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By John Riddell
Introduction In the early 1950s many railroads were looking for alternate means of providing fast, more economical passenger service with the goal of gaining back some of the clientèle that had transferred to automobiles. The Budd Company of Philadelphia designed the RDC (Rail Diesel Car) as an economical alternative to the traditional locomotive-hauled passenger trains in suburban, commuter, branch line, interurban and supplementary main line service at a time when the railroads were struggling to make such services profitable. RDCs proved much less costly to operate than regular consists and were well received by railroads throughout North America as well as some overseas lines. Priced at $127,000 to $130,000, an RDC cost approximately 50 per cent less to operate than a conventional locomotive-hauled train. An RDC demonstrator unit toured a number of railroads in late 1949 and early 1950. A total of 398 units of various configurations were built from 1949 and 1962. The Budd Company built RDCs in its Red Lion plant in Philadelphia. In 1957, Canadian Car & Foundry Company of Montreal was licensed to build RDCs in Canada for Canadian buyers. Subsequently, 16 unfinished body shells were supplied by the Budd Company and completed in the Lachine plant of Canadian Car & Foundry.
The RDC Design The RDC was visually attractive, easy to maintain, lightweight, flexible and powerful. The stainless-steel exterior was almost maintenance free. Operating controls were positioned at each end of the car to eliminate costly and time-consuming trips to turn the car at stub-ended terminals. The units could be used singly or in multi-car trains. The design incorporated developments by General Motors in engine and torque-converter transmissions developed for use in US Army M46 Patton tanks during the Korean War. The RDCs had a high power/weight ratio providing fast pick-up. Twin compact six-cylinder diesel engines produced 550 horsepower enabling the car to accelerate to 44 mph in 60 seconds, 54 miles per hour in 90 seconds and 80 miles per hour in under four minutes. The RDC had a top speed of 83 mph on level track.
An engine was mounted on the underframe beside each truck and connected to the driving axle of the adjacent truck. The modular diesel engines and transmissions were located under the floor so that they could be easily slid out on a pair of rails for quick repairs or replacement. The two engines provided a greater degree of reliability than could have been obtained from a single power plant. Disc brakes enabled the car to decelerate at 2.8 mph per second. The engines were cooled by radiators on the roof of the car connected by piping to insulated water tanks beneath the floor. A blister on the center of the roof contained the cooling radiators, cooling fan motors, radiator fans and engine exhaust pipes. The RDC rode on a pair of four-wheel drop-equalizer trucks with a wheel base of 8 foot 6 inches and 33-inch diameter wheels. Naturally, variations in arrangements of internal seating and cargo sections were made by the builder, or by the owning railways, to suit their operating requirements. Three chains were hung in each end door way for safety when the end door was opened.
Budd offered its RDC in five versions.
The RDC-1, the most numerous version, was a self-propelled coach containing only passenger seating for 90 passengers. Because there was no space encroachment in the car body by the power plant, there was plenty of room for passenger seats. A vestibule with operator controls was at each end. A men's room was at one end and a women's restroom was at the opposite end. It was 85 feet long.
The RDC-2 contained a 17-foot baggage section followed by a coach section with seating for 70 passengers. It contained a common toilet at the end of the passenger section. The baggage section had a 4-foot wide door on each side. It was 85 feet long.
The RDC-3 contained a 17-foot Railway Post Office (RPO) section followed by a 17-foot 9-inch baggage section followed by a coach section with seating for 48 passengers. It contained a common toilet at the end of the passenger section and a toilet in the RPO section. It was 85 feet long.
The RDC-4 contained a 30-foot RPO section followed by a 31-foot baggage-express section, with a toilet in the end of each section. It contained no passenger seating. Unlike the other models the RDC-4 was not air-conditioned. With proportionally higher loading, it was built to a shorter 73-foot 10-inch coupled length to match the performance of the other models. The RDC-4 was introduced after the other three models had been in service for a couple of years.
The RDC-9 was introduced in 1956 for the Boston & Maine as a "powered trailer", designed for use with two regular RDCs in a three car consist. It was a motorized coach powered by a single motor and containing seating for 94 passengers. Lacking control cabs or end windows, it was not designed for independent operation but was controlled by controls in a coupled RDC. It was 85 feet long.
