A little information about this build:

Welcome to this build of a Drovers style caboose using a HO scale LaBelle Soo Line caboose kit #HO-43. In the next few pages I will attempt to show and explain some of the techniques I used to build this particular LaBelle kit.

In the January 1960 issue of Model Railroader magazine the model railroading community was introduced to what the Trade Topics editors said was the “finest passenger car kit ever marketed”. The editors were so impressed they featured the built model on that issues cover. It was the first time a product had ever been featured on the magazine cover. That passenger kit was only the first of many offerings to come out of what was initially a cabinet manufacturing company in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

The Labelle line of passenger and freight cars were among the first wood craftsman rolling stock kits I ever built. I spent a lot of time looking through this catalog which included a current price list. Like those potato chips, nobody can stop at just one and while I have built over a dozen of these fine kits over the years, my inventory of unbuilt LaBelle kits assures I will be enjoying this sort of build for many years to come.

Like so many hobby related companies, through it’s 60 plus years of existence, LaBelle went through at least four changes in ownership that I am aware of. The current owner has a background in prototype railroading and an investment and interest in continuing the tradition of manufacturing fine kits that was started in Oconomowoc.

When Labelle kits came out in the 1960’s they were state of the art as noted by the review in Model Railroader. By today’s standards there are higher detailed more costly kits available but Labelle continues to provide the foundation for those who enjoy building and working with wood kits. As with this build they lend themselves to easy bashing and as such appear on many model railroads. As with all wood craftsman kits, the quality of the build will depend on the modelers attention to detail and neatness of finish and assembly. The modeler must also have a bit of patience because these are not shake the box quickie kits but upon completion you will have a feeling of accomplishment.

While I have numerous LaBelle kits in my inventory in pristine condition, this particular kit was acquired at a local swap meet as an orphan. Many shoppers passed over this unmarked, unidentified box. I had previously built several of this same model so I was reasonably familiar with the kit and while this box did not have a label and had no instructions upon my inspection it seemed complete and after a successful financial negotiation with the seller it was added to my collection.

Tools and Other Sundries:

Before getting into the building of the Drovers Caboose, let me talk briefly about tools, techniques and skills associated with this project. I am going to assume that you may want to build your own caboose or some similar kit so allow me to throw out a few comments about tool and materials selections.

You will need a few basic tools to complete this or a similar project. You’ll need one or more X-Acto knives with no. 11 blades and a single edged razor blade will come in useful for a few trimming some items. Many modelers use a white or yellow carpenters wood glue, I prefer to use Ambroid glue because I like the way it shrinks when it dries. I have models over 35 years old that were assemblied with Ambroid glue and have never had a joint failure.

I also use a medium viscosity ACC glue for adding small parts. Whatever your preference in glues, a box of round wooden toothpicks and a box of the thinner flat wooden toothpicks are indispensable for applying small quantities of glue exactly where it is needed on the model. Some modelers use way too much glue as they must feel it is necessary to achieve a good joint or maybe to compensate for a bad fit between parts. The trick to achieving a tight bond between components is not how much glue is used but rather keeping pressure on the joint while the glue dries. To achieve tight joints, I first select what I believe is the proper glue for the job and then I make use of numerous clamping devices as well as heavy objects from around my shop to compress assemblies while the glued joint is drying.

I have been a faithful user of Floquil paints for many years. For thinning paint, and cleanup I use a solvent called Xylene/Xylol which I buy at my local ACE Hardware store in quart cans. On this build I will be sealing some of the wood components. I have used Scalecoat sanding sealer for over 30 years. It is part number S53 and must be used with the appropriate Scalecoat sanding sealer thinner part number S57. A good friend of mine uses Lacquer Sanding Sealer which can be purchased in quart cans from Lowe’s. He thins this down with Lacquer Thinner which is not to be confused with paint thinner. I do not recommend the water based sanding sealers for this sort of project.

Once complete the model will require periodic cleaning. Dust is not weathering and can only diminish the overall presentation of the model. To clean the model I use a small vacuum which can be purchased from various outlet stores under various names for about ten bucks. I modified one of the nozzles to adapt to my vacuum set which is sold through Micro Mart and other distributors.

Lets get started on this build. While I am bashing LaBelle's Soo Line caboose into a Drovers Caboose, this will be more of a generic build that can be related to many of the other kits in LaBelle’s lineup. On to the shops to get this build started.

Building a Drovers Caboose from a LaBelle Kit

(On to the Shops)