New On The Layout – Rapido RTL Turboliner

Ahhh Rapido, makers of highly detailed trains that almost nobody else does… One of their first HO models was the United Aircraft TurboTrain – and a few years after that they released an N Scale version. It was the second time that somebody had ever released the TurboTrain in N Scale – the first being Bachmann’s several years before. I scooped up one of the last TurboTrains in stock at TrainWorld a few years ago, and quite likely was responsible for the last ones at Trainworld getting sold.

I wrote a post on the TurboTrain a few years ago, they’re nice trains and the N sale version runs better than the original HO scale but they could be finicky. My TurboTrain ended up going back to Rapido to remove the traction tires it came with, and after I got it back I needed to apply Bullfrog Snot to the wheels to address wheel slipping on the inclines. After all that I had a reasonably well running train.

But over the years I’ve been frustrated with Rapido. My FL9 is sitting on a shelf along with the Comet coaches – the Comets don’t roll well, and they derail often. Because they don’t roll well, the FL9 can’t pull four of them up any incline, and the FL9 itself tends to stutter. After I struggled with the Comets I declared “I’m not buying anymore Rapido trains…” (I like the New Look Buses but they’re supposed to be stationary and well, they’re not trains so they don’t count).

I held firm on the declaration that I wouldn’t buy anymore Rapido trains – right up until they announced the RTL Turboliner in N scale… To which I responded:

What can I say… I have a weakness for cool looking trains…

Well, the N Scale Turboliners are shipping and I got one in the Late Phase III paint – so it has the black roof. My verdict – it’s a Rapido….

The train looks terrific. Rapido is known for leaning in to the details and they’ve done it again. Working headlights, class lights, strobes, and emergency beacon on the power cars. Lit coaches and cafe cars with detailed interiors. These trains are really good looking.

Rapido used special couplers with these to ensure that they were closely coupled without big gaps between them. In addition since all the wheels pickup power there’s also contacts in the couplers so that everything runs smooth and the lights don’t flicker. Those special couplers are a bit finicky though, it can take a bit to get them to mate and even if you think you have them connected, there’s a good chance that you don’t.

That photo is a perfect example – when I took it I THOUGHT that the cars were properly coupled together, the reality is that they were not. When properly coupled the diaphrams between the cars are touching like they should be in real life.

Even the car ends are nicely detailed.

I have the DCC sound version – and honestly I’m not sure why you’d get a turbo and not get one with sound. The Turboliner is equipped with two LokSound Micro decoders, one on either end – that’s important because just like in real life certain sounds only come from certain ends of the train depending on the direction of travel and where the operator is. Besides the sounds of both the main and HEP turbines (individually controlled) and the expected horn and bell, you also get a few other options including third rail operation… But what you don’t get is station announcements like you do with the TurboTrain.

Normally I like to include some running when I shoot these videos. A few run pasts to really show off the train, but as you can see at first I didn’t. When I first got the Turboliner I followed the instructions for running them in – just the two power cars coupled together. Run them for about an hour in each direction – and I did. I got really excited too, because they ran in both directions for quite a while with no issues whatsoever. For once it seemed that I actually had a well running Rapido train – it was amazing –

….and then it wasn’t….

After running the two cars together for a few dozen loops around the layout it was time to pull out the rest of the set. Time to hook up the coaches and the cafe cafe and get things going, and that’s when things went off the rails… The power cars would jump the tracks, the coaches would jump the tracks on a curve, my short detector would trip when the train passed over the crossover switch because one wheel on one car was off the track, the train would struggle to get up either incline because it was partially derailed. It’s was one issue after another, I tried removing cars, I even tried just having the power cars running together with nothing else – still derailing. It was truly maddening. The initial draft of this post was made just after I threw my hands up and walked away in frustration.

When I finally got to spend some time inspecting everything and really looking at what was going on I figured out the issue. Both power cars and both of the coaches all had one axel on one truck that wasn’t properly set. The axel on one side wasn’t sitting properly in the axel pocket on the truck and as a result one wheel was lower than the rest. Those misaligned wheels were the root cause of all of the derailing issues.

What I truly don’t know is if the wheels were like that from the factory or if it possibly was from my initial struggles with the couplers caused the issue. Either way, I did notice that it was extremely easy to unintentionally put downward pressure on the cars when trying to mate the couplers. I’ve had to make a conscious effort not to push down on the cars when also trying to push them together.

I’m happy to report that despite my initial frustrations with the RTL, after sorting out the wheel issues it’s been running very well. I haven’t run into issues running in both directions on both tracks. There is still a little bit of wheel slip going up both inclines though. Given that both of the power units have motors in them it’s a little surprising that there’s slipping. Once I clear the workbench of the retaining wall project I’m currently working on I’ll likely bring the RTL in for some Bullfrog Snot for a little extra traction.