Like many models whose manufacture spanned many years, the design of the RDC was updated during its 13 years of production. Units built between 1949 and 1955 have been termed the Phase I units by rail fans. Budd made several changes to the body design starting in 1956 and all units built from then are referred to as Phase II. Additional running design changes were also made to trucks, roof blister design and several other details throughout the production run creating a wide variety of possible configurations. Phase I The first RDC (an RDC-1, serial no. 2960,) was built in 1949 and served as a demonstrator unit, touring many railroads to generate orders for the Budd Company. Phase I units featured large end windows, roof fluting that extended to align with the side doors, headlights inset in the ends, fabricated truck side frames and side number boards. The phase 1 had inset end pilots or no pilots. The first unit had many subtle detail differences from later production units. Variations included the design of the front valance, five (as opposed to four) tread steps, windshield wiper mounting position and trucks.
After demonstration touring, the first unit saw service on the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines and then in 1964, was sold to Canadian National as their number D-110 (later 6110). Rebuilt and updated during its service life, this demonstrator unit saw service for VIA Rail Canada for many years, outliving many of its successors! Phase Ia The first ten production RDCs are often referred to as Phase IA. These ten units incorporated the five-tread steps of the demonstrator unit and utilized a slightly different roof top blister design than all later units.
Phase Ib The most numerous style of Phase I units, the Phase Ib featured a rooftop blister design with two sloped rectangular grills over the radiator/fan sections on each side separated by a solid panel. Two circular grills were on top. Along the lower sides of the blister were eight rows of louvers separated by a small ribbed panel. Most Phase Ib units utilized a fabricated truck design (the exception being the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines units which were equipped with cast sideframe trucks). The pilots on Phase I units were separate pieces that were omitted on some road’s units. Phase Ic The Phase Ic units utilized an updated rooftop blister design which had a single grill over the entire radiator /fan section. Eight rows of louvers were along the lower sides of the roof top blister.
Phase II Starting in 1956 the RDC design underwent a major change incorporating larger 280hp engines in place of the original 275hp engines. The design of the car body ends changed with the cab end windows smaller allowing space for car or train number boards above the end windows. The rooftop stainless-steel fluting ended short of aligning with the side doors. The headlights were moved to the roof-top and horizontal square ridges were added that started above the side doors and wrapped around the ends. The end pilots became larger and became an integral part of the body end. A single grill covered the entire rooftop radiator/fan section. All Phase II RDCs had cast-style truck side frames.
Rebuilds and Upgrades As is typical of any railroad equipment that remains in service for many years, the RDC fleets of many railroads were rebuilt, upgraded and modernized over the years. These modernization steps introduced many small detail changes that make the production of accurate models a challenge!
Twenty-four US railroads purchased new RDCs from the Budd Company. The following chart shows the number of RDC units purchased by these United States railroads. Many of these units went on to serve new owners either through merger or sale. These are mentioned in the "notes" column. The chart does not indicate the phase of each unit.
|Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway||RDC-1||2|
|Baltimore & Ohio Railroad||RDC-1||12||To MDOT, MARC|
|Boston & Maine Railroad||RDC-1||57||To MBTA, VIA|
|Budd (prototype/demonstrator)||RDC-1||1||To CN, VIA|
|Central Railroad of New Jersey||RDC-1||7||To NJDOT|
|Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad||RDC-1||1||To CN|
|Chicago & North Western Railway||RDC-1||2||To NJDOT|
|RDC-2||1||To C&O, NJDOT|
|Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad||RDC-3||5|
|Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway||RDC-3||1||To NP, AMT|
|Great Northern Railway||RDC-3||1||To AMT|
|Lehigh Valley Railroad||RDC-1||1||To RDG|
|Long Island Rail Road||RDC-1||1|
|RDC-2||1||To B&O, MARC, MDOT|
|Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway||RDC-4||2|
|Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad||RDC-3||1||To C&O, CN, VIA|
|New York Central Railroad||RDC-1||16||To PC, AMT|
|RDC-2||1||To PC, AMT|
|RDC-3||3||To PC, AMT|
|New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad||RDC-1||29||To PC, AMT|
|RDC-2||2||To PC, AMT|
|RDC-3||6||To PC, AMT|
|New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway||RDC-1||4||To CNJ, NJDOT|
|Northern Pacific Railway||RDC-2||1||To BN|
|Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines||RDC-1||12||To NJDOT|
|Reading Company||RDC-1||12||To SEPTA|
|Southern Pacific Railroad||RDC-1||1|
|Western Pacific Railroad||RDC-2||2||To NP|
|Western Railroad of Cuba||RDC-1||4|
Amtrak Amtrak acquired its 21 RDCs second-hand in 1971 primarily from the Penn-Central and Burlington Northern. Amtrak numbered its RDCs between 10 and 43. The Amtrak units were painted with red, white and blue ends and window bands. Amtrak equipped most of these units with diaphragms and roof-top headlights. All units were disposed of by 1986.
