, most cabooses carried a conductor, brakeman, and flagman. Before the era of automatic air brakes, the engineer signaled by whistle when he needed to slow down or stop. The rear end brakeman's job was to climb over the moving train and make his way forward, turning brake wheels that rose above the car roofs. The head-end brakeman, riding the engine, would work his way rearward. When the train stopped, the flagman detrained from the caboose and walked back a prescribed distance to signal approaching trains that a stopped train was ahead. Once underway again, the caboose (or "rear end") crew would sit up in the cupola and watch for smoke from overheated wheel journals (called hotboxes) or other signs of trouble.
Cabooses were one of the last car types to change from mostly wood construction to all-steel construction. It was hard to justify replacing a perfectly good wood-bodied caboose with a safer steel body if it wasn't earning money for the company. Nevertheless, safety concerns and legislation had most wood cars replaced by steel by the 1960s. A few railroads, including some of the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe predecessors, used plywood-sheathed cabooses up through the 1970s.
RMI offers the only complete line of 2.5" and 3.75" scale cabooses which range in size from a diminutive 4-wheel to an all steel mainline model with over 2,000 individually set rivets. Each unit has detail items such as hinged operating doors, ladders, handrails, brake wheels, stove chimney, even keyholes in the doors! All are precisely crafted from laser- etched and cut steel sheet. Particularly note the fine detail and fit of the vestibules and steps. A high-back riding seat (located under a removable roof section) and optional custom lettering are also available.
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