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Walthers HO scale Budd RPO car

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Walthers HO scale Santa Fe RPO
Walthers HO scale Santa Fe RPO
The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. El Capitan is the next HO scale name passenger train offered by Walthers. This well-detailed Railway Post Office with a simulated stainless steel finish kicks off the series.

The prototype.
Railway Post Office (RPO) cars were a common sight on the head end of most American passenger trains for nearly a century. Built to United States Postal Service specifications, RPO’s operated with a crew of postal employees who handled the mail. The RPO crew collected mail from rural stations on the fly, sorted everything, and then dispatched bags of mail from the moving trains.

Santa Fe was still upgrading its postwar streamlined passenger trains with new stainless steel cars, so ten lightweight RPOs were built by Budd with 60-foot postal apartments. Delivered in early 1954, RPO car nos. 89 to 98 had 63-foot fluted carbodies, full skirting, and four-wheel type 41-CNS-11 trucks. The trucks were later replaced with better riding 41-CDO-11 trucks. These RPOs were assigned to Santa Fe’s streamliners until the Postal Service cancelled its mail contracts in 1967.

The Walthers model is an excellent replica that matches an HO scale drawing and photos published in the reference book Head End Cars, by Frank Ellington and Joe Shine, published by the Santa Fe Railway Historical & Modeling Society.
The molded interior fittings in the Walthers lightweight Railway Post Office follow the standard layout and specifications of the U.S. Postal Service
The molded interior fittings in the Walthers lightweight Railway Post Office follow the standard layout and specifications of the U.S. Postal Service.
The car comes assembled and ready-to-run with the later style of four-wheel outside-spring-hanger trucks that are appropriately painted silver. Its carbody is vacuum plated to capture the appearance of the prototype’s stainless steel. The Santa Fe name and RPO lettering is clearly printed on the letter boards and decals are provided for all 10 car numbers. The only separate parts are a pair of mail hooks and crossbars for the doors. All of the grab irons are factory applied.

Black moveable plastic diaphragms just touch when the RPO is coupled to another car and the slack is pushed in. However, there’s a slight gap between the strikers when the slack is stretched out.

Construction. The RPO follows the standard construction used on recent Walthers passenger cars. A one-piece box frame with openings secures the sides, ends, and roof with small latches. Two steel weights sandwiched between the floor and the interior conduct power for a lighting kit (sold separately).

The car has four windows on one side and five on the other due to the interior’s sorting racks and mailbag stanchions.

Proto-Max magnetic knuckle couplers mounted in swinging coupler boxes allow operation on 24" radius curves. The couplers are at the National Model Railroad Association’s standard height.

The trucks have metal sideframes with insulated plastic bolsters. All the wheelsets have NMRA RP-25 contour metal wheels and stub axles pressed into acetal plastic axle tubes. The wheelsets were in gauge and provide eight-wheel pickup for interior lighting. The truck rolling qualities are fair, but lubricating the axle ends, as recommended in the instructions, makes a difference.

Overall, this new RPO from Walthers is well done, and it’ll be a great addition to any model of a lightweight Santa Fe name train.
Price: $69.98

Wm. K. Walthers Inc.
P.O. Box 3039
Milwaukee, WI 53201

Road name: Santa Fe (first release in the El Capitan train series)

Era: 1954 to 1968

  • Accepts Walthers DC or DCC drop-in interior lighting kits
  • (sold separately)
  • Decals for car numbers
  • Weight: 4½ ounces (1 ounce under NMRA Recommended Practice RP-20.1)
  • Vacuum-plated metallic finish

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