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Rapido Trains HO scale GE B36-7 diesel

Read this review from the August 2020 issue of Model Railroader
Rapido Trains HO scale GE B36-7 diesel
Rapido Trains HO scale GE B36-7 diesel
Rapido Trains HO scale GE B36-7 diesel underbody
Even with the body off of Rapido’s General Electric B36-7, there’s still plenty of detail to see below the die-cast metal frame.

Southern Pacific (SP) waited for its subsidiary St. Louis Southwestern Ry. (SSW or Cotton Belt) to try out General Electric’s (GE) new B36-7, but you can jump right in with Rapido’s new HO scale model. Available with Electronic Solutions Ulm’s LokSound Version 5 dual-mode sound decoder, it’s available in nine paint schemes or undecorated.

The prototype. While the Cotton Belt may have had the first B36-7s in 1980, most of the 230 locomotives built went to Seaboard System (120) and Conrail (60). B36-7s ride on General Electric’s FB2 floating bolster trucks and develop 3,600 hp from a GE 7FDL16 diesel engine. The eight tall doors in the middle of the hood indicate a 16-cylinder engine sits inside.

Though out of Class 1 railroad service, there are photos online of B36-7s working on regional and shortline railroads as recently as December 2019, including photos of Rapido’s offering of Minnesota Commercial no. 75.

The model. Rapido’s model is packed with road-name and -number specific details. Nearly 200 parts make up these models. The model has a multi-piece plastic body shell attached to a die-cast metal frame. A die-cast metal weight surrounds a five-pole, skew-wound, flywheel-equipped motor that drives all eight wheels through driveshafts and gear towers on each truck. All eight turned metal wheels pick up current and send it to an ESU LokSound V5 dual-mode decoder mounted to the top of the die-cast weight above the rear truck.

Accessing all of this couldn’t be any simpler. I removed the screws securing the draft-gear boxes and pulled them out of the locomotive. In the front, I gently pried the snowplow off to make it easier to remove the coupler. Once the couplers were out, the body shell slipped right off. Clever sprung contacts similar to little plungers connect the locomotive lighting in the body shell to the chassis.

To get into the cab, I used a small screwdriver to push in the four tabs securing the cab to the battery boxes. With the latches released, I rocked the cab back and forth until it cleared the slots aligning it to the long hood.

Then, spreading the cab sides out, I was able to lift the detailed interior past the tabs molded to the bottoms of the side windows. There are seats for three crewmembers, and the various control panels have raised and recessed detail depicting panels and gauges.

With the model reassembled, there’s plenty to look at. Separately applied parts include the expected grab irons and m.u. hoses, but go on to include photo-etched grills on the radiator outlets, cables and piping on the frame and see-through steps at the corners of the locomotive, and Gyralights and SP-specific emergency lights on both ends.

The cab is equipped with sunshades, armrests, rearview mirrors, and an air conditioner. The trucks have snubbers, a speed recorder cable, and brake chains. There’s probably more stuff hiding in the weeds that I didn’t notice.

The combination of metal handrails and plastic stanchions gives us the best of both worlds – sturdiness from the wire and excellent detail and flexibility from the plastic.

As for the snubbers on the trucks, which look like oversized automotive shock absorbers, this model came with a double dose. There should be one on each sideframe, on the lead axle on the engineer’s (right) side and on the trailing axle on the fireman’s (left) side. Rapido is aware of the issue and is making free replacement sideframes available on its website, but company president Jason Shron said it’s often easier to simply pop off the extra part instead of trying to replace the entire sideframe. The BC Rail model should have four snubbers on each truck, so that one’s OK as is.

Our sample was decorated for SP no. 7760 in its original paint scheme with large serif-style lettering along the long hood. The Lark Gray is evenly applied, and the scarlet on the ends is opaque with sharp separations. The lettering is likewise sharp and opaque, with only a few voids in the Southern Pacific lettering where it goes over particularly deep separations between doors on the long hood. All of the many warning labels were legible under magnification, as were the trust plates above the rear truck.

From the top, an emergency light, Gyralight, and headlight on the rear.

Performance. With a LokSound decoder, I started testing in Digital Command Control (DCC) with my NCE PowerCab. In speed step 1, the locomotive crawled along at less than 1 scale mph. Top speed was 66 scale mph, close to the prototype locomotive’s 70 mph with the standard gear ratio.

Electronic Solutions Ulm’s LokSound Version 5 offers more computing power than its predecessor. What that means for the user is better sound and room for future expansion. Performance is the same high quality it’s always been.

Full Throttle control is still part of the package, so I could use the speed control to adjust the sound of the diesel engine independently of locomotive speed to simulate operating with a heavy load at high engine rpm at slow speed, or coasting at high speed with the diesel engine sound at idle. Once I activated it with a LokProgrammer, I had braking control with function 10 (F10). The brake is fun to use when switching industries. It lets you set a reasonable speed and return to it as you make pickups and set-outs.

Lighting functions on this Southern Pacific locomotive were entertaining, as well. Pressing F13 illuminated the simulated Gyralights. If you want more light, trigger the red emergency light with F17. Because of manufacturing limitations, the emergency light only works on the front of the locomotive. Rapido’s detailed operating manual covers all of the lighting effects available on the various versions of the model, and even adds a bit of historical information.

The sound of the GE FDL diesel engine is well reproduced through twin speakers mounted atop the locomotive frame. Motor control was excellent as well, with smooth operation that will please operators whether they’re replicating the high-speed mainline service these locomotives were built for, or in regional railroad service switching lineside industries.

I also tested the locomotive in direct current (DC) using my venerable Model Rectifier Corp. Tech II Railmaster 2400 (with the pulse control OFF). Out of the box, this model took 10.5V to start moving at 2 scale mph. At 12V, it was only moving at 23 scale mph. Top speed at 13.5V was 60 scale mph. It was easy to keep the sound going while I stopped the locomotive and switched directions.

I tested the B36-7 on my home shelf switching layout, where my son and I had fun setting out and picking up cars. He’s a big fan of the FDL burble, and the precise slow speed control made switching enjoyable. The locomotive had no trouble negotiating the layout’s Atlas no. 4 and no. 6 turnouts.

This is another fine locomotive from Rapido. It’s beautifully detailed, it sounds great, and the lighting features will allow you to simulate almost every situation the prototypes might encounter. Whether you’re looking for high-speed mainline power, or a versatile regional railroad journeyman locomotive, Rapido’s B36-7 should be on your shopping list.

Facts and features
Price: $339.95, (DCC and sound); $229.95 (DC, no sound)
Rapido Trains Inc.
500 Alden Road, Unit 21
Markham, Ontario
L3R 5H5 Canada
Road names: Southern Pacific; Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe; BC Rail; Conrail; CSX (repaint and Conrail patch); Minnesota Commercial (one road number); Norfolk Southern; Seaboard System; Southern Ry.; and Transkentucky Transportation. Mul- tiple numbers per scheme unless noted.
Era: 1984 to 1996, as decorated
• Five-pole skew-wound motor with dual flywheels
• Full cab interior, with correct orientation for standard or Southern locomotives
• Full underframe detail, including piping and many separately applied parts
• Metal side handrails with plastic stanchions
• Sounds recorded from Minnesota Commercial B36-7 no. 75
• Three styles of operating, flashing ditch lights, front and rear (as appropriate)
• Metal McDonald-Cartier knuckle couplers, at correct height
• Turned metal wheels, in gauge
• Weight: 16.5 ounces

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