Centralia Car Shops “NE-5” Caboose

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A parcel came in the mail from Tim at Action Hobbies in Kingsville last week.  One of the items he got for me was this Penn Central NE-5 caboose by Centralia Car Shops.  I promised to write more about it in a previous post, so here are my thoughts on the model.

I’ve had my eye on this model for a while because I want to put together a small fleet of Penn Central cabooses.  From what I can gather, the model has been on the market for about five years.  While this was a relatively new find for me, it’s old news to the rest of the model train world.  I had never seen it first-hand, and an admittedly lazy search for reviews turned up next to nothing, so I decided to take a chance and tack it onto an order that I was putting together with Tim.

I was accustomed to accepting compromises with mass produced plastic models but that’s been changing of late.  Kadee and Atlas seem to be on the vanguard when it comes to bringing ultra-accurate ready-to-run scale replicas of rolling stock to market.  With those brands as the benchmark, I’m inclined to expect a lot at this price point.

Without proclaiming myself to be any kind of expert on the prototype, I’ll try to provide a balanced and fair run down of the model’s features.  Overall, there’s plenty to like.  I think the model captures the vibe of the former New Haven cars operated by Penn Central.  I especially like the finely detailed ribs that the earlier versions of this car had.  Etched roof walks can be considered a standard detail by now; check that off the list. The major components that make up the detail on the ends of the car are well represented and properly placed, and the brake rigging provides a sufficient amount of busyness to convincingly depict the broad strokes of what should be going on underneath the car.  Lastly, I like the fact that the car has an interior, and that the windows are not perfectly clear.  There’s not enough light going into the car to reveal more than the ghostly suggestion of the car’s interior, and I’m fine with that.

My complaints about the car are few, but significant enough that I will eventually want to do some work to the car. First, the effect of the railing around edge of the cupola roof is entirely defeated by the out-of-scale and inaccurate eye-hooks that hold it in place.  I’ll remove those and replace them with bits of wire to represent the welded posts on the prototype.  The end windows on the cupola and at the ends of the carbody are too small.  I’ll remove the glazing and open those up once I gather enough photos of the prototype to make an informed guess of their proper proportions.  The model doesn’t weigh enough, so while I have it apart to reshape the window openings, I’ll add some weight and paint the interior to add some colour variety.  I’d also like to replace the ladders.  The rails don’t accurately depict the L-shaped stock from which the prototype ladders were fabricated.

For what it’s worth, the CP wide vision van by Rapido strikes me as a home-run, a five-star accomplishment, and in comparison, this model would rate four stars.  Rapido’s model is also 25-30% more expensive, but I’m not sure what to make of that.  Centralia Car Shops certainly wouldn’t have incurred additional production costs to get the windows correct, so I can only conclude that it was a research oversight.  The issues with the end ladders and the cupola roof railings point to production streamlining, and it could be argued that they’re appropriate given the model’s the price point.

There are a number of great photos of the prototype on the internet.  Here’s one that I like.   That about sums it up.

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