Boston & Maine B&M purchased 130 new RDCs from 1952 to 1956. RDC-1 were numbered in 6100 series; RDC-2 were in the 6200-series; RDC-3 were in the 6300 series and RDC-9 were in the 6900-series. B&M advertised its RDCs as Highliners. In 1956B&M requested Budd to design a car with a single engine and ends without end windows or controls that could be used as a trailer sandwiched between regular RDCs with controls. B&M purchased 22 of these RDC-9 trailers for multiple-unit suburban service. B&M units were initially painted with a minute-man herald on each side of their end doors. Later they carried a large blue and white BM herald on each side of their end doors. Some units were sold to CN in 1965 but most units were sold to the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) in 1975.
Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) MBTA purchased its RDCs from B&M, SEPTA, Penn Central and Canadian Pacific from 1975 to 1985 to provide all passenger service for Boston. The RDCs purchased from B&M retained their numbers while others were numbered from 10 to 77. MBTA cars were painted with wide purple bands along their windows and ends. Many units were de-motorized in 1980 while others were rebuilt to coaches in 1982.
New Haven The New Haven purchased 40 new RDCs in 1952 and 1953 and advertised them as Shoreliners. NH units were initially painted with an New York New Haven And Hartford script herald on their end doors. Later under president Patrick McGinnis they had white ends with black doors and a large red panel with large white NH on each side of the end doors. Penn Central inherited all surviving units in 1968.
New York Central The New York Central purchased 20 new RDCs from 1950 to 1953 and advertised them as Beeliners. NYC units were numbered M-450 to M-499 and painted with black, white and orange chevron-striped ends and black lettering on the letter boards.Penn Central inherited all surviving units in 1968. Most units were sold to Metro-North Commuter Railroad in 1983 for service to New York City. The most famous member of the NYC RDC fleet was RDC-3 M-497, which was given a streamlined front end and fitted with two 5,000hp GE J47-19 jet engines recovered from a Convair B-36 bomber. Known as the 'Black Beetle', it recorded almost 200mph on tests in Ohio in the mid-1960s! Penn Central When it was created in 1968 the Penn Central acquired the large fleets of RDC cars of the New York Central and the New Haven. Penn Central numbered its units from 35 to 80 and painted them with black, white and orange chevron-striped ends. The units were later sold to Amtrak, SEPTA, Metro-North and MBTA.
Baltimore & Ohio The Baltimore and Ohio purchased 21 new RDCs from 1950 to 1956 and acquired three second-hand from the C&O in 1968. The railroad advertised them as Speedliners. B&O units were numbered 9910 to 9941 and 1901 to 1971. They were plainly painted with a B&O capital-dome logo on each side of the end doors. Some units were fitted with a diaphragm at each end to enable passengers to move between cars when operated as multiple unit trains. Most units were sold to the Maryland Transportation Department from 1982 to 1987. Reading The Reading purchased 12 new RDCs from 1950 to 1953 and nine second-hand units from 1962 to 1975. Reading units were numbered 9151 to 9171 and plainly painted with a Reading diamond logo on the left side of each end and black lettering on the letter boards. Most units were sold to MBTA in 1985.
