Railroad Model Craftsman Product Review

Rapido’s HO Scale RS-18u and RSC-14

Produced until August 1968, 351 RS-18s were constructed by MLW. Now Rapido is offering two unique versions: The RS-18u and RSC-14. 

Rapido’s HO Scale RS-18u and RSC-14

HO Scale (1:87) By Harry K. Wong

Designed to compete with EMD’s GP9, American Locomotive Company (Alco) introduced the four-axle 1,800hp RS-11 to customers in the United States in February 1956. Ten months later, Alco’s Canadian partner Montreal Locomotive Works (MLW) constructed its first RS-18 units. Perhaps the most noticeable difference between the RS-18 and its American cousin is the lack of “notches” at the top corners of the short and long hoods as seen on the RS-11. Instead, a simple radiused corner made for a cleaner appearance on the RS-18.

Produced until August 1968, 351 RS-18s were constructed by MLW. These multipurpose freight locomotives served a variety of roles working main line freights, locals, switching, and even passenger service; a stalwart handful are still in service today.

With a total of 225 units, Canadian National operated the largest fleet of RS-18s. However, on certain branch lines in eastern Canada with lighter rail and bridges, the weight per axle of the RS-18s exceeded the limits for safe navigation. When ancient six-axle RSC-13s and RSC-24s were retired in the mid-1970s, CN embarked on a program to retruck 28 RS-18s with the six-axle trucks salvaged from retired RSC-13s to become “RSC-14” units for branch line service. Their Alco 251B prime movers were derated to 1,400hp, feeding the same four GE 752 traction motors and wheelsets but in six-axle trucks repurposed from the RSC-13s in an A1A-A1A configuration. The fuel and water capacity was also reduced by 25 percent to lighten their footprint. Later in life, the RSC-14s wandered far and wide within Canada’s Maritime provinces.

The RSC-14 was designed for service on branches in eastern Canada. 

Canadian Pacific also rostered RS-18s, 69 of which were delivered between 1957 and 1958. After 20-plus years of service, CP sought to extend the lives of these venerable 251B–powered locomotives. From 1980 through 1988, all 69 units were extensively rebuilt at the Angus Shops in Montreal. In the process, the units received a lowered short hood for improved visibility, the addition of new class light arrays front and rear, new front number boards, and an improved uncoupling lever design. Under the hood, the newly designated RS–18u featured overhauled engines, trucks with reconditioned traction motors, improved heating systems, new wiring, new windows, cab insulation, and control stands.

Following up from its first production of RS-18s in 2020, Rapido Trains is now offering highly detailed HO scale replicas of these later variants of the RS-18 family including the Canadian National RSC-14 and the Canadian Pacific RS-18u. Both are offered in several different liveries.

Our subjects for this review are Canadian National 1778, representing an RSC-14 painted in CN’s original “wet noodle” black-and-orange; and Canadian Pacific 1832, replicating an RS-18u in the classic “Multimark” scheme.

As with most premium locomotives these days, purchasers will find these RS-18 variants shipped securely within layers of plastic and foam encased within a thick paper box emblazoned with appropriate box art. The customary multi-page user’s manual is provided, with humorous but informative prose in both English and French that documents the shell removal procedure and the breadth of DCC commands available on these engines if equipped.

The handrails are of a hybrid metal and plastic construction where the stanchions are literally molded around the metal handrails in the manufacturing process. This results in a relatively sturdy and straight set of handrails down the side of the locomotive. Given the plethora of details on these models, one must still exercise caution in handling.

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This article was posted on: January 29, 2024