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Blackstone Models D&RGW Class 5 Long Caboose Review

D&RGW Class 5 Long Caboose

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DRGW 0540 caboose

The distinctive D&RGW long caboose is faithfully reproduced in HO scale by Blackstone Models.

©2010 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

No train would be complete without a caboose and like the rest of the railroad, the Rio Grande's narrow gauge cabooses had character. The "Class 5" long caboose offered office and boarding space for the crew in addition to a vantage point of the train ahead.

The Blackstone Models' car represents a series of five rebuilt cabooses and captures the unique details of each.

Product Overview

Manufacturer: Blackstone Models

Scale: HOn3 (HO scale, 3 foot narrow gauge)
Roadnames - Second Release Dec. 2008: Denver and Rio Grande Western (5 numbers - two versions each), painted / unlettered
MSRP: $79.95 - 83.95 (weathered)

With only five prototypes, Blackstone took the extraordinary step of modeling each as it appeared in two eras. Not only can you get an exact model of each particular caboose, but you can get it to fit the era you model! Features common to all models include:

  • Die-cast metal and plastic construction
  • Seperately applied wire detail parts
  • Detailed brake rigging
  • Kadee couplers
  • Each model custom made to match its prototype and era.
  • Additional details provided for modelers to add if desired.
  • Historic profile of the cars
  • Completely Ready to Run

Prototype History

0540 cupola end

The cupola end of the car features many details including the end platform.

©2010 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Among the unique equipment on the Denver and Rio Grande's narrow gauge operation was a set of five cabooses. These cars were rebuilt from earlier short cabooses over a span of eleven years. The first car, No. 503 was rebuilt at Alamosa in 1912.

The other four cars were built between 1920 and 1923. As you might imagine, construction details between the cars varied widely over this timespan. No. 503 was the most different of the group, with its underframe arrangement reversed from the other four. Other differences included ladder and grabirons, window mouldings and awnings.

All five of the cars survived until the end of narrow gauge operations and all remain in preservation today. Three of the cars are still in operating condition and run regularly on preserved sections of the old Rio Grande.

- Historic data from Jeff Johnson's excelent data sheet included with the models.

Model Details

Like all of the previous Blackstone Models' releases, the level of detail found on the long caboose is amazing. Wire grabirons, complete brake system details on the underframe, fine tooling, crisp paint and lettering...these cars have everything the modeler could ask.

Then Blackstone takes it a step further and offers a commitment to detail no other manufacturer can match. It is this attention to the little things that allows Blackstone to cater to the discriminating niche market of narrow-gauge enthusiasts. With only five prototypes, each of which has its own subtle nuances, most manufacturers would shy away from this model. At best, they would pick one and then make all five numbers allowing them to stand as "close enough."

Blackstone has not only included options to model these differences, like different end ladders, but even created multiple versions of each car to portray their changes over time. Car 0503 even has the correct reversed-underframe arrangement found on the prototype. Commitment like that deserves special recognition.

Additional details like window awnings and marker lights are included for the modeler to add as he sees fit.

Customizing the Model


The underframe details of the D&RGW caboose are similar to those found on other Blackstone Models' freight cars. The underframe arrangement of car No. 0503 was reversed from the other cars...and so it is on the models.

©2010 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

How do you improve on a model that is already this accurate? Honestly, there is not much that anybody would have to do, but for those who so desire there are a few more changes you could make.

Blackstone has included metal wipers on the trucks for modelers who want to add working interior or marker lights. Lighting the car would be a nice addition.

The interior of the car is not highly visible, but an interior could be added if desired. Those details that can be seen, like the seats in the cupola, are already there. The addition of a crew member in the cupola or end platform would be an interesting addition.

Factory weathered and "clean" versions are both available for each of the 10 models offered. Cabooses tended to receive more regular maintenance than freight cars and as such extreme weathering is not required. A little road dust would not be out of place however and could be easily added.

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