Central Railway of New Jersey The Central of New Jersey purchased seven new RDCs from 1954 to 1957 and four second-hand units in 1960. CNJ units were numbered 551 to 561 and plainly painted with a CNJ statue-of-liberty logo on the left of the end doors and black lettering on the letter boards. Most units were sold to New Jersey Transit in 1976. Long Island Railroad The Long Island Railroad purchased only two new RDCs in 1955 which it numbered 3101 and 3121. They were painted plainly with orange end doors and black lettering on the letter boards. They ran until October 1967. Chicago & Eastern Illinois The Chicago & Eastern Illinois purchased a single RDC in 1955 and numbered it RDC-1. It was plainly painted with black lettering on the letter boards. It was sold to CN in 1964. Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines The Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines (PRSL) purchased 12 new RDCs in 1950 and 1951. PRSL units were numbered M-402 to M-413 and plainly painted with black lettering on the letter boards. The surviving ten units were sold to New Jersey Transit in 1969 but continued to be operated by PRSL until approximately 1987.
Southern Pacific The Southern Pacific purchased a single new RDC-1 in 1954. Numbered 10, it was plainly painted with red and orange stripes on its ends, circular SP heralds on its end doors and red letter boards. It was rebuilt in 1960 after an accident. It was sold to the Yreka Western in 1971.
Canadian railways purchased a total of 107 RDCs - both new and second-hand from US roads. Sixteen units were completed by Canadian Car & Foundry plant in Lachine, Quebec in 1957. CNR purchased 46 new while CPR purchased 54 new of which two were assigned to the Dominion Atlantic. PGE purchased seven new. The following chart shows the number of RDC units operated by Canadian railways. Some of the units moved from one railroad to another over time, such as the CN and CP cars going to VIA Rail. The numbers include units purchased both new and second-hand. The chart does not indicate the phase of each unit.
|Canadian National Railways||RDC-1||19||Includes original Budd demo unit ex-CE&I 1964 and 8 ex-B&M units. Two finished by CC&F. All to VIA (except CN 6103, wrecked 1969).|
|RDC-2||7||2 Budd and 4 CC&F finished units. CN also acquired 1 ex-B&M, 4 ex-CPR and 1 ex-GTW unit. All to VIA.|
|RDC-3||8||CN also acquired 1 ex-C&O (exx-MKT), 1 ex-GTW and 1 DW&P unit. All converted to RDC-1m or RDC-2m. All to VIA (except D-101, wrecked 1985).|
|RDC-4||6||To VIA (except D-451/2, both wrecked 1969).|
|RDC-9||7||Acquired from B&M. CN designated these RDC-5. All to VIA.|
|Canadian Pacific Railway||RDC-1||24||1 unit ex-DSS&A. #9058/9 originally lettered for Dominion Atlantic. 3 units finished by CC&F. All to VIA (except #9052, wrecked 1972, #86, to MBTA, and #90, to Exporail).|
|RDC-2||23||Includes 1 unit from Lehigh Valley). 7 units finished by CC&F. 9 units converted to RDC-5, later RDC-1. All to VIA (except #9101, wrecked 1959, #9198, wrecked 1973, #9113/95/6/7 to CN, and #91, which remained with CP).|
|RDC-3||5||Four units converted to RDC-2m. All to VIA.|
|RDC-4||3||All to VIA.|
|Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic Railway||RDC-1||1||To VIA.|
|Pacific Great Eastern / BC Rail||RDC-1||6||3 units ex-RDG/SEPTA (acquired 1983/4).|
|RDC-3||8||1 ex-GN, 2 ex-NP, and 1 ex-DM&IR. NP/DM&IR units acquired for spares only. Original BC-31 wrecked 1973, BC-32 wrecked 1960.|
Canadian National CN advertised its RDCs as Railiners and numbered them based on model type. RDC-1s were D-100 up. RDC-2s were D-200 up. RDC-3s were D-300 up. RDC-4s were D-400 up and RDC-9s were D500 up. Due to popular public response to the initial units that CN purchased in 1954-1959, to meet traffic demands CN purchased additional second-hand units from B&M, C&O, C&EI, B&M in 1964 and 1965. CN purchased seven RDC-9 units from the MBTA in 1965. The CN units were delivered with green and yellow ends with black lettering on the stainless steel letter boards. Later they received bright red ends with white CN noodle logos and wide black bands with white CN noodle logos along the side window panels Some units operating in western Canada had a white band on their letter boards.
