New Rapido boxcar model

Rapido Trains released a new HO Scale boxcar model in October that follows a Northern Pacific prototype built in 1923. A few paint and lettering schemes were produced and I picked up one that represents the Pre-WW2 appearance. This ready-to-run model nicely captures the prototype.

The Northern Pacific installed 4000 of these boxcars starting in 1923. The details and lettering are crisp on this Pre-War version. I’ll have to paint over the 1935 weigh stencil info and add a fresh 1925 date and dig around for a proper repack decal, too. I’m lucky the NP did not follow the 1927 ARA data lettering recommendations. Their data presentation did not seem to change from 1920 to the late 1930s. I’ll also need to do something about the test data on the brake cylinder. The lettering is upside-down on my model. I may just apply some weathering to obscure it.


Photo from the John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library Flickr collection in the AC&F photo album.

There are a few other details and hardware to adjust or replace in order for this model to reflect a 1926 appearance and meet my modeling standards. I use Accurail Proto:HO couplers so the factory equipped couplers will be changed out. While I like the rust color of the hardware, I’m a bit disappointed that Rapido did not use a semi-scale coupler on these fine models. It seems odd to produce a highly detailed model and equip it with a larger than scale coupler.

A couple more changes are in order. There are two grab irons located on the left end of the car sides. Only one is needed for a 1926 appearance. A second grab was required there for new and rebuilt freight cars after August 1, 1933. I hope to change out the wheelsets for semi-scale width sets, too. I haven’t compared the axle length with the semi-scale sets at hand.

Another detail that needs attention are the running board end supports. The model details do not reflect the common hardware angle seen on the prototype. Rapido seems to have the board under the ends of the running board correct. Thse NP cars used a wider than usual piece under the running board ends. But the support braces seem to be crammed into place with little angle. I’m not certain if the running board is slightly short or if the board under the ends is too wide. I’ll try to remove the detail, shorten the board, and reposition the hardware at some point.

There is one feature of the model that I can’t alter and that is the wood sheathing. The prototype cars were delivered with center-bead wood boards. This made one board appear as two narrower boards. When the NP rebuilt these cars in the 1930s the original wood sheathing was replaced with narrower boards that did not have the center bead component. So the model has wood sheathing that would seem slightly wider than the original appearance. This detail came up in a conversation with a couple other modelers at RPM Chicagoland. I’m not going to fret over the sheathing appearance as it is difficult to discern the board width beyond a ten-inch distance.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with this new ready-to-run model. It weighs 3.75 ounces, which falls in line with the NMRA car weight recommended practices. A couple of modelers have reviewed this model and offered their thoughts. Ted Culotta’s blog posted a review in November as did Tony Thompson on his blog

From what I understand, Rapido quickly sold out of the initial run. Check with hobby dealers for availability. The Northern Pacific Railway Historical Society’s company store may have some, too. 

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3 thoughts on “New Rapido boxcar model”

  1. Fifteen years in, and way too many modelers are still “afraid” of semi-scale wheels and scale couplers! So the manufacturers avoid them. The wheels do require a bit more care in trackwork. The couplers merely require an attitude adjustment to handle their less-forgiving nature… they won’t automatically couple in every situation because side-to-side alignment is more critical. Whisker springs help. Most of us have adjusted our layout designs to allow easy access for hand-uncoupling… the same access is sufficient to allow a nudge as needed.

    In fifteen years of running a mixed fleet of #5’s and scale Kadees, I’ve never (yes, NEVER) seen a Kadee-to-Kadee uncoupling that was caused by the coupler… aside from missing knuckle springs. (And Scale Kadees retain their springs much better than #5’s, so they’re almost never being lost). The vertical dimension of a #58 is identical to that of a 1970s #5 (yes, they GREW at some point). If you’re uncoupling due to height mismatch, that’s not the coupler’s fault!

    Whenever something uncouples randomly, I know it’s one of three causes:
    – missing knuckle spring
    – trip-pin pushed against a plow or pilot
    – a non-Kadee coupler was accidentally allowed onto the railroad!

  2. Eric, I just learned about your site today and marked it. All the info about early rolling stock is appreciated, I am modeling 1900-1935 era – there are so many interesting cars I chose not to stick to a ten year period.

    Do you know of any similar sites featuring industries of the same time period? Here in New England, many brick structures from 1880 onwards have survived, but wooden buildings have vanished.

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