Rapido HO FL9

Rapido FL9
Rapido has captured the unique look of the FL9 in stunning detail. ©2015 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Rapido Trains has delivered one of the most unique yet overlooked EMD Cab units long absent from the model railroad marketplace; the FL9. For fans of these long-lived locomotives, Rapido has made the wait worth it!

Rapido is offering the locomotives in multiple road numbers and paint schemes for New Haven, Penn Central, Conrail, MBTA, Metro North, Amtrak and undecorated. Locomotives are available with ESU Lok Sound DCC sound decoders for $349.95 retail or DCC-ready for $249.95.

 

Prototype Background

EMD introduced the FL9 in 1957. They were the last of the famous "F units" which had begun with the FT - the diesel most credited with paving the way to the end of steam. In addition to being the last of their kind, the FL9s were notable in many other ways.

Designed for service in and out of New York's Grand Central Terminal, the FL9s were capable of picking up electrical power for their traction motors from an electrified third rail or overhead wires. They could also operate as a conventional diesel-electric beyond the end of electrified territory. This eliminated the need to change locomotives or expand the electrification.

The combination of this extra equipment along with a steam generator for heating passenger cars stretched the locomotives' frames an extra nine feet. To support the extra weight, the rear truck was replaced with a six wheel truck. This gave the locomotives a unique 5-axle wheel arrangement.

The FL9's outlived the New Haven, successors Penn Central and Conrail. Near the end of their careers, some were repainted by Metro North back into the original New Haven McGinnis paint scheme. Several are preserved today. For a more complete history of these interesting machines, see this locomotive profile.

Paint and Details

Rapido has quickly established a reputation for quality. These models will secure and further that. 

The finish on the pair of New Haven samples reviewed is superb. Color separation (and there is plenty of that on this paint scheme!) is crisp and lines are straight. Lettering is opaque and sharp.

A really nice extra touch with these models is the extra decal sheet included. Despite being offered in many road numbers from the factory, Rapido includes a set of decals with all the applicable road numbers for the scheme. So you can have any number you want - even if Rapido didn't make it or you can't track that one down at the hobby shop.

The model is well detailed, with a complete cab interior and sprung diaphragms among the highlights. The truck details are very well done. Small pantographs for the roof are provided as separate parts. These were removed from the locomotives very early so Rapido thoughtfully gives you the option.

Operation

Before you run the locomotive, take the time to read the instruction manual. Operation is very intuitive and easy, but the manual will reveal a few extra features. Moreso that the instructions, the manual is just a great read.  Seriously.

Rapido is clearly a company that takes quality very seriously - but still has a great sense of humor.

The locomotive runs smoothly and quietly at low speeds. These models will creep very nicely. 

The sound decoders offer many unique features. The Hancock air whistles are captured nicely. The sound set also features a steam generator and Doppler effect run-by sequence. To mimic commuter operations there is a "straight to 8" function that simulates a full-throttle acceleration. Once the train speed levels off, the sound "notches back" automatically. 

Other interesting features include class lights which can be changed from white to red and a back up light that is only activated in "switching" mode. There are also step track lights below the cab windows. All lights are LED.

There is very little that the modeler will need to do to these locomotives to enhance them.

Although well maintained over most of their service lives, a little light weathering wouldn't hurt.

Rapido has finally answered the wishes of many modelers with these locomotives. Now all we need is some appropriate passenger cars...