Posted by: Roger | January 20, 2010

Rapido Panorama Line N Scale Passenger Cars

I received my Rapido passenger cars yesterday and spent some time last night taking photos. It’s not possible to NOT compare them with Walthers offering so I’ll give my thoughts. Understand that my needs are not as demanding as die-hard rivet counters, but I do want the models I buy to be reasonalbly detailed and somewhat accurate. More important to me is that they must run well without hiccups. I don’t care how good they look, if they don’t run well, they’re useless. That being said, since I just got them yesterday, I haven’t had the opportunity to run them.
This photo shows the aspect that I find disappointing. Color. Of the three major manufacturers producing Loewy-schemed passenger equipment that I know of, all three have differrent ideas of what the dark and light greens should look like. Rapido, at one time, had an explanation on its website stating that they got color chips from the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association to accurately paint its NP products. That’s all well and good, but if they don’t match, or at least come close to matching, other manufacturers, the experience is diminished. I have no idea what Walthers and Intermountain used for determining color, but those two manufacturers came up with colors that don’t look horrible together, but they’re still not the same. Rapido comes closer to Intermountain on the light green, but the dark green is way out there. I can’t say I’m happy with Walthers interpretation of the light green either.
In sort of a backhanded compliment, I will say that one thing about Rapido’s cars that does make me happy is that I didn’t have to glue half a dozen small parts back on immediately after taking them out of the box as I  had to do with most of the HO scale Rapido cars I bought. I did have to get a jewelers screwdriver and loosen the screws holding the trucks on one car to allow them to turn.
Details. Many people are interested in the details. They both have nice details, but not in the same places. Rapido has great underbody detail… which can best be appreciated if you have lots of derailments. Only kidding somewhat. Those underbody details can be seen from the side and they do add to the overall look of the car. Walthers does better doors and rivet detail (better count themWink), though. There is a photo in the gallery of the two cars undersides, and a door comparison photo.
Cost. After adding in the cost of the optional Walthers light bar, the Walthers cars are several dollars more expensive than the Rapido cars with their included lighting kit. It seems that a religious war can result from a discussion of battery-powered vs. track power, but I will add that I am not a great fan of batteries for the reason that I really don’t want to remove the roof any more than I have to. I tend to break the tabs holding them on and they are too expensive for ham-handed people like me to be popping roofs off to change batteries or remove them for storage.
All in all, with the exception of the color differences, I do like them, although at this point my preference runs to the Walthers cars. I’m not sure what’s up next, as neither manufacturer has announced additional NP passenger cars. I hope that they continue because there has been a serious shortage of NP passenger cars. Con-Cor was the sole source of NP passenger cars and I have some, but they seem so… old. My vote for the next car is, of course, the Vista Dome. Can’t have a North Coast Limited without domes. Mainstreeter, perhaps, but not the North Coast Limited.
I really feel the need to express my appreciation to Intermountain, Walthers, and Rapido for even doing Northern Pacific passenger equipment. I just need Intermountain to get cracking with Loewy F7As and F7Bs.
Kato — are you out there Kato? Helllooo? (Hmm, guess I’ll have to be content with the entire Kato production of anything NP —  two, count em’, two Rail Diesel Cars.)


  1. Roger, this may be old news, but I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed how dark (almost black) the dark green is on the Rapido NP passenger cars. I bought one of them, and in a string with Walthers, Kato (custom painted), and Con-Cor NP cars, the Rapido is really off. I know the story about matching to the NP society’s color drift cards. I dispute this. I have those drift cards, and the Rapido car is not at all close to the Loewy Dark Green included in that card set.

    Now, it may be true that in a prototype string of cars, they might not all exactly match 100% due to age, paint fade, dirt or other factors, on a snappy NP passenger train in the 1950s (which is where this scheme belongs), it was not likely that cars would vary *that* much. Also, while it may be okay for a little variation in paint shade on a layout, it’s not okay when 9 cars roll by that are almost the same and one car stands out like a sore thumb.

    I actually took that card to a paint store and they color-matched it. They mixed me quart of enamel in that shade. You have to do this at a real “paint store”, not just a building center (like Home Depot) because most of those stores do not mix solvent based paints anymore, and spraying latex paint through an airbrush is probably a terrible idea. The enamel was thick as honey because it was mixed for painting house trim, not train models. But in a 50/50 mix with mineral spirits, it sprayed through an airbrush just fine. I masked off the Rapido car and repainted just the dark green portion (after removing the lettering with some Poly S “Easy Lift Off”. Of course, I had to reletter it with decals, but it worked great.

    Be careful not to use Dull Cote of any other lacquer-based overspray on enamel! I did this and it crazed the paint, ruined it, and I had to do it all over again. Ask the paint store for a dull or matte clear overspray that is safe for enamels.

    A comparative photo may be seen here:

    That will show the Rapido against a Walthers and Kato (custom painted) before and after my respray.

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