Rapido 52′ Gondolas Arrived

This evening I stopped at the post office to pick up several packages – packages containing the new Rapido Trains 52′ Canadian gondolas. (I won’t tell you how many exactly I picked up, because this was partly a pooled group order of cars for the WRMRC layout, so better than half of the cars will end up belonging to others, but let’s just say I acquired “more than one” 6-pack of AC cars (plus a few CPs) for my own purposes.)

These models are based on a common design of 52’6″ gondola with riveted construction and drop ends that were built by Eastern Car Company during the 1940s-50s for most of the major Canadian railways. Similar cars were built by Canadian Car & Foundry and National Steel Car up into the early 1960s, with generally similar features, but some detail differences.


The prototype Algoma Central cars were built in 1959-62 in two batches by National Steel Car. (AC 601-800 and 801-875. Another almost identical batch was built in 1962 as AC 900-924 with covers for coil steel service.) They actually differ from the model in two ways. One, the AC cars have a different style of structural ribs on the sides. While the model features the distinctive Z shaped ribs fashioned from simple angle stock, the later AC cars had a stamped rib with a more of a hat profile (if you cross-sectioned the rib). The AC cars were also a higher capacity car with a 4′ interior height instead of the 3’5″ height of the model. However, the number and spacing of the side ribs is still consistent on all of these Canadian cars, so that still makes these cars a better stand in than any model of an American prototype. (The older Proto2000 gondola, based on a design built by Greenville Steel Car and Bethlehem Steel Corp., was previously the best stand in, but has a different number of side ribs and panels, which alters the layout of the Algoma Central billboard lettering on the side of the car.)

The models are well packaged, but even so exercise care when removing the cars from the packaging and check for any minor damage in shipping. There’s been some reports of the delicate ribs damaged in shipping (I haven’t seen much of this yet, but I’ve only removed a couple of cars from their packaging so far) and I had a few ends knocked free and rattling around inside the box (the drop ends are just press fit in place, so this is no big deal).

Here’s a few photos of a sample AC and CP (Action Red scheme) car to see some of the detail on these new models:

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The relief of the Z shaped ribs is a distinctive feature of this model. The individual ribs are actually separate pieces to achive this effect. So one will have to take some care when picking up these cars not to crush any delicate details.


These CP red cars feature trucks with converted roller bearing journals, a nice touch.


I weighed one car at 4.1oz, just slightly under the NMRA “recommended” weight for a 7″ car of 4.5oz (1oz + .5oz/inch), but then almost every factory car is slightly under this recommendation, and consistency is one of the most important things. The Rapido car actually weighed out exactly identical to one of the Proto2000 gondolas I had nearby.

And lastly, a couple of final shots of the two cars on my in progress switching layout. The cars both appeared to track and roll quite well, although admittedly I don’t have much track to roll them around on. The real test will be when we try dragging a set of these around in a train at the club layout.

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Rapido FP9A Arrived

Today I got a package in the mail from my dealer containing one of the new Rapido FP9A locomotives factory decorated for Algoma Central #1750. Acquired by WC in 1995 for the ACR passenger trains, it’s a little completely out of my era, but I just “had” to collect a couple of Rapido’s models to put together a “modern” (1995-2000) version of the ACR’s regular passenger train. It’ll mostly reside on a display shelf, but be fun to run through every once in a while.


In the box, with solid protective packaging.

The model comes packed in a protective plastic holder that securely wraps around the engine and holds it tightly, and did a good job of protecting it from any damage in shipping. Every little bit and piece appeared to be completely intact.


Additional parts bag.

Little parts baggy including extra re-rail frogs, steam line connections and extra couplers and a part for a rear diaphraghm. The AC units didn’t have them (and neither did the majority of the old CN units, and many that did had them removed later), so that piece won’t need to be installed.


The model, out of the box!

Here’s the model taken out of the box and set on the rails of my in-progress switching layout. You’ll have to excuse the background and the quality of some of these photos; this small layout isn’t very finished and the lighting in this room isn’t the best.

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The real 1750 arriving at Steelton Yard on the head of the southbound Agawa Canyon Tour Train. Blair Smith photo, August 1996.


