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Pennsylvania Railroad N6b Wooden Caboose

The Walther's model is an accurate representation Pennsy's unique N6B cabin cars.

Product Review: Walther's "Platinum Line"
Pennsylvania Railroad N6b Wooden Caboose

by Gary Quale

In 1914, new laws were passed in some of the mid-western states served by the Pennsylvania Railroad that required safer cabooses. The railroad responded with the N6A and N6B designs for wood cabin cars (the Pennsy nomenclature for "caboose") using new steel under frames. These two classes were identical except in the design of the cupolas – the N6A had a wider cupola with vertical sides and a shallow arched roof, while the N6B cupola was narrower with sides that tapered in to a more steeply arched roof. While 50 N6A and 100 N6B were built new, most of the cars were made using the bodies of older 4-wheel cabin cars which were placed on the new under frames and lengthened to the 24’ 10 ½" of the N6A and B design. The addition was added to one end of the older cars, resulting in the off-center cupolas on most of the rebuilt cars.

While the Pennsy also introduced the innovative all-steel N5 cabin car in 1914, their need for cabin cars led to the construction of over 1100 of the N6A and N6B cars through 1923. In subsequent years, most of the N6A cars were rebuilt to the N6B design, apparently to provide better clearance in tunnels on the eastern parts of the railroad. By 1957, 867 N6B cabin cars were still on the PRR roster, while only one N6A car remained. The last of the long-lived N6B cars were scrapped in the early 1960’s, and none survived to carry Penn Central markings. Several N6B cabin cars were sold to other short lines in the area served by the Pennsy.

With a life span of about 40 years, these cars carried a variety of paint schemes. Walthers offers these cars in three different schemes, plus undecorated, and offers both single cars and two-packs in each scheme, all with different road numbers. Before 1956, these cars were painted freight car red with a small "Pennsylvania" in white high on the sides of the car, the number just below, with white lines above the name and below the number, and no keystone herald. Cars in this scheme were initially all freight car red, but by the 1950’s, began receiving black roofs, and some received black cupolas as well. Walthers offers the N6B in the early 1950 version with black roof.

Pennsylvania Railroad N6b Wooden CabooseThe paint specification for steel under frame wood cabin cars was revised in January 1956 to include a keystone herald with a black shadow line on the right and bottom edges, and the road name in large 13" letters placed on the car sides below the keystone. This "shadow keystone" scheme continued to call for the body to be freight car red with the roof and cupola in black. The large road name was a tight fit above the windows, and the shops painted many of the N6B cars with the name below the keystone, as was called for on the lettering diagram for the other classes of all steel cabin cars. Walthers offers these cars in both variations of the shadow keystone scheme.

The paint and lettering is crisp and neat on both samples that were reviewed. Both paint schemes had yellow handrails on the sides and ends of the cars, and these are nicely done on the Walthers models. The bottom portion of the outer ladder stiles and the opposite corner posts also served as handrails for crewmembers climbing the corner steps and so were also painted yellow, but this is omitted on the Walthers models.

The Walthers N6B unmistakably represents its prototype. All dimensions are very close to those on prototype drawings in the book "Cabin Cars of the Pennsylvania and Long Island Railroads". The car includes fine steel wire braces for the smoke jack and the corners of the cupola. The car comes with a one-piece interior representing the benches, desk and lockers under the cupola, and this insert has a separately attached pot bellied stove. The plastic window glazing has raised sections that bring the outer surface of the glass up around the window muntins for a more realistic appearance. However this compromises the optical quality of the glazing so that it is difficult to see the car interior. The under body detail includes the AB brake system cylinder, reservoir and triple valve, but none of the interconnecting piping or brake rigging.

Pennsylvania Railroad N6b Wooden CabooseThere are some detail variations that keep the model from being completely accurate. Walthers includes a raised window frame around the sides and top and below the sill of the side and end windows on the car. These were not present on the prototypes as the windows were cut into the side sheeting with no frame and only a simple sill below the windows. Walthers correctly represents the corner steps as being two zigzag steel strap supports with treads attached above and risers behind. However the model includes solid sides to the steps, where the prototype only had a "U" shaped steel strap that extended down to and under the outside edge of the bottom step tread, giving a much more open appearance to these steps. This is likely a concession to provide sufficient strength for these breakage prone parts. The car does not have the second lower safety chain on the right hand corner posts, and does not model the coupler cut levers.


Wm. K Walthers
5601 West Florist Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53218

Item #932-7641 No. 980105 - Pre 1956 plain "Pennsylvania" scheme.

Item #932-7642 No. 980122 - 1956 to 1961 shadow keystone with low "Pennsylvania" scheme.

HO Scale, MSRP $34.98

The models come equipped with plastic trucks with free rolling metal wheel sets with an NMRA RP-25 contour. The Walthers truck side frames correctly model the single coil spring used on these cars, although the spring modeled is noticeably smaller in diameter than the prototype. The car comes equipped with McHenry Kadee-compatible couplers and also includes substitute horn-hook couplers. The car weighs 2.4 oz., a little less than the NMRA recommended 3-¼ oz. for a car of this length. Walthers has produced another good looking, nicely detailed model of a specific railroad prototype caboose. It will be welcomed by Pennsy modelers, caboose collectors, and short line operators.


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