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Rapido Trains HO scale H1d Royal Hudson

Read this review from the October 2020 issue of Model Railroader
Rapido Trains HO scale H1d Royal Hudson steam locomotive

Part of the “Icons of Canadian Steam” series, the HO scale Canadian Pacific Ry. class H1c, d, and e 4-6-4 Hudsons from Rapido Trains represent some of the most successful modern steam locomotives to run on North American rails. Their semi-streamlined boilers and handsome liveries certainly make them among the most attractive. For this review I evaluated an HO model of CPR no. 2851. The engine came factory-equipped with an ESU LokSound 5 dual-mode decoder that provides sound effects on Digital Command Control (DCC) and direct-current (DC) layouts.

The prototype. Looking for faster and more powerful locomotives to handle its heavy, long-distance passenger trains, the Canadian Pacific Ry. adopted a 4-6-4 “Hudson” wheel arrangement, pioneered by the New York Central RR, for its new design. These first CPR Hudsons, the H1a and H1b classes, were delivered in 1928 and 1930, respectively.

At the end of the 1930s, the Montreal Locomotive Works delivered semi-streamlined 4-6-4 Hudsons to the CPR in three batches: class H1c nos. 2820 to 2849 (1937), H1d nos. 2850 to 2859 (1938), and H1e nos. 2860 to 2864 (1940) for a total of 45 locomotives. The H1e Hudsons were oil burners and 16 other H1c and H1d locomotives were converted to oil later in their careers.

The semi-streamlined Hudsons became “royal” in 1939 after King George VI and Queen Elizabeth made a 31-day tour of Canada on a special 12-car train led by class H1d no. 2850. Both the locomotive and cars wore a special royal blue livery. After the tour the CPR was granted permission to designate all its semi-streamlined Hudsons as “royal” by affixing a brass casting of the royal crown to the sides of each locomotive’s running boards.

By the end of the 1950s, diesels had bumped the Royal Hudsons to commuter and freight runs, and most were retired from regular service in 1960. Four Royal Hudsons survive on display in Canada and the United States.

The HO scale Royal Hudson is loaded with prototypical details. The model’s many separate parts include the bell, generator, tender hatches, and all piping and handrails.

The model. The model’s major dimensions match those of official CPR steam locomotive diagrams. Our review sample models CPR class H1d no. 2851 after the mid-1940s, when the prototype had its streamlined smokestack replaced by a straight stack. Like its prototype, the model also features a Franklin booster engine on the trailing truck.

Boiler bands, rivet seams, and other molded detail are well defined. Separate details include piping, builder’s plates, and the crown herald on the running boards. The boiler handrails are separate metal parts.

In addition to handrails, separate parts on the tender include a movable diaphragm that fits snugly against the locomotive’s all-weather cab. As per its no. 2851 prototype, the coal tender rides on Commonwealth trucks. Tenders with Buckeye trucks, as well as versions with oil bunkers, are available as appropriate for the road number offered.

There aren’t any figures inside the cab, but the interior does feature a detailed backhead with painted valves and gauges as well as interior and ground lights. There’s also clear plastic glazing in all the cab windows, and the side windows slide open and closed.

The mechanism. Although a modeler shouldn’t need to take the locomotive apart, instructions are provided in the printed manual for removing the top half of the boiler shell. The process involves removing the coupler, two screws at the rear of the cab, and two more screws under the pilot. Be careful, as wires run between the boiler halves.

The flywheel-equipped can motor and die-cast metal weight are inside the boiler, along with the LokSound 5 decoder plugged into a 21-pin socket on the motherboard. All three driver axles are powered via gearboxes. A round speaker is inside the smokebox. As outlined in the instructions, there are connections on the motherboard for a smoke unit (not included). However, this would require removing the front weight.

An eight-pin plug on the drawbar connects the electronics in the engine to those in the tender. An additional speaker in the tender can be turned on or off via a slide switch on the underframe.

Performance. On the test track, our DCC-sound-equipped model produced a 4.8 ounce drawbar pull that’s equivalent to 22 HO scale passenger cars. Its 72 scale mph top speed is less than the 90 mph of the prototype but fast enough for most HO scale main lines. On our DCC-equipped staff layout, the locomotive easily led a passenger train through crossovers and no. 5 and 6 turnouts without any interruptions in sounds, lights, or motion.

Pressing F8 turned on steam hisses, air pumps, and other ambient sounds of a steam locomotive. As I advanced the throttle, the exhaust chuffs were erratic. Thankfully the chuff timing and every other sound, light, and performance aspect of the LokSound 5 decoder is easy to adjust using configuration variables (CVs). To fix the chuffs, I followed the ESU instruction manual (available as a free download at First I used a stopwatch to time the wheel rotation in speed step 1 of 28. Then I divided that number (16 seconds) by 4. After multiplying this value (4) by 32, I entered the result (128) in CV57. (Note that the ESU instructions omit this last crucial step.) With CV58 set to its default value (43), the locomotive’s exhaust was then synchronized at a prototypical four chuffs per wheel revolution.

In addition to the CPR five-chime whistle, which sounds like prototype recordings, other user-triggered features include a bell, coupler sounds, injector, cylinder cocks, and other effects outlined in the included printed manual. There’s also a button-controlled independent brake (F10) for realisic stops. I especially enjoy using the heavy load (F9) and coast (F4) functions, which simulate the locomotive working hard (as when starting a heavy train) or drifting (as when running light), respectively.

Lighting effects are equally impressive. In addition to a directional headlight and backup light, the model features class lights that can be toggled between white, green, and off, plus an illuminated number board. Inside the cab is an interior light and flickering red firebox. Under the cab, ground lights can be turned on or off.

In DC, the model required 6.6V for the lights and sound to come on. At 8.2V, the model started moving smoothly as shown in the charts above. Sound effects are limited to exhaust chuffs and squealing brakes when the throttle is quickly reduced. The number board is illuminated and the headlight operates directionally.

The HO scale Royal Hudson from Rapido Trains accurately depicts one of the last mainline steam locomotives to operate in North America. The model’s state-of-the-art decoder and sound system also ensure that it sounds as good as it looks. Be sure not to miss it.

Rapido HO scale H1d Royal Hudson performance chart
Facts and features
Price: $699.95 (DCC sound), $599.95 (DC, no sound)
Rapido Trains
500 Alden Road, Unit 21
Markham, ON L3R 5H5
Era: 1937 to 1960 (mid 1940s to 1960 as detailed and decorated for no. 2851)
Classes/Road names and numbers: H1d: 2851, 2850 (Royal Train), 2852, 2857, and 2858 (as preserved at Canada Science & Technology Museum). H1c: 2829 (oil), 2839, 2839 (Southern Ry.), and 2846. H1e: 2860 (British Columbia, versions with or without coat of arms), 2861, and 2863. Unnumbered versions also produced. Canadian Pacific coal and oil tenders (Commonwealth or Buckeye trucks) also available separately for $149.95.
21-pin decoder socket
Electrical pickup on four drivers and all tender wheels
ESU LokSound 5 dual-mode decoder (DCC versions only)
Flywheel-equipped can motor
Light-emitting diode headlight, backup light, cab and ground lights, class lights, numberboard, and flickering red firebox
Macdonald-Cartier knuckle couplers at correct height
Metal wheels in gauge
Minimum radius: 18" (22" recommended)
Traction tires on third driver set
Speakers in smokebox and tender (DCC sound versions only)
User-installed optional non-traction-tire-equipped driver set
Weight: 1 pound, 9.4 ounces (engine and tender), 1 pound, 3.8 ounces (engine alone)

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