Ann Arbor Steel Cabooses – Notes by Craig Wilson
Wright Track resin kit. Might not be available direct from Wright Track anymore but lots of them are on the secondary market. They build into nice models but can be more involved than a normal kit which may account for why there are probably a lot more unbuilt kits out there than finished ones. Wright Track made two versions of the kit: one for the "streamlined cupola" version like the AA had, the other with a more conventional rectangular cupola built only for the Wabash.
Hallmark brass. A credible model of one group of Wabash cabooses but not a perfect match for AA. The end doors have rectangular windows (Wabash practice) instead of the smaller windows with rounded corners (AA). Biggest difference is the roof. This group of Wabash cabooses had all rectangular panels.
Overland brass. Best model since measurements were taken off an actual AA caboose. Most noticeable difference is the roof. The panel where the smoke jack is located is a rectangular panel and all others are diagonal panels - correct for this group of cabooses built for both the AA and Wabash. Overland made both the Wabash and AA versions (end door windows see above). OMI also did the DT&I (ex-AA) version where one side window was plated over.
Kit-bash. Back in the dark ages many many moons ago, I kitbashed some AA cabooses by starting with an Athearn caboose body and blanking out side windows. Then a boxcar roof was cut and spliced to replace the caboose roof. A Tyco streamlined cupola caboose donated the cupola. Just dropping it onto the body results in a squat looking cupola that sits noticeably too low. I raised it with some styrene strips. The result is something that captures the general look of the these cabooses but can't really hold a candle to the other choices above. But at the time I could buy all the parts needed to kitbash several of these for what it cost to get one of the Hallmark brass ones.
Custom painting adds to the expense (depending on which paint scheme you are looking for). The Michigan Interstate "Ann
Arbor Railroad System" scheme requires no masking - just shoot the whole thing orange. The Wabash-style pennant herald
scheme is easier - red body, ends and cupola but the roof has to be masked off and painted galvanized "silver." For the
"as-built" scheme the end platforms and steps should be painted the brownish-shade tuscan red which was standard Wabash
practice at the time when they were built.
The most familiar DT&I-style compass herald scheme is the most involved. In addition to the red body/cupola and galvanized roof, the ends have to be painted yellow. On some AA cabooses the corner posts were painted yellow like the ends, on others they were painted red like the body.