Rapido Trains introduced this model in November of 2018. It is an excellent example of state-of-the-art N Scale passenger equipment.
Manufacturer Background Information
Rapido Trains is a Canadian manufacturer of North American HO and N Scale model trains. They have been in business since 2003. The company name was derived from the name of a Canadian National high-speed intercity service of the 1960s. There is no relationship with the Arnold Rapido brand from Germany that is currently owned by Hornby.
Prototype History (Text Courtesy of Rapido)
In order to attract customers back to the rails after the end of WWII, the New Haven decided to modernize the fleet with new lightweight passenger cars. In December 1945 a large order was placed with Pullman-Standard for a variety of car styles, including 103 coaches, 25 parlor cars, diners, grill diners, combination baggage buffet lounge/parlors, and two tavern lounge observation cars. These were produced in the old Osgood Bradley factory in Worcester, MA, so they bear more than a passing resemblance to the Osgood Bradley Lightweights delivered in the 1930s.
The New Haven’s stainless cars were not built entirely from stainless steel like the cars produced by Budd in Philadelphia. Instead, they were constructed from Cor-Ten steel and sheathed with stainless steel fluting panels. The New Haven touted the 8600s as “the newest of the new in coach equipment – gleaming stainless steel on the outside, the last word in attractive decoration and design on the inside.”
The Box: No Wasted Space Here
The cars come in an acrylic case that measures just over 7.5" long. As such it fits perfectly in my Container Store boot boxes. A clear plastic nest with a piece of soft plastic "wrapping paper" hold the car securely in place. A nice snug fit make sure important detail parts don't get broken off during transportation. These are long cars and need this size box. It is nice to see the box is no longer than needed. No wasted space here. The box includes the "magic wand" needed to turn on the pre-installed reed-switch driven lighting system. The box also includes a pair of button batteries to power the lights.
Battery Installation: Tricky but Doable
The batteries do not come installed. This is to prevent battery leakage (if they sit on a dealer shelf too long) from ruining the interior of these beautiful cars. Unfortunately, it means the owner has to disassemble the cars to install the batteries. This takes some time and some dexterity.
Judicious use of fingernails allows the user to remove the body without use of tools. There are some places to hold the frame while you separate the parts that allow you to get a good grip without damaging anything. Again, these cars have nice details, and you don't want to break any parts off as you separate the body from the frame. Once that is done, however, installing the batteries isn't too hard.
These cars use body-mounted imitation Micro-Trains couplers. They work well enough but don't receive the same level of quality control as the originals. The wheels are nice quality blackened metal and low-profile. They roll beautifully! Give them a little push and they just glide along the track. This will help if you like to run long consists. With the amount of detail on these, you should take care in handling them. I give each railcar I review a little push on a flat piece of Kato Unitrack and I expect them to sail along the track with a comforting sound of metal wheels on metal track. You know the sound I mean. Kind of like a snake's hiss. I call this the pinky test and this car passed with flying colors.
The Model: High Quality
First off, let me start by stating this model is simply one of the highest quality passenger cars available in N Scale for North American prototypes. It has some very cool details and is only rivaled by some of the high-end passenger models from Centralia/Intermountain and Wheels of Time as well as some of the newer specialty Kato releases.
Nice Paint Job
The paint is accurate in terms of color and precision. Warning: I am fairly color blind but I do actually ride the MBTA to Boston and from what I have seen the color on these models matches the protoypical colors on the current MBTA cars.
Lots of Detail
My two favorite parts of the model are the underframe and the diaphragms. The underframe is loaded with detail and a LOT of these parts are separately applied. I can imagine that the labor of assembling the underframe is likely as much or more than the the work to assemble all other parts of the model. There are tanks, hoses, boxes, and all sorts of miscellaneous doodads. The diaphragms feature actual detailed passenger gates as well as very cool springs (not actual springs - but rather plastic pieces to emulate the springs on the prototype). They also feature black sides that again make it obvious how much labor went into these models.
There is a user-applied detail part meant to model the steam connectors below the couplers. I personally elected not to add these as I love to run my trains and this just makes one more thing that could easily break off and get lost. I assume that Rapido elected not to pre-install this part specifically for people like me who are going to run their cars hard. Other folks who might be kinder to their rolling stock can easily add this piece to improve the detail level of their cars.
These cars also have another feature I love. Grab-iron detail parts. I know this is fairly common with newer high quality models, but the impressive part to me is that none of the eight grab rails on either side of the four doors seem to show any glue marks. Grab irons are easily the most visible detail part on the model, because they are on the sides, hence it is nice to see that the folks at the Chinese Rapido factory really understand the value of careful work on the assembly of the car bodies.
The molding of the interior is exceptional. I especially appreciated the toilet bowl in the lavatory!
This is not a cheap model. A complete set of the six different MBTA coaches set me back about $300. Are they worth it? Yes. Would I also have been happy with a little less detail and a $35/car price point? Probably.
They run well, look great and are packaged perfectly.
Caveats: The batteries are annoying to install.
Personal Preferences: To Install or Not to Install I prefer models with all their detail parts installed so I would have preferred to either see the steam connectors pre-attached or not included at all. Whenever I receive a model with a bag full of detail parts, I always feel torn and I don't like that feeling. On the one hand I want to install the parts, but on the other hand I don't want my fat fingers to spread glue marks all over or worse yet smudge the paint work. Usually I just leave the parts in the box and forget about them, but I always feel lame every time I run the model as I think, this could have been just a bit more cool if I wasn't so clumsy....