Winterization hatch detail, with stack extension.

The model has a lot of gorgeous detail, although a couple of things stuck out. On the large winterization hatch over the radiator fans, there’s a tall exhaust stack extension which doesn’t appear to have been present on the AC units. This may have been applied at some point in the past to the CN units that eventually (by way of VIA) became AC 1750 and 1751, but weren’t there under ACR ownership. Fortunately with a bit of firm but careful pressure, this stack extension can be pulled out. The hatch also doesn’t appear to be quite fully seated all the way down on the close side, but this should be fixable.


Rear detail, also showing exhaust stack extension removed. The back-up light to the left of the door lights up when the engine is set in reverse.

Since I got the DCC/Sound version, naturally I wanted to get the locomotive fired up on the NCE PowerCab I’m powering the switching layout with. At first – nothing happened. I checked the manual with the model, and the text indicated that the decoders are set by default to address “3”. (3 is the standard default address for a decoder, but I kind of expected the installed decoder to be set to the model’s road number in this case. No big deal, reprogramming a decoder address is a pretty standard task.) Once I was able to select and send a command to the engine, a quick tap of the F8 function key on the throttle (Function 8 is the standard mute/un-mute function for most sound decoders) brought the sound to life. The sound sounded quite agreeably like the EMD 567 engine in the FP9, which it well should – Rapido has a couple of videos on their YouTube channel of their antics in recording the actual sounds off a pair of real FP9s on a tourist railroad in the US. The sound volumes will probably eventually be adjusted down, but aren’t nearly as loud as many other sound decoders are on their factory settings, which usually seem to be set to “max”, when 25-50% level would probably sound much better.

I haven’t quite finished the points on several switches on this layout, so I was only able to run the engine back and forth about a foot or two. It seemed to run reasonably well (although it was a little jerky on speed step 1, but smoother on step 2), and the sound revved up and down nicely, but I think I’ll need to take it out to the club layout sometime to really give it a good breaking in.

The engine has some nice lighting functions as well. Headlight and ditch lights are independently controllable, as are the class lights and numberboard lights (although the numberboards end up being just about as bright as the headlight). The headlight, ditch lights and numberboards appeared to have a slight greenish tint to them, when I’d prefer a more “natural” incandesant-looking warm yellow. Note sure yet if I’ll look at possibly replacing the LEDs used.


Powered up with headlights, ditch lights and white class lights lit. Numberboards are also able to independently light up, but turned off in this photo.

The class lights lit up nice and bright white; the instructions indicated that the F10 function should switch them between Off, White and Green, but I seemed to only be getting them rotating between Off and White. No green. Not sure if I did something wrong, or if it’s something in the programming setup of the decoder, but it’s not too likely that I’ll ever be running this particular unit on the head of a train with additional sections following.

(Edit: Jason from Rapido pointed out in a comment that the decoder on this model is changed and the white and green lights are separately controlled on F10 and F11. This was actually indicated on a technical reference insert sheet for the decoder, which I hadn’t closely read at the time as I didn’t realize the functions would be mapped differently from the information in the original instruction manual for the FP9s.)


A full set of Rapido Algoma Central passenger equipment: FP9A locomotive, steam generator car, baggage car and coach.

The silver paint on the locomotive is a good match to the shade used on Rapido’s previous offerings: the steam generator car, baggage car and second run of coaches (the original run of AC coaches came out in an odd tan colour, which was changed for the later run(s)). With one of each, it makes a nice solid train.

The lettering and decoration looks pretty good. The model does not have the reporting marks and numbers on the sides near the rear – these were added a little bit later, not when they were originally painted, so it’s not inaccurate, although the units would have spent more of their lives with the numbers than without. So it might have been nice if the side numbers were included, or if a small decal sheet with the numbers was included so modellers could choose. Since I actually model the 1980s, I’m not running this set as any particular year, but it is something that some might wish to note.


Included in the box was a flyer for Rapido’s upcoming CN/VIA F9B models. The fine print at the bottom is a classic example of the geeky institutional humour brought by Rapido’s founder and owner, Jason Shron:


Always read the fine print…