Collecting Tyco streamlined cabooses has become a hobby-within-a-hobby for me. As caboose models go, the Tyco is an odd duck—it sorta-kinda looks like an Ann Arbor caboose, or maybe a Pennsy N8 with an off-center cupola, but not really. They were ubiquitous in ’70s-era HO scale railroading; every kid I knew with HO had one. These days, they’re easily found at train shows for $5 or less, in a broad variety of paint schemes, even a chrome-plated version, so why not?
I found this one on a table at the Lockport show this spring. By that time, I’d collected well over a dozen different versions, made by Tyco itself, or by IHC from Tyco tooling, or the inexplicably faithful knockoff made by Pemco. I’d familiarized myself with the page on the Tyco collector’s site that listed all the known variations, but this one was not on the list. Its yellow flank is emblazoned with “Burning Love,” and small lettering in the upper corner, “©EPE, Inc.” Curious.
When I got home, I turned to the Great Oracle of our modern world, and it told me what I should have guessed: this caboose was made as part of a limited-edition Elvis Presley “Love Me Tender” train set. (In a weird bit of irony, the set has no tender; it’s diesel-powered.)
The caboose, in spite of that little copyright notice, does not carry Elvis’s name, likeness, or work—just the title of a song he did not write. It would seem as though some IP attorney was over-reaching a little. This is Elvis we’re talking about, though, and his image is perhaps the most jealously guarded of anyone’s. The locomotive and all the other cars in the set do have explicit Elvis graphics. Never hurts to err on the side of caution, I guess.
My Tyco love affair was with the silver Virginian hopper. VGN never painted any of their hoppers silver, nor had any of that body style. But they were cheap as chips at shows and I had this grand scheme to convert them to Kadee couplers, add weight, change the numbers, etc. This I did to 16 of them and it made a beautiful train to run at shows on the modular club layout. I picked up a few of the operating-bottom short hoppers as well, since they sprayed silver and lettered Virginian on those too.
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