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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm planning on kitbashing some locos, and I'm trying to decide whether wood or steel cabs would be appropriate. So I have a few questions:

When did steel cabs come into common use? 

How late were wooden cabs still being built on new locos? 


In a lot of old black and white photos it's hard to tell whether the cab is wood or steel. Is there any way to be sure?


I'm modeling relatively small locos, not big mainline stuff, if that makes any difference.
 

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Ray,

First of all, I'll assume you're talking about US practice.

It seems to me that steel cabs became common somewhere around 1890 or so. Wooden cabs could be ordered as late as the last steam engine built, though it would have been a rarity. Older locomotives could have kept their wooden cabs for many years, especially if you're talking about a narrow gauge operation.

As far as telling the difference, if you can see the front of the cab, look at the shape. Most steel cabs I've seen have a smooth curve from the sides all the way through to the roof, whereas wooden cabs usually had obviously separate sides and roofs. From the side, you may also be able to see that division, but also look below the windows. Most wooden cabs would have been built with some sort of frame and panel design, which shows up pretty easily. Steel cabs were usually a solid sheet.

In the end, mix and match, use what you like, and justify it however you like. It's hard (but not impossible) to justify a steel cab in 1860, but wooden cabs in the 1940s were not uncommon.
 
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