Rapido's models of the Osgood Bradley lightweight coach represent a superb rendition of a badly-need prototype in HO scale. Available in a variety of paint schemes, including New Haven Railroad's "McGinnis" design. Photo by Rick Abramson
Product Review: Rapido's Osgood Bradley
lightweight coaches in HO Scale
by Dave Messer/photos as noted
The Osgood Bradley Company was founded in 1822 to build carriages and stagecoaches in Worcester, Massachusetts. When the early railroads arrived on the scene in 1835, the company quickly entered the market for railroad cars, with their first customer being the Boston & Worcester Railroad, the eastern predecessor of the Boston & Albany. The company developed into one of the major builders of railroad cars as well as trolleys and buses. It officially became the Pullman-Bradley Car Company in the early 1930’s after being purchased by the Pullman Company, although many continued to refer to it by its former name.
During the Depression years, several railroad car manufacturers joined the automobile industry in producing streamlined designs that were in fashion with the public. With the assistance of industrial designer Walter Teague, Osgood Bradley developed an aircraft-style tubular carbody with a rounded roof end utilizing Cor-Ten steel, a lightweight copper-steel alloy that reduced weight by nearly 15 tons over conventional construction.
The New Haven Railroad, which was by far the largest purchaser of these cars, took delivery of the first order in 1935, numbered 8200-8249. They featured center-duct air conditioning and had a 10-window configuration with a seating capacity of 84. Additional cars of the same arrangement, numbered 8250 and 8252-8269, were delivered in the following year.
Subsequent orders, numbered 8270-99, 8300-49 and 8350-69, were built in 1936 to 1938, following a slightly different configuration with 11 windows and 92-passenger capacity. A third group, numbered 8500-29, followed the 10-window configuration, but with a coach seating capacity of 64 and a 16-seat smoking lounge at one end. Finally, five cars numbered 5200-04 were built as grill cars in 1938 with the center windows blanked out, but were converted to 92-seat coaches by the railroad’s Readville Shops in 1952.
Two other New England railroads, the Boston & Maine and the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad, also purchased variations of these cars during the same period, and orders followed from the Kansas City Southern, Seaboard Air Line, Cotton Belt and Lehigh Valley, the latter with a squared-off roof design. Several of the car configurations were repeated when the New Haven returned to Osgood Bradley for their post-World War II streamlined fleet.
Although there have been other efforts to model these cars over the years, Rapido’s long-awaited product marks the first ready-to-run version in plastic, and the first ever to accurately capture the subtle tubular cross-section of the carbody. Their first effort is the 10-window coach, offered in several pre- and post-World War II paint schemes for the New Haven, B&M and BAR with and without skirts as appropriate to the prototype and era. The operative word for these models is exquisite from the finely-detailed carbody to the underbody detail, where air conditioning, brake equipment and piping abound, complete with safety and brake linkage chains, to the exquisite (there’s that word again) see-through step risers and end gates. Some of the small steam and air brake components have never before been modeled commercially. The interesting accompanying booklet suggests that the modeler check the underbody detail for any loose components, and I would concur. The modeler is asked to add the fragile steam traps and steam line connectors, which are provided in a separate envelope to prevent shipping damage.
The cars operated well on my layout with one 24-inch radius curve, but the instructions recommend using the long-shank couplers provided for any tighter curves. I would also suggest that the small notches in the underframe be enlarged slightly to prevent the trucks from binding. Painting and lettering is sharp and evenly applied, complete with “Watch Your Step” on the upper stair riser (how did they do that?).
Rapido Trains, Inc.
445 Edgeley Blvd., Unit 1
Canada L4K 4G1
Deluxe Coach Paint Schemes: Cotton Belt - Green, Cotton Belt - Daylight, Kansas City Southern - Black, Southern Pacific - Green, Southern Pacific - 2-tone gray, Southern Pacific - Silver, Texas & New Orleans, Seaboard Air Line - Green, Undecorated, Undecorated - Pullman green
Standard Coach Paint Schemes: Bangor & Aroostook - Gray, Bangor & Aroostook - Green, Boston & Maine - Green, Boston & Maine - Maroon, New Haven - Hunter Green, New Haven - Pullman Green, New Haven - 401 Green, New Haven - McGinnis, Penn Central - Green, Long Island - Dashing Dan, Long Island - MTA, Undecorated
HO scale, MSRP $74.95
The interior detail includes tiny round mirrors on the end bulkheads and seats molded in a color very close to the blue mohair upholstery on the original Heywood-Wakefield furnishings. The cars are equipped with Rapido’s “Easy-Peasy” LED lighting system, which provides a reasonably even level of illumination through the car. One needs to carefully remove the roof to insert the batteries. Be sure to hold your breath and follow the instructions. The roof will come off using your fingernails to pry it loose. After inserting the batteries, I suggest putting the car on a flat surface to press the roof back into place. The cars come with the Rapido magnetic wand to turn the lights on and off. Oddly, the lights in one of my two cars turn on and off when passing over a Kadee under-track magnet.
My only quibble with these otherwise superb models is Rapido’s Macdonald-Cartier couplers, which proved unreliable in operation, even with the addition of graphite lubricant. In addition, the coupler swing springs are mounted upside down for optimum delayed operation. The exploded diagram shows them the wrong way, so this seems to be a design issue, not a production problem. Rapido has been notified, and has indicated they will look into the problem. For those cars already out there, just remove the small screw holding the coupler box and invert the spring so it faces downward.
Rapido makes available separately the excellent four-wheel passenger trucks used on these cars, in both friction and roller bearing configurations. One would hope that the end gates will become available separately as well, along with the 11-window cars (and the squared-off roof used on the Lehigh Valley cars). The grill cars might also go on the list. Overall these cars represent a superb rendition of a badly-need prototype.
—This review originally appeared in Railroad Model Craftsman in 2010.