Athearn expands the standard of N scale with this 1/160 bay window caboose. Not only does it boast knuckle couplers and sharp molding, it also has a very detailed underframe with brake gear, seats in the bays, near-to-scale railings, separately applied grabs rails, and optional photo-etched screens for the windows.
Bay Window Caboose
Railroads started using the caboose one hundred and fifty years ago. In ‘dark territory’ without Central Traffic Control and on some switching runs a caboose can still be found. According to the authoritative Rensselaer Railroad Heritage Website
The use of a cupola, which is the first spotting feature of a caboose , dates back to just after the Civil War, although even by 1906, they were enough of a novelty that the '06 Cyc. pointed out their presence, calling them "lookouts".
Supposedly the first caboose was an old box car with a hole in the roof. The conductor availed himself of this to hoist himself up and look over the train. During most of the 19th century, most caboose s did not have "lookouts" as the cupola was termed back then. This makes a certain amount of sense, as trains of only a dozen cars were the norm, so it wasn't hard to see the entire train from just the caboose platform.
There was another factor. Air brakes were not ruled mandatory until 1900, which meant that there were brakemen up on the roofs scattered the length of the train. THEY were in effect the person in the cupola. 
As trains became longer it became challenging for brakemen in the cupola to keep an eye on the train. The first bay window caboose is attributed to the late great Louisville & Nashville Railroad
, which despite some tight clearances in coal country, had room to extend a bay from the sides of the caboose. Bay window ‘crummies’ were not practical on many railroads due to close quarters, although western railroads in the US had lots of terrirory with generous loading gauge to run them through.
Athearn N Burlington Northern Bay Window CabooseBurlington Northern
was the merging of the James Hill railroads in the 1960s, mainly the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy
, the Great northern
, and the Northern Pacific
. BN later gobbled up some other railroads, such as the storied Frisco
(Saint Louis and San Francisco) in 1980; SLSF’s red and white bay window ‘chariots’ became BN’s.
The model is sandwiched within a form-fitted cradle held inside a clear hard plastic box. This both protects and displays the model. Athearn N currently lists 78 models of the bay window caboose in 16 roadnames; each roadname has more than one road number, and some have multiple color schemes. These schemes reflect different eras and some special livery, such Railroad Police cars, and an American Bicentennial model. The railroads represented are:
-Chicago & NorthWestern
- Milwaukee Road
-St. Louis Southwestern-Cotton Belt
- Western Pacific
• Fully assembled and ready for your layout
• Now packaged in a stackable jewel case
• New truck tooling including axle-mounted generator
• Fully detailed underbody
• Prototypical details like antenna, marker lights, smoke jack and vent
• Separately applied wire grab irons
• End walkway tread
• Clear window glazing
• McHenry scale knuckle spring couplers installed
Based on an International Car Company design, the molding is sharp. There are no sink holes, ejection marks or flash. I did not find any glue spots, either. However, under magnification, I found several burrs and paint bulges on the very fine end railings.
Athearn N engineered this model with weighs on the floor underframe. Upon the frame is attached an open single-piece body; the windows have clear styrene glazing. Atop the roof is a smoke jack with bracing rods. Detailed scale ladders and railings are attached to each end platform with brake stands with brake wheels.
For N scale the truck sideframes are nicely detailed. The plastic wheel sets are molded in a dirty brown color. McHenry scale knuckle couplers are installed.
On the Inspection Track: Details
All side grab irons are all separately applied wire. Regrettably Athearn N did not add marker lamps.
The underside of the caboose is impressively detailed with an air brake system associate apparatus. It looks so good that you may want
an occasional derailment to show it off!
Cabeese have always been a target for vandals and Burlington Northern territory found their ‘hacks’ rolling through some uncivilized neighborhoods. Hooligans pelted cabeese with debris and crews were injured by breaking glass, so BN added metal screens to protect the windows. Athearn N includes photo-etched screens for you to apply if you wish! An instructional insert describes how to attach them.
Molded seats are visible in each bay. The insert also describes how to remove the body from the frame if you want to add lighting, crew members, or extra interior detail to the caboose. This information has been neglected by some manufacturers for too long and I greatly appreciate Athearn’s customer consideration. It instructs us to loosen the finely molded combination end rails, ladder, brake stand and brake wheel. Athearn states the part is attached by ‘removable glue’ to the part of the frame that holds the coupler box, while warning the top of the piece is permanently attached to the underside of the roof. Despite my best attempt to gingerly detach the part, I did snap one of the wire-thin hand hold rails. One end parted from the frame, as directed, while the other end remained firmly attached to the frame and cleanly separated from the underside of the roof! All’s well that ends well, and the body easily wiggled off the frame. Inside are not only the two seats of in the bays, several other seats as well! These are all set upon a stack of weights. The body re-seats upon the frame with no trouble and those end pieces firmly mate back to their starting points. Nice!
Paint & Markings
This model is decorated in Burlington Northern
livery of Cascade Green with yellow ends and the roadname in white. The printing is crisp and sharp with opaque lettering on smooth paint. The paint does not obscure any detail. Dimensional data and other stenciling are simulated and not legible even under magnification.
OK, I am very impressed with this model. The underside detail is exceptional, as is all the visible molded detail. The end railings and grabs may not be precisely to 1/160 but with ‘the three foot rule’ they look great to me. The paint and printing is second to none. The separately applied detail parts are impressive. The photo-etched screens and the instructional insert are great additions.
I certainly recommend this model.
Please tell vendors and manufacturers that you saw this model here – on Railroad Modeling
 NEB&W Guide to Cabooses - Overview. John Nehrich. Rensselaer Railroad Heritage Website. 2010-03-12. http://railroad.union.rpi.edu/article.php?article=6068&q=caboose.
Bay window caboose. Caboose. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caboose. 5 October 2011.