B&O K class bobber caboose

Ed Bommer models the B&O Staten Island line in O scale. He recently shared photos and notes on his O scale scratch-built B&O C-721, modeled as the prototype looked in 1950. Here’s Ed with the story.

I built this caboose model a long time ago, in March 1983. I was somewhat familiar with the prototypes as I would see them on Staten Island Rapid Transit freights as a boy and young teen. I even got to ride in one for a few miles.

Eight K-1 four-wheel cabooses came to Staten Island in 1890. Photos of New York Terminal assigned B&O K-1 cabooses have revealed C-587, C-648, C-721, C-733, C-845, C-1060 and C-1198. The eighth caboose has been camera shy so far. All the K-1 cars were scrapped in 1952 and replaced with five B&O I-1 class eight-wheel cabooses.

Four K-1 cabooses sit in St. George Yard in this mid-1920s image. By 1907, K-1 class cabooses were renumbered C-200 to C-1299. In 34 years of construction there were some variations, as seen here. Ed Bommer collection
B&O C-721 waits at Elm Park on Staten Island as a switching move is made for a local industry in 1950. Ed Bommer collection

I scratchbuilt the model using Northeastern wood and Walthers cast pedestal journals. I did not take any photos of it under construction, but I did make some notes. I do this for most of the models I’ve built. 

B&O car diagram for K-1 class cabooses, built from 1879 to 1913. Ed Bommer collection

My main references were some prototype photos found in books and this B&O equipment diagram for that class of caboose.

I modeled the frame as-built and installed full underbody brake piping and rigging. The brake shoe carriers are made with HO rail, which closely resembles the steel bars of the prototype. The end platform railings follow the B&O design used in the 1950’s, made with brass strip and rod. 

Underbody of the class K-1 caboose model, with framing, piping and brake linkage.

The corner steps are built up with styrene and brass strips. Grandt Line doors and window frames were added. The window glazing was lightly scribed with diagonal cuts both ways using a single-edge razor blade, to imitate the 1920’s and 30’s chicken wire safety glass B&O installed in them.

Interior of the O scale C-721.

The caboose also has a detailed interior as best I could recall. The inner faces of both doors have flares mounted in holders. There are three bunks – a bit unusual but that is what I recall. There wasn’t a table or seats for the conductor to work or crew to eat. Instead, the end of the bunk opposite the stove and sink had a small wooden desk over it. A lamp and conductor’s brake valve are on the sidewall by the locker.

With the Grandt Line stove is a coal scuttle with some coal in it and, an ash pail. A safety railing is around the stove and sheet metal heat shields behind and under it. A small sink with a water tank above is included. Two lanterns stand on the floor by the conductor’s desk; one clear and one red.

B&O C587 has lost its cupola in this 1945 image. It wears a 2-45 journal repack stencil in the crook of the right hand grab iron. Note the replacement steel underframe. Ed Bommer collection

My model follows a B&O K-1 caboose of the New York Terminal operation as it appeared in the late 1940’s. Many of these cabooses had their cupolas removed. The cupolas were victims of time and rot, and there was no need for them on a terminal operation.

This isn’t my first B&O K class caboose model. I rebuilt an old Train Craft four-wheel caboose kit I got when I was 14. I bought it with my hard-earned allowance money. The kit cost a hefty $5.15, with New York City sales tax. My father thought I spent my money foolishly. It’s now 68 years later and I still have it!

In rebuilding it for the third time a few years ago, I found a set of original Train Craft B&O caboose steps on EBay, from a closed hobby shop in Hungry Horse, Montana. I matched it to another B&O K-1 on Staten Island as it looked in 1940 or so. It still had its cupola and had been fitted with a replacement steel underframe.

B&O C587 a few years earlier than the previous image, with cupola, at St. George Yard on Staten Island, in service for B&O’s New York Terminal operations. Ed Bommer collection

I finished this model as the prototype appears in the period photo above. The caboose wears the B&O’s pre WW2 paint scheme with a browner shade of paint. I wrote an account on that model for the O Scale Kings website. However, I did not model a detailed interior or underbody for this car.

A rebuilt Train Craft kit from 1954, finished to model B&O C-587 as it looked in 1940.

I hope my models, photos and notes have been helpful. – Ed Bommer 

Wow! I thank Ed Bommer for sharing his impressive work and notes. I will need a few of these K-1 class cabooses as my next layout project develops. Did anyone else notice the note for 900 cars in the freight car diagram? That’s a lot of cabooses!

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3 thoughts on “B&O K class bobber caboose”

  1. Great article and model. I appreciate any information I can get on the B&O as I also model it in O scale. Well done!

  2. Eric
    In HO scale I have used the Bachmann bobber as a core, as it is dimensionally close. The cupola should have radial carlines, but life is like that.

    Ohio passed a law in 1913 rather outlawing Bobber cabooses that was to be enforced after 1920, that directly led to the mass building of the I-1 cabooses (cabooses needed to have 8 wheels and be 24’ long). BUT, I wonder if the law, which is still on the books was fully unforceable under Federal/ICC law. Clearly K-1’s ran on Staten Island and in Chicago in the 50’s.

    John Okuley

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