It always starts out innocent enough… I see a picture and say, “Gee, that’s nice…” but after looking more closely, I invariably see something or read something in the caption that just doesn’t seem right. Take the above photo for example. This is a really nice J.J. Young photo of a Wheeling & Lake Erie loco “back home” on the wye at Warrenton. According to the notes on the back, the loco is headed back to Pine Valley (Dillonvale) after delivering some iron ore to Mingo Junction. Innocent enough, right?
But wait! What’s with that caboose that she is pulling? Hmmm… something doesn’t look right here and so the trouble begins. Let’s see if the scanner can give me a little bigger, better look at this unusual caboose.
There are a few things that jump out at me right away; first, the caboose has three evenly spaced windows. That is uncharacteristic for any W&LE cabooses that I’m familar with. Second, the caboose is wood. While the Wheeling had a lot of wooden cabooses, especially in the age of steam, this one had an unusual shape to it. Additionally, the steps aren’t like normal caboose steps; this led me to believe that this might have been a home-made job OR was from another road. Finally, the low cupola is unusual for the Wheeling. I’ve seen New York Central cabooses with this type of low cupola but nothing on the Wheeling.
So now what? Well, I do what I always do… I consult with my friend Ray who seems to have a handle on all kinds of unusual stuff. Sure enough, Ray didn’t disappoint and a few days later, I received an email with several pictures AND a caboose drawing! But now I’m really in trouble as my model building juices start to flow; I need one of these!
Click image to enlarge.
According to the drawing in the W&LE Diagram Book, there were 18 of these built early during WWII as “War Emergency” cabooses. While this drawing suggests that there was a “plan” for them, in reality, they varied some from car to car.
Here, #0703 is shown without a cupola.
This one looks a lot like the one in the photo with the locomotive.
I’m not sure about this one but #951 appears to be from the same group of cars but it’s without a cupola and has a bay window instead. So there is some variety from car to car. So… how am I going to get one of these??!? Stay tuned!