Until 1920, the Pennsylvania Railroad was divided into Lines West and Lines East, with Pittsburgh as the dividing point. To a large extent, the two operating regions went their separate ways when it came to equipment design, with cabooses being a case in point. In 1914, as Lines East was starting to build the all-steel N5 cabin cars (the Pennsy’s name for a caboose), the frugal Lines West commenced a rebuilding program to convert its wooden, four-wheeled cabin car fleet into eight-wheeled, wood-bodied cabooses with steel underframes. The stimulus for the rebuilding was a 1913 Ohio law that mandated steel underframes on cabooses used in pusher service — after a number of older cabin cars had been smashed to bits by the more powerful pushers that were then coming into service.
The rebuilt cabooses came in two classes. The N6a “Fort Wayne” type had what later would be called a wide-vision cupola, extending more than the full width of the car. But because tunnel clearances on the Panhandle Division between Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio were too tight for the N6a, the N6b was designed with a narrower cupola with inward-sloping sides and an arched roof. In later years, crews would nickname the N6b the “Mae West,” in honor of the voluptuous, narrow-waisted actress.
The practice of rebuilding older cars into N6b’s was subject to variation. Some cars were created by lengthening one end of a four-wheeled caboose, resulting in an off-center cupola, while other rebuilds lengthened both ends of the older car, creating a centered cupola like our Premier model. In addition, about 200 N6b’s were built entirely new.
Despite the fact that the Mae West was created for one division, it became the most numerous cabin car on the Pennsylvania system, with nearly 1,200 cars built or rebuilt by 1923 — the largest class of cabooses on any American railroad. After Lines West and Lines East were combined, many N6b’s drifted east, where their narrower clearances were a major attribute. In fact, the wider N6a’s were largely scrapped or converted to N6b dimensions by the 1940s, whereas the N6b’s soldiered on in Pennsy service into the early 1960s.
Our Pennsylvania versions of the N6b accurately recreate the dimensions of the Mae West and all of its characteristic details. Premier N6b’s in other road names feature a flat-top cupola, creating a model typical of the thousands of wood-bodied, steel underframe cabooses seen across the country during the steam and early diesel eras.
MTH Premier O Scale freight cars are the perfect complement to any manufacturer’s scale proportioned O Gauge locomotives. Whether you prefer to purchase cars separately or assemble a unit train, MTH Premier Rolling Stock has the cars for you in a variety of car types and paint schemes.
Virtually every sturdy car is offered in two car numbers which makes it even easier than ever to combine them into a mult-car consist. Many of MTH’s Premier Rolling Stock offerings can also operate on the tightest O Gauge curves giving them even more added versatitlity to your layout.