Rapido Trains HO AutoFlood III coal hopper
A FreightCar America AutoFlood III
coal hopper has joined the ever-growing lineup of HO scale freight cars from Rapido Trains. The modern era car features a die-cast metal frame and floor, etched-metal see-through crossover platforms, and interior rivet detail.
Rapido Trains offers the AutoFlood III in eight contemporary paint schemes. For this review, I’ll focus on our sample decorated for BNSF Ry. Car No. 652973 is part of the railroad’s 652829 through 653348 series, produced by FreightCar America at the builder’s Roanoke, Va., plant in July 2006 under Job 1466-110.
The 4,200-cubic-foot capacity coal haulers can be unloaded in rotary dumpers or using the automatic discharge doors. Sales literature from FreightCar America notes that the AutoFlood III cars have a MegaFlo door system, which “uses tension rather than compression to keep the doors locked over center.” This eliminates the need for regular door adjustments.
The five-bay car has a trio of doubledoor pockets in the middle and singledoor pockets on each end. Steep slope sheets and a relatively smooth interior further expedite bottom unloading.
The Rapido hopper features a clever design. Instead of using a one-piece body, the slope sheets and hopper bays are a single die-cast metal piece that form the car’s core. This also accounts for most of the model’s weight. The plastic sides and end cages are separate pieces attached to that.
As you’d expect of a Rapido model, the AutoFlood III hopper is detailed inside and out. The interior has rivet detail and separate, factory-applied cross braces. A removable coal load, molded in black plastic, has a metal plate on the bottom. A magnetic wand, like those included with Rapido’s passenger cars, is included for removing the load.
The end cages have molded rungs, posts, and stirrup steps, complemented with wire grab irons. Other end details include uncoupling levers (with the handle picked in white paint) and separate air and brake piping. The B end features a freestanding brake wheel and related brake appliances.
Underneath, a one-piece plastic casting with the center sill and draft-gear boxes spans the car’s centerline. The hopper bays are equally well detailed, with numerous factory-installed plastic parts. The car is fitted with Barber S-2 100-ton trucks and 36" metal wheelsets. The reporting mark and road number are printed on the sideframes.
Our sample is neatly painted aluminum with Mineral Red panels on the rotary end. The lettering placement matches prototype photos of cars from the same class that I found online. All but the smallest printing in the red boxes is legible. The job number and build date are accurate to the road number. Nice attention to detail!
I compared the model to data published on the FreightCar America website. The AutoFlood III closely follows prototype drawings.
I put the three samples we received in a train on our Milwaukee, Racine & Troy staff layout. The cars all ran without incident. The manufacturer notes that while
the car will run on 18" radius curves, the wheels may rub slightly on the underbody. The car will look and run better on 20" or greater curves.
FreightCar America AutoFlood III coal hoppers can be found on virtually every Class I railroad today. Rapido makes it easy to build a unit train with single cars and multiple six-packs. A string of these behind some modern road locomotives would be an impressive sight. – Cody Grivno, senior editor