Prairie Shadows / Rapido Trains (China) MLW FPA-4 & FPB-4

Introduced: 2017

These models were produced exclusively for Prairie Shadows Model Railway Company by Rapido Trains (Canada). The A & B units are both powered and are available either DCC-Ready or equipped with ESU Loksound decoders. The internal chassis/mechanism employed here is quite similar to the one used by Rapido in their 2016 FL9 models (although the way current gets from the trucks to the chassis has been completely redesigned).

A and B units share the exact same internals (right down to the lighting). The bulk of the chassis is metal and split-frame. A plastic underframe piece holding the couplers and all of the various bits of underbody detailing clips to the sides of the chassis. Two additional plastic clips across the top of the chassis help to hold things together (IE, the entire mechanism is screwless). The motor (five-pole and skew-wound according to RT) is a round "can-style" job equipped with a couple of small flywheels. The multi-piece plastic driveshafts turn brass worms mounted inside of plastic boxes sandwiched between the metal chassis halves.

One of the plastic chassis clips holds the main PC board in place. A European-style "NEM 651" six-pin DCC interface is provided on top of the PC board. Wires from the PC board run to the motor and the LED boards for the bright white head and backup lights. The lighting is directional on the analog version. On the DCC-Sound version, the headlight is either on or off with F0 (regardless of direction). Similarly, the backup light is either on or off with F12 (again, regardless of direction). It may be possible to modify this behavior by way of CV settings in the decoder, but I wasn't in the mood to tackle the 48-page LokSound manual in order to verify that theory. The LokSound decoder on the sound version plugs into the NEM 651 socket. The decoder and the enclosed speaker are held in place with tape.

Light conducting plastic mounted inside either end of the shell provides illumination for the headlight and backup light (unfortunately, the numberboards on A units are not lit). As noted above, B units are equipped with lighting on both ends (similar to the rear end lighting on the A units).

All wheels provide pickup by way of an odd system of axle wipers (said wipers are thick and stiff and have cutouts that straddle the axles). Large springs attached to the tops of the wipers transfer current to the chassis. Chassis current reaches the main PC board by way of bent metal contacts soldered to the underside of said board. The trucks clip to the plastic underframe and are easily removed (just pull on them and they will pop right off).

All four axles are geared. Apart from the worms, all gearing is plastic. Couplers are chassis-mounted Micro-Trains. The wheels are low-profile. They're also blackened, although only on the hubs (IE, the wheel surfaces are not - which seems like a very good idea in this era of finicky sound decoders). There are no traction tires.

Paint and detailing are outstanding. The shells come with numerous separately applied parts (grabs, hoses, sunshades, etc). Fans are of the "see through" ilk. A baggie of spare/replacement parts is included should you wind up losing anything. Unlike other RT models, a sheet of decals (for renumbering purposes) is not included with the painted/numbered models. I'm assuming the unnumbered models come with decals, but that's just a guess (since I've never actually owned any).

Performance is outstanding in every way. Mine run smoothly and quietly at all throttle levels. Slow speed creep is "one tie at a time" and the top-end speed is very reasonable. Pickup is solid (no problems with stalls, stuttering or the sound cutting in and out). Pulling power is strong, with a single unit comfortably able to pull thirteen 85' Kato passenger cars through curves on level track (and probably a whole lot more than that, but who runs trains that long?) They have no problems navigating curves as sharp as 9.75"-radius. The sound is robust and nicely rendered (and for a change, not delivered with the volume turned up to 11). Overall, these are terrific looking models that run every bit as good as they look.

Prototype -

The FPA-4 an FPB-4 are unique to CN, combining the rugged looks of the FPA-2 with the reliability of the Alco 251 prime mover. They were delivered from Montreal Locomotive Works over two orders in 1958 and 1959 and soldiered on Canadian and American mainlines until 1989. Following retirement, the FPA-4 and FPB-4 locomotives were given new life on tourist railroads across the United States. Many are still in service today. This Special Run produced by Rapido Trains exclusively for Prairie Shadows Model Railway Co, includes an accurate Alco FA locomotive nose created from a 3D scan of locomotive #6765, at Exporail, Canada's national train museum.

Features -

- DCC-Ready (with 6-pin quick plug) or DCC/Sound installed
- DC models will accept a Digitrax DZ126IN decoder
- Sounds recorded from the real FPA-4 number 6764
- Operational headlight and back-up lights
- Exceptional detailing including factory installed grab irons, MU hoses and sunshades
- Rapido's proven 5-pole, skew-wound motor with silky-smooth drive system
- 100% accurate dimensions taken from 3D scans of the prototype
- Full cab interior on the A unit
- Multiple road numbers plus unnumbered units in most schemes
- ESU Loksound decoders loaded with original sounds
- Solid nickel silver wheelsets
- Micro-Trains couplers mounted at the correct height
- Sold in A/B or A/A pairs ($489 with sound, $269 without). Singleton A & B units also available

Shell Removal -

Four plastic clips inside the shell slot into small openings in the chassis. To remove the shell, use some small screwdrivers or toothpicks (or whatever) to separate the shell from the chassis (and thus free up the clips). The shell should slide up and off at that point. It is not necessary to remove the pilot coupler on A units in order to get the shell off, although it does simplify the process.

Grade: A

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