Vintage N Scale B&M Rolling Stock #8
Bev-Bel (Life-Like) NE Style Caboose –
As far as I can tell, this Bev-Bel model is only the second factory decorated caboose to be released in N scale, and this was the first with Rapido couplers (1). Unlike most “early” B&M N scale equipment, this caboose is not blue dipped but rather an interesting combination of red body with a black roof. There is a little comedy here because B&M does not appear to have owned any NE style cabooses until very late in the 1960s and they purchased those used from the defunct Lehigh & New England. Here’s the kicker… B&M had them all painted in a variation of the blue/black McGinnis scheme. So we have a situation where a blue dip would have been more realistic than the red/black scheme chosen by Bev-Bel. The car number 104847 does not line up with any B&M caboose number I could find and would be out of date by the time these NE cabooses were acquired from Lehigh & New England anyway (2).
I didn’t pay a lot for my examples of this car, both were less than $10 USD delivered and I consider that a bargain when you take into account that Walthers recently re-released this Life-Like caboose with minimal changes for over $20 USD street price. The paint scheme and road number are total fantasy as far as I can tell but, if you wanted a factory decorated caboose for your B&M trains in the early 1990s, you really needed one of these. I have found them for sale in a Bev-Bel B&M Minute Man set, with the Bev-Bel “F7” I discussed earlier, but I am not sure if Bev-Bel made them available as a separate item as well. These days they are fairly common on auction sites and range in price but anything more than $10 USD is probably too much.
There were some tradeoffs with this model but I commend Bev-Bel for getting the ball rolling on factory decorated B&M stuff in N scale; until the Life-Like BL-2, Bev-Bel really carried the torch for B&M modelers. Timing wise, this caboose appears to have been released around the same time as the Bev-Bel (Life-Like) “F7” so it probably dates to around 1990 or maybe a little later. If you find one at a decent price you should pick it up, the NE style caboose is quite good looking and if you are interested at all in N scale B&M this model makes an interesting piece, you can always swap out the trucks if you use knuckle couplers.
As I mentioned earlier, B&M purchased their NE style cabooses from Lehigh & New England when that road went bankrupt in the late 1960s. Although I am not clear on the exact details of the cars purchased they appear to have been from the following L&NE groups; 574-578, 571-573, 561-567. Sources vary in detail but the cars purchased by B&M had steel frames and either wood or steel bodies.
(1) Micro-Trains released a B&M wooden caboose (MTL50140) in the late 1981, even though only Rapido equipped Bev-Bel B&M locomotives were available in B&M at the time (the time frame is fuzzy but the Bev-Bel (Bachmann) GP-40 might have been available, the Bev-Bel Atlas/Kato RS-3 was not available until a year or so later). It’s always possible that no factory decorated B&M locomotives were available in N scale when Micro-Trains released their caboose.
(2) B&M apparently numbered the ex-L&NE cabooses C-90 through C-99, which was in step with the new-ish caboose numbering system of the time.