Lionel porthole caboose origins
Lionel’s designers and marketers took significant steps in 1953 to expand and upgrade its roster of O gauge rolling stock. They introduced near-scale freight cars, notably larger and more realistic boxcars and a flatcar. They brought out for the first time a triple-dome tank car. And they distinguished the line with a stately illuminated porthole caboose modeled after the N5c type developed by the Pennsylvania Railroad. The new no. 6417 came painted Tuscan Red and had white heat-stamped graphics for the Pennsy, including “New York Zone.”
The deluxe caboose proved to be the perfect complement to the outstanding freight outfits filling the O gauge line for 1953, as Lionel used the 6417 in five of the seven sets. Only the lowest-price O gauge set (the no. 2201WS) and the Berkshire work train (no. 2213WS) packed with a no. 6419 work caboose lacked a Pennsy porthole caboose in that noteworthy year.
The Pennsylvania porthole caboose was joined in 1954 by a similar model lettered for Lionel Lines and a gray-painted N5c lettered for the Lehigh Valley. The 6417 returned as a component of O gauge freight outfits in 1955 and 1956, including those headed by a no. 2340 and 2360 Pennsylvania RR GG1 electric.
The final time the early Pennsy porthole caboose was cataloged came in 1957. Lionel needed another production run of the 6417 to increase its inventory of the cabooses for outfit no. 2293W, a five-car freight train pulled by a 2360 GG1. For some reason, the stamp omitted three little words, “New York Zone.” Perhaps it had been damaged, or Lionel deliberately chose for unknown reasons to omit those words. Whatever the cause, the variation lacking those three words has been considered scarce and brings a premium from collectors.