Rapido Amtrak TurboTrain

Amtrak TurboTrain 50

I’ve had the TurboTrain for about a year now, it was the second train I purchased when I returned to the hobby and it’s not just the first Rapido train I’ve owned, but also the first with DCC and sound. Since I’ve had the TurboTrain for a while some of the photos and videos are from earlier stages of layout construction.

I’ll be honest, I don’t think there’s a recording of the TurboTrain out there that does the sound justice and that includes this one. It really does sound much better in person than in a recording.

While this is the Amtrak version of the TurboTrain, Rapido produced 6 versions in N scale. In addition to this one which is the “Early Amtrak” scheme, there’s also a “Late Amtrak” scheme which is a variation of the Amtrak Phase II color scheme. There’s also a light silver and blue 3 car United Aircraft/US DOT scheme, a 3 car dark blue and red Penn Central/US DOT scheme, a white and red Canadian National scheme, and a yellow and blue VIARail scheme.

Rapido produced these a few years ago and didn’t make more after the production run ended, because of this they can be hard to find and the e-bay markup on them can be high. That said, there are still a few of them at random hobby shops still on sale new without an eye watering markup, but you’ve got to hunt for them. I got mine on clearance from TrainWorld (plus an extra 10% off thanks to the coupon in Model Railroader) and while they’re gone now, they had several at the time – three years after Rapido stopped shipping these. Up until this past fall they had the 3 car PennCentral/DOT sets too but those are gone as well.

The N Scale version is a much better runner than Rapido’s first attempt at the TurboTrain in HO scale, however things weren’t initially problem free for me. Once I first got the layout built out enough that I could run trains I had issues with one truck of the power cars derailing, what was odd about it was that they weren’t just derailing on corners – but straight track too.

I reached out to Rapido over the issue and they narrowed it down to the traction tires that all of the 5 car sets come equipped with. While they’re included in the box, on the 3 car sets the traction tires are not installed by default, but they are on the 5 car sets. I took Rapido up on their offer to replace the trucks with the version that didn’t have the traction tires installed. Because parts are known to disappear when the case is assembled, I also took them up on their offer to replace the trucks for me with the only cost being postage to Canada.

On the plus side, the TurboTrain runs much better now – outside of an occasional issue with the #4 switches in the yards I haven’t had any issues with derailing. However, the loss of traction from removing those traction tires means that there’s some slipping as the TurboTrain climbs the grades on the layout. The issue is particularly bad climbing the steeper grade on the west side, but I’d rather it struggle up the grades than constantly derail…

The one issue I have with the TurboTrain is that in my eyes it runs a bit slow. It may not look like it in the video above, but this is one of the slowest trains in my entire collection. Now, I get that most N scale trains have a scale top speed that’s far and away higher than the top speed of the prototype that they’re modeled after. But the TurboTrain was one of the fastest trains in the world when it was in service, while track conditions meant it rarely ran at it’s top speeds, this was still a fast train – but Rapido’s version, well it isn’t… It’s top speed is just above half speed on almost every other train I own.

Initially I figured that this was Rapido’s obsession with detail, knowing that most model trains run too fast, I figured that Rapido made a conscious detail driven decision to slow their trains down… Then I got the Rapido FL9 which tops out at the same speed as the TurboTrain. While I could understand Rapido ratcheting back the top speed on their modes in the name of realism – there’s no way that an FL9 and the TurboTrain should have the same top speed. One is a commuter hauler, and the other was a medium distance greyhound built for speed… Something isn’t right there….

The other thing worth noting about the TurboTrain is the manual – I know it seems odd that the manual that comes with a train would be worth talking about, but it is. It’s every bit as snarky as I am. As much as we value our trains, and as expensive as this model is – the manual is a reminder that this is supposed to be fun…

A snippet from Rapido’s TurboTrain manual


  1. A worthwhile question is how fast the prototype US Turbo Trains ever actually operated in service. Other than demonstration runs elsewhere, I believe they spent their lives on the ex New Haven Penn Central, where the speed limit was never more than 70 mph, and that would have included the 1950s McGinnis lightweights. It might be worth checking any existing timetables for the Turbos and comparing them to conventional trains. My guess is these were more a PR exercise in the US. But as I’ve noted on Facebook, N scale passenger equipment from recent runs photographs extremely well!

    1. That’s a good point. Where it’s a bit muddy with the Turbos though is that they were designed for much faster speeds than they ran at, particularly in the US… So if you want to freestyle a layout that are intended to allow trains like the Turbo to run at it’s originally designed speed, then a manufacturer deliberately limiting the speed of the model is a bit disappointing. That said, I’m not sure that this is even a case of Rapido throttling the speed.

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