Con-Cor introduced their RDC-1 early in 1981. The RDC-2 came along a few months later, and the RDC-3 came out the following year. Very few of the initial RDC-3's were powered (IE, most were dummies). And when Con-Cor reran the RDC cars a few years later, they skipped the RDC-3 alltogether. Consequently, finding an RDC-3 is more challenging than finding a -1 or a -2. And finding a powered -3 is more difficult still. These were the last powered Roco units to come from Con-Cor. The last runs of these used Roco shells, Mabuchi motors, Roco components and were assembled and painted/lettered in Tucson. Con-Cor ultimately dropped their entire line of Roco-based locomotive models in the late 1980s (all having been made obsolete virtually overnight by the new line of Atlas/Kato diesel models).
The gigantic chassis is all metal. The motor is a very small, open-sided, 5-pole, skew-wound job. The driveshafts out of either side of the motor are metal, but everything else is plastic (IE, the long driveshaft extensions, the gears, etc). All eight wheels are geared, although only six provide pickup (the remaining two being equipped with traction tires). Current is transferred from the trucks to the motor via long wires (two per truck). Couplers are truck-mounted Rapidos. There is no lighting. The wheel flanges are oversized, so forget about running these on anything like Code-55 track.
These are nice looking little units and good runners to boot. In fact, I'd say these are probably the finest running N scale models Roco ever sold in the US. Pick-up is great, slow speed performance is excellent, throttle response is smooth at all levels, and apart from being a little louder than we're used to nowadays, there's just not much to complain about here. Unfortunately, there's all that wiring in there to worry about, so definitely not "state of the art". And I do have to wonder why they bothered putting traction tires on these things. I mean, who needs to pull a long train with an RDC anyway?
Dummy units are all plastic (except for a small, flat weight). And for some strange reason, there's virtually nothing holding the shell to the dummy chassis. I'm constantly having mine fall apart and dash to the floor when trying to pick it up.
Maybe it's just been the luck of the draw, but a lot of the Roco Budd units I've picked up have had crummy (flaking, peeling) paint jobs and cracked shells. Go figure. I guess that particular aspect of these models hasn't aged well.
Trivia - these Roco shells are reportedly a good fit for the Kato RDC chassis.
To remove the shell, simply spread the sides apart and lift.
Reviewed: 11/81 Model Railroader ("Con-Cor's models are made in Austria. The powered model has a hefty cast-metal frame and is powered by a double-ended, three-pole, flat Mabuchi motor made in Japan. The motor is 9.5 mm wide by 22 mm long by 15 mm high. The armature features skewed slots to lessen cogging. The motor is held in place by a plastic clip that can be easily pried away from the bottom of the car with a small screwdriver. The motor does not rest squarely in the frame because there's no cavity to accommodate the lower brush holder and it props up one end of the motor. I think performance might be improved by placing a shim under the floating end of the motor to hold it in line with the drive train. Plastic universal joints and drive shafts transmit power to the gearboxes at each end of the car. The plastic gearbox cover doubles as a clip to hold the trucks on. Prying the cover off, I find a plastic worm with metal bearings and several reduction gears: each truck contains six plastic gears. The gears in my sample were heavily lubricated. Electrical pickup is by light, flexible wires to wipers that contact all the wheels. One set of wheels, however, can't pick up on the treads because of plastic traction tires. These tires aren't necessary on a model that at the most might pull only one or two dummy units - the dummies have plastic frames and weigh only 1 ounce each. RDCs often run together controlled from one unit, but they aren't used as locomotives to pull anything else. The model runs acceptably, but I found the operation a bit jerky and noisy. As an experiment I pulled out the traction tire wheel set and substituted an ungeared wheel set from the dummy. The model still had a drawbar pull of .5 ounce. enough to pull fifteen average freight cars... The car also ran more smoothly, started more smoothly, and was able to sustain a slower speed. The body shell is a one-piece plastic casting with fine, crisp detail. The window glazing is lightly frosted clear plastic. My sample was nicely painted and lettered. I compared the model with scale drawings... and found it right on. The trucks do appear a bit heavy, mainly because the side skirting and steps are molded onto them. The prototype had a light, airy-looking truck, and you could simulate this by laying the car on its side and flowing a thin was of black paint into the truck recesses. Rapido-style couplers are mounted on the trucks... This is a handsome model and a welcome addition to the N scale fleet... Plenty of RDC's are still running today, so these cars will be at home on a layout set in any period from 1950 to the present. Undec, SF, PRR, SP, NYC, Southern, GN, UP. $34.98 (powered) and $10.98 (dummy)")