Rapido Trains (China) EMD/GMDD FP9

Introduced: 2021

These gorgeous looking and finely detailed models all come with factory-installed ESU LokSound decoders. As pictured above, they are available in three different detailing configurations (one CP and two CN). Performance-wise, Jeremy Fleming of Rapido Trains informs me that a large number of these models were delivered with manufacturing defects, and with the end result being subpar running (more on that shortly).

The mechanism is rather overly complex and, as such, not particularly easy to dissect. The chassis consists of two hunks of black metal - one on the top and one on the bottom. Two screws (one underneath each truck) hold the halves together. The motor (a round "can-style" jobber, and presumably five-pole / skew-wound) lives in the center of the chassis. According to the parts diagram, a flywheel is mounted to each motorshaft. Dogbone w/ notched-cup U-joints connect the flywheels to the wormshafts. The main PC board and speaker are screwed to the rear half of the chassis. The decoder attaches to the main PC board via a Next18 DCC interface. Three pieces of black electrical tape serve to keep the wiring for the lightboards from moving around.

The worms seat inside of the swiveling truck towers. The trucks are loosely held inside the chassis by plastic arms clipped to the tops of the trucks. Two of the wheels are equipped with traction tires, so only six of the eight wheels provide pickup (courtesy of wheelback wipers). The wheelback wipers push up against flexible contact strips sandwiched between the chassis halves, with current then flowing to the main PC board via metal pegs protruding from the bottom of said board. A non-tired wheelset is included in the box for those interested in running without the TT's. The spare parts bag also includes extra traction tires and various bits of "do it yourself" detailing (varying from one model to the next) - diaphragms, sunshades, various handgrabs, pilot steps, sinclair antenna, etc.

These models come equipped with a rather astounding array of lighting features - Headlight (F0), Classification Lights (F9), Numberboard Lights (F10), and Rear Backup Light (F13). Additional/optional lighting features include Ditch Lights (F6) and Roof Light (F14).

All four axles are geared and all of the gearing (apart from the worms) is black plastic. The couplers are chassis-mounted MTL's (or if they're not MTL's, they're very close MTL clones). The wheels are low-profile, so no problems on Atlas C55 rails.

The plastic shell is a one-piece casting with numerous press-fit details (including a fully detailed cab interior).

There are three main performance issues with these models. First off, the wheel gauging is off on most (if not all) of them. Fortunately, that problem is not at all uncommon in N scale and one that is easily addressed. The more annoying issue (at least for me) is the ridiculously heavy chemical blackening that the factory applied to the wheels -

When it comes to de-blackifying wheel surfaces, simply running the locomotive around for a while (accompanied by frequent track cleaning) usually takes care of things for me. But not so here. A metal brush-style wheel cleaner (like Minitrix's) will get you part of the way there, but ultimately it's going to require the paper towel / chemical cleaner treatment. IE, put a piece of paper towel onto a section of track, soak it with track cleaner, and then run the locomotive (one truck at a time) on top of said soaked paper. It's labor intensive, it's super annoying, but it's really the only way to get these things to run properly.

The third problem is much more esoteric and much more difficult to fix. As I understand it, the trucks are mounted in such a way that they cannot flex properly, and with the end result being a labored combo platter of buzzing and grinding noises as the things roll along. The reported solution is to remove three of the four mount points for each wheelwiper, which will then allow the trucks a bit of movement and eliminate all of the unpleasant noises (a procedure which has been meticulously documented in this YouTube video - Tuning Up Rapido Trains FP9)

Once all the issues are addressed, these are outstanding running models in every way (smooth, quiet, and comfortably able to pull a prototypically sized passenger train). Unfortunately, removing and modifying the trucks is a rather complicated task and probably not something that your average modeler is going to want to tackle. So, if you want a whisper quiet FP9 without all the work, you're just going to have to wait for the next production run (where all of these problems will presumably have been addressed).

Features -

- First ever accurate N scale FP9A made in plastic
- Unique CN & CP variations
- Super-detailed, including roof-mounted cooling coils, separate air hoses, and separate grab irons and handrails
- Working headlight, rear headlight and number boards
- Working rooftop Gyralite and ditch lights (where appropriate)
- CP models include dynamic brakes, vertical slit grilles, frame-mounted water tank, and etched metal icicle breakers
- CN versions include both C/D class (36" radiator fans) and E class (48" radiator fans) versions.
- CN versions include frame-mounted rerailers, rooftop bell, Farr grilles and CN style steam generator.
- Sound models include accurate 567C prime mover sounds recorded by Rapido from a real FP9A locomotive under load

Shell Removal -

The shell is held to the chassis by four large claws molded on the inside of the shell. Spread the sides of the shell away from the chassis (using four toothpicks or similar) and the shell should lift right off.

Grade: C

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