Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The new Rapido Pennsy flat car

 Rapido Trains has recently released a distinctive and well-made HO scale model of a Pennsylvania Railroad Class F30A flat car. It’s distinctive because it was a one-piece freight car: the entire frame, side and end sills and even stake pockets all comprised a single General Steel Castings (GSC) product. This made the car extremely strong and durable, and they survived for decades.

For information on these cars, I naturally turned to the superb book by Elden Gatwood and Al Buchan, entitled Pennsylvania Railroad Flat Cars (Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society, Kutztown, PA, 2008), which I’ve mentioned it before: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2021/01/another-simple-resin-kit.html , and will say again, it’s one of the great freight car books. 

The F30A cars were built during 1933–34, assembled at PRR’s Pitcairn Shops, a total of 1500 cars. This was by far the largest flat car class ever on the PRR.  It was just 50 feet long (in later years, 53 feet, 6 inches became a de facto standard length), but in the 1930s, 50 feet was a long flat car. They had 70 tons capacity, again, large for that day. Below is a prototype photo (PRRT&HS Archives). Note how thin in the side sill.

The one-piece frame/body casting from GSC is shown below (PRR photo, Dave Sweetland collection), whitewashed for visibility. Photo is dated April 18, 1934. You can see that stake pockets were cast onto the body.

The Rapido model is cast metal, thus heavy. (It weighs fully 3 ounces!) It also reproduces beautifully the prototype underframe complexity, as you see below.(You can click on the image to enlarge it, if you wish.)

The prototype car was strong enough that it could be built at the absolute minimum height, which is the top of the standard draft gear. As you see below, this was evident on the model (and prototype, of course) as the top of both bolster and draft gear were flush with the deck. This arrangement became a familiar sight in later years, especially after World War II, when many railroad bought similar cars, but this was a pioneer.

The trucks are another impressive part of this model. The PRR used a somewhat unusual truck for these cars, called 2D-F10, similar to the standard 2D-F8 PRR freight truck, but with a wider spring package to accommodate a leaf spring between the two outer springs in the spring package. The spring rate of the two spring types differs, minimizing harmonic “bounce” with these trucks. Below are the prototype truck at left, and the model truck at right. Obviously the latter has been tooled specially. Impressive work, Rapido!

Part of the long-term survival of these cars was their adaptation in later years for several other uses, including trailer-on-flat-car (TOFC) service in the 1950s, including 250 cars of Class F30D built in 1951 with the same underframe design. Rapido offers this variation too (see examples on their site, at: https://rapidotrains.com/ho-scale.html?cat=1114&railroad=91 ), though most are now at dealers; I got mine at a hobby shop. Some of the TOFC cars were later sold to Trailer Train.

This is a really nice model, and will certainly find work on my layout! If you find freight cars interesting, even if you aren’t a PRR fan, you might like to pick up one or two of these fine models yourself.

Tony Thompson

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