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Home > Rolling Stock > Caboose Detailing

Caboose Detailing

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With time for model work at a premium it can be satisfying to work on a small project that will be completed by the end of the evening. I took a look at a newly acquired Atlas model caboose and saw a few quick upgrades to take a good model make it look even better.

Pictured is the Atlas Extended Vision Caboose, this will be the basis of our discussion. The Chessie caboose is used as an example but this article will apply to any version of the Atlas Extended Vision Caboose model.

Tools Needed

Xuron™ #440
High Precision Scissor (Photo-Etch Scissor)

Testors™ (by Xuron™) Small Cutters

Hobby knife with #11 blade
Small flat file
Materials needed for this project
  • Atlas #1994-4 - Extended Vision Caboose (Chessie)
  • Detail Associates #6206 - Air Hoses
  • Kadee #58 - Scale Coupler
  • Plano #454 - Extended Vision Caboose End Platform and Steps
  • Cyanoacrylate Adhesive
  • Plastruct or Testors liquid plastic cement
  • Testors Silver paint
  • Polly Scale Grimy Black, Roof Brown
I unpacked the detail parts and read the instructions that came with the Plano steps. I thought that it would not be too hard to follow the recommended installation method and so I gave it a try. This first method is where we will apply the step detail directly to the model and not cut out the plastic or do anything fancy. METHOD #1 - Detail Steps Applied on Top of Existing Model Steps

Step 1 - Use the small High Precision Scissor to remove the metal detail steps from the sprue, note that the lower step is smaller than the upper step.

Step 2 - After removing the parts from the sprue I used a small file to smooth out any burs the parts may have. Be careful when filing because you could bend the detail.

Step 3 - Lay the step detail in place to check the fit. This should be done for each step on the caboose. If the step does not fit, file any burs or protrusions that are affecting a good fit.

Step 4 - With the step detail in place apply styrene or liquid plastic cement on top of the detail with a brush. Let the cement soak in between the metal grate into the paint.

The cement softened the silver paint to allow the step detail to sit in the paint. With the cement dry the step details are now fixed firmly in place.

METHOD #2 - Installation of see through steps

Since the basic installation went so easy I decided to up the ante a bit. Adding some complexity to the installation would be to allow see through step details. This involves some careful cutting and gluing but I found that the see through steps look really nice. I also decided to try the caboose steps because you don’t have to bend the steps to install them, I figured that it would not be too challenging.

Step 1 - I started the installation by cutting out the steps from the model to make room for the Plano parts.

Step 2 - Use the small Xuron cutters to nibble away at the steps. Be careful so as to not scratch the back of the step. Also do not cut out the entire step out but nibble until you have about 1/8 th of an inch ledge around the step pocket.

Step 3 - Next take a Xacto #11 blade and carefully remove more plastic from the step until you have about 1/32 nd to 1/8 th of an inch sill around the edge of what used to be the step. Test fit the steps several times during this process. I found that the step detail is very close but not a snug fit in the step well.

Step 4 - Take the Plano step detail and apply some thick Cyanoacrylate to the back side on what will be the bottom of the step. Lay the step in place on the caboose. Once the initial glue has set use an applicator (.12 brass wire for example) to apply more glue on the bottom of the step to reinforce the joint between the metal and the stair well.

Step 5 - After the glue is dry use some silver paint to touch up the area you carved out. Also use the paint to cover up any scratches on the back side of the step.

More Detail

To add more detail remove the factory installed coupler and replace it with a Kadee #58 prototypical sized coupler. The screw for the coupler box can be stripped easily so be careful with removing the coupler cover for the first time. Place the Kadee #58 and spring into the coupler box and replace the cover and screw. I generally install a proto coupler on the lead locomotive front and the caboose rear for ascetics. The #58 coupler is compatible with the standard Kadee #5 coupler so you will not have any problems using the caboose with other freight cars in your fleet.

For a dash more detail you can cut the hose off the coupler and install a Detail Associates detailed brake line. I drilled a #00 hole with a pin vice to the right of the coupler and used CA to secure the hose.

Paint the brake valve and end silver, with the hose grimy black. I also dry brushed the coupler Poly Scale Roof Brown to give it a rusty look.


After a few quick steps you can achieve a nicer looking model. I only added ten individual parts to the caboose and it really looks great. Give it a try.

Manufacturers Information:

Plano Model Products
2701 W. 15th. Street #113, Plano, Texas 75075
Fax: 972-596-0101

Kadee® Quality Products
673 Avenue C, White City, OR 97503-1078 U.S.A.
Phone: 541-826-3883
Fax: 541-826-4013

If you have any questions please feel free to email me at and I will be happy to discuss this article.

- Mark N. Goedert


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