More Work on the N5B Fleet


As a result of having an operational layout, I find that I’m splitting my time between modelling and operating now.  This is good because I’ve been able to test out my operating scheme and work out some problems.  However, all of this playing with trains has slowed down the pace of building  a fleet of rolling stock.  It’s nice to have options now.

I’ve made it a priority to try to populate the switching layout with the appropriate pieces of rolling stock.  To that end, I’m pushing to finish a caboose project that stalled when I ran out of the numeral “2” from my decal sheets.  A recent package in the mail solved that problem.

Penn Central’s fleet of former N5B cabooses were apparently ubiquitous on the Niagara Branch during the ’70s.  The most common arrangement for the local switchers working from North Tonawanda yard appears to have been a pair of Alco S-2s, each with an N5B caboose, though sometimes an RS-1 or SW-1 appears to have been rotated into the mix.  Knowing that I’d need at least two N5Bs (and thinking I’d add one just for good measure), I bought three undecorated models when I visited the Bowser company store last August.


I’ve nearly finished lettering one side of all three N5Bs. I’ve decided to letter one of the three for the Canada Division, which means it will be seen on CASO St. Thomas trains running across the  Niagara Branch.  The proud and independent shop crew at the St. Thomas shops had the luxury of working in the company’s colonial outpost, far from the watchful eye of upper management, and they took advantage of the fact by exercising some creative license with the corporate image.  I’m not sure, but it seems to me that this was the case with the N5B cabooses that showed up to replace the old NYC wooden cabooses some time in the very late 60s.  My model  on the far left in the photo above is lettered following a photo of a Canada Division caboose.  A different font size and spacing was used for the name, and the numerals were placed differently.

I’ll put up some better photos when I finish these models, which hopefully won’t be too much longer.  I’m currently running an N8 caboose into the paper plant.  These were newer cars, and were not likely relegated to branch line and industrial/transfer assignments.  I should be able to correct that soon.


  1. Yeah, the boys in St Thomas were notorious for doing some, shall we say, unique things to their equipment. Well into the Penn Central era they still had a freshly painted wreck train in NYC lettering. Century lettering showed up on their PC motive power, too, though they at least acknowledged the merger by putting a small PC worm on the unit.



    1. I suspect that the font used for lettering 22878 was intended to be applied to freight cars, because as far as I can tell, only the Canada Division N5B cabooses had this size font size applied. It looks like they had to squeeze the letters together to get the words to fit between the windows. It’s really obvious in the space between the two Ns in “Penn.” In fact, I had to cut the letters apart and do the same to make them fit on the model.

      In researching the operations of the switchers assigned to North Tonawanda, I’ve discovered that some of the Penn Central’s S2 fleet were numbered using NYC fonts. Those would likely have been done at Buffalo, so clearly the St. Thomas shop wasn’t the only place on the system that had an independent streak. But I believe they got away with far more as a result of their distance from the bosses.


  2. There were also examples of equipment painted in NYC jade instead of PC green, and they also had NYC style lettering and/or numerals. I think some of this resulted from a lack of appropriate stencils and paint, or maybe just early repaints before any coherent repainting plan was in place.


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