Before railroads, "caboose" referred to a small cookhouse on the deck of a sailing ship. Nobody knows for sure, but it was likely the 1850s before the first railroad caboose gave a train crew shelter from the weather. The Civil War era marked the emergence of boxcar-like cabin cars or conductor's cars in the style of our model, with side and perhaps end doors, windows, a heating and cooking stove, bunks, and roof lanterns to mark the end of the train.
Management often resisted providing such creature comforts to crews, and it would be well into the 1870s before cabooses were widespread on American trains. And although the cupola, known then as a "lookout" or "observatory," first appeared during the Civil War era, flat-roofed cabooses like our model outnumbered cabin cars with cupolas well into the 1880s.
High quality, traditionally sized RailKing Freight Cars provide detailed bodies and colorful paint schemes for the O Gauge railroader. MTH makes an enormous variety of RailKing Freight Cars, including many different car types and roadnames. No matter what era or part of the country you are modeling, RailKing is sure to have something for you.