by: Frederick Boucher [ ]
Originally published on:
HO RTR 30' 3-Window Caboose, SP #288
Series: Golden Age
The CabooseThe little red caboose behind the train. So ends the chorus of a popular children’s song celebrating the caboose. Cabeese (as many use for the plural of caboose) were favorites of popular culture. To this day many railfans rue their departure from trains in the U.S.
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 brakeman up on the roofs scattered the length of the train. THEY were in effect the person in the cupola.
I am finding that there seem to be two basic standard designs (with lots of variation in each). There is what I call the three-window standard, basically the MDC model, or the Athearn ATSF steel caboose model - a longer body with the cupola maybe 2/3rds or 3/4's down the end, and a shorter two-window one, basically the Northeastern caboose design. This so-called two-window design can have two sets of paired windows, even four windows, but generally symmetrical around a centered cupola. (In the case of the D&H, they had this type, but often had the cupola at the end.)
There are many designs outside this pair, including a lot of temporary box car rebuilds around WWII with all sorts of strange rebuilds.
Sometimes a side door was seen. I believe this was so the caboose could carry a bit of LCL freight, like a poor man's baggage car. In rare cases, the door was not full height, but like the upper half of a dutch door. I guess this would allow packages to be handed back and forth. 
Roundhouse 30' 3-Window CabooseRensselaer Railroad Heritage Website describes the Roundhouse model as:
Three Window Standard Caboose - I think this is based on a Coahuila & Pacific caboose. shown in the 1906 Cyc., down to the toolbox underneath.
What about the SP prototype? I quote modeling the SP :
The big picture is that the Class C-30-1 cabooses, far and away the largest class of cabooses ever on the SP, amounted to around 620 total cars, about 470 of them for Pacific Lines. Prior and subsequent wood caboose classes were considerably smaller. Car numbers: the Pacific Lines Class C-30-1 cars built during 1917-1924 were placed in the number series 586-899. Thereafter, lower numbers in the roster which had become vacant were applied to new C-30-1 cars, car numbers as low as the single digits. In all, there were 155 out of the 470 cars in this class which received re-used car numbers smaller than 586. 
Roundhouse produces 55 models of the 30' 3-Window Caboose with 17 roadnames:
I. Canadian National
II. Chesapeake & Ohio
III. Chicago & Eastern Illinois
IV. Chicago & NorthWestern
V. Chicago, Burlington & Quincy
VI. Denver & Rio Grande Western
VII. Elgin, Joliet & Eastern
VIII. Grand Trunk
IX. Great Northern
X. New York Central
XI. Northern Pacific
XIII. Rock Island
XIV. Santa Fe
XV. Southern Pacific
XVI. Union Pacific
XVII. Western Pacific
Roundhouse Southern Pacific C-30-1, No. 288 The model is packed in a form-fitted cradle with a fitted clear lid. Roundhouse models are packaged in an olive box that displays the model through a cellophane window.
Roundhouse engineered this model with a floor/underframe upon which is secured a metal weight. Underneath are secured the couplers in pockets, and the trucks. Upon the frame is attached an open single-piece body which is capped with a separate roof; the windows are molded open but the doors are not. The cupola snaps into an opening molded for it. Separate roofwalks and a smoke jack are applied to the roof. Each end has separately applied ladders, brake wheels and shafts, and railings.
The prototype design is a double sheathed body with narrow decks on each end. Each end has a brake wheel. An early air brake system is mounted, as is a tool box. This design Roundhouse used to advertise as an “Old Timer”.
Molding is mostly sharp. There are neither sink holes nor flash. The only ejection marks are out of sight unless you suffer a derailment and the caboose flips over. I did find some glue spots on some of the cupola glazing. The copula has some flash around the roof.
Unfortunately, the metal wheels are shiny. Nor do they feature the proper ribbed backside. They do ride in nicely molded plastic arch bar trucks and roll well. The caboose also lacks marker lamps – rather prominent accessories.
On the Inspection Track: DetailsRoundhouse has reworked the original molds and removed all molded detail. The grab irons are all separately applied wire.
Regrettably Roundhouse did not add marker lamps or air hoses. It is a simple task to drill out holes to mount aftermarket lamps and air hoses.
My inspection finds the model to be in conformance with NMRA Standards and Recommended Practices, with RP-25 wheels and couplers at acceptable height. It weighs 2.7 ounces which is light compared to RP-2O.1 Car Weight.
The model is not a scale 30’ long, rather it's 35’ between end platforms, and 40’6” from coupler to coupler. Roundhouse also makes a with 30’6” long caboose without end platforms.
• Fully assembled and ready for your layout
• Metal truss rods (as appropriate)
• Clear window glazing
• Painted steps (as appropriate)
• Razor sharp printing and painting
• Machined RP25 profile 33" metal wheels
• McHenry scale knuckle spring couplers installed
LiveryDecorated for Southern Pacific the model features crisp, sharp opaque lettering on smooth paint. The roof should be black, as it was covered in canvas and tarred; when repainted in the late 1940’s the roofs were painted the same color as the body. Also in the late ‘40’s SP ordered the grab irons and railings painted gloss white.
ConclusionsYears ago I built a few of these cabeese as kits for my steam-era layout. They are inexpensive and easy to build but had molded details. Roundhouse has done a great job of reworking the models with metal truss rods, metal wheels, and separate wire grabs irons. The paint and printing is second to none. The separately applied detail parts are impressive.
Yes, though these are generic models they do afford us the opportunity to model the era of the Industrial Revolution through the Golden Era, and beyond, with a good RTR decorated model. They offer the opportunity to kitbash and detail to more closely model a specific engine. The price is good. I do recommend this model.
Roundhouse & AthearnRoundhouse (including their former Model Die Casting model series) and Athearn are now under one management. You might see "Athearn" as the brand name when they mean Roundhouse and/or "MDC", or vice versa, so also check Athearn. These cabooses – “cabeese” -- now being produced are a generational step above what they were before. 
Please tell vendors and manufacturers that you saw this model here – on Railroad Modeling!
 NEB&W Guide to Cabooses - Overview. " NEB&W Guide to Model Die Casting Misc. Rolling Stock Models." John Nehrich. Rensselaer Railroad Heritage Website. 2010-03-12. http://railroad.union.rpi.edu/article.php?article=6068&q=caboose.
 Three Window Standard Caboose. " NEB&W Guide to Model Die Casting Misc. Rolling Stock Models." John Nehrich. Rensselaer Railroad Heritage Website. 2010-02-26. http://railroad.union.rpi.edu/article.php?article=4204&q=caboose.
 Modeling details, SP cabooses, 1953. modeling the SP. Tony Thompson . May 1, 2011. Modeling the SP Blogspot. http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/05/modeling-details-sp-cabooses-1953.html