In 1964-65 CN modernized and improved the interiors accommodations in many units. CN and VIA Rail operated one of the largest RDC fleets. CN modernized most of its Phase I units by adding new ends with smaller cab windows, larger pilots of the Phase II design and roof-top headlights in a unique housing. Many Phase II units were fitted with a diaphragm at each end to enable passengers to move between cars when operated as multiple unit trains. Late in life many units also received ditch lights in rectangular recesses below the end cab windows. In 1978 all existing CN units were transferred to VIA. Canadian Pacific CP advertised its RDCs as Dayliners and numbered them based on model type. RDC-1s were 9050-9099. RDC-2s were 9100-9199. RDC-3s were 9020-9049. RDC-4s were 9200-9299. In operation, a headlight was usually mounted on the center of the end door on the leading unit. Two RDC-1 units were assigned to, and lettered for, the CP subsidiary Dominion Atlantic Railway. CP purchased one RDC-1 from the DSS&A in 1958 and one RDC-2 from the Lehigh Valley in 1958.
The Initial CP paint scheme was maroon and yellow chevron striped ends and maroon letter boards. With the advent of CP Rail they received Action Red and white ends, white cab roofs and Action Red letter boards. This CP Rail scheme has been called the "hockey mask" scheme as it resembles a face mask worn by hockey goal keepers. A final paint scheme was ends with Action Red and white stripes, white cab roofs and Action Red side doors and letter boards.
In 1978 all existing CP units were transferred to VIA. PGE / British Columbia Railway / BC Rail PGE and BC Rail advertised its RDCs as Cariboo Dayliners and numbered them based on model type. RDC-1' were BC-10 up while RDC-3s were BC-30 up. In addition to the units that PGE purchased new in 1956, PGE purchased additional second-hand units; four from Amtrak in 1975 and three from SEPTA in 1983. The PGE units had dark green and orange ends with a dark green letter boards and orange lettering. Most of the units had the side fluting carried across the side doors and wrapped around the car ends.
PGE cars had Swanson air horns mounted on the roof at each end and "Pathfinder" headlights mounted on the extreme top corners of the car. In operation, a headlight was usually mounted on the center of the end door on the leading unit. In 1972 all existing PGE units became units of the British Columbia Railway which later became BC Rail. British Columbia Railway BCR applied several paint schemes on their RDCs. The first paint scheme of BCR was dark and light green ends with a dogwood herald on the end door and light green letter boards and yellow pilots. Later they had dark green ends and letter boards, 12" wide white reflective stripes on the lower ends 2" diameter dogwood herald on ends and sides and yellow pilots. BC Rail BC Rail painted their RDCs with dark green tops of ends, 8"-wide reflective diagonal stripes on bottom of ends and yellow pilots. Later they applied dark blue tops of ends with 8" diagonal white stripes. VIA Rail Canada In 1978, VIA inherited 84 units from the CN and CP. Many additional RDCs were purchased from MBTA (ex-B&M) as they were made surplus in the US. VIA numbered their RDCs in the 6xxx series. In operation, a headlight was usually mounted on the center of the end door on the leading unit. The VIA units carried wide blue bands with yellow stripes on their sides with VIA logos and had their pilots painted black. Some former CN VIA units initially carried the above VIA paint scheme with additional red CN noodle logos.
Commonwealth Railways of Australia purchased three new RDC-1s in 1951, which they numbered BC-1, BC-2 and BC-3. As part of its post war rehabilitation the Commonwealth Railways upgraded its short haul passenger services by introducing the three RDCs on the runs between Port Pirie, Port Augusta, and Tarcoola in May 1951. From July 1952 the cars made regular runs to Tarcoola, however this journey involved long stretches of unfenced track and damage was often caused through running down stock and kangaroos so the RDC service to Tarcoola was discontinued in January 1961, although the service was retained between Port Augusta and Woomera. Alterations in passenger traffic resulted in the RDCs being removed from service in 1976 and placed in storage until refurbished in 1985 for a new service between Adelaide and Whyalla, which was ultimately discontinued in December 1990. Australian National Railways in 1996 donated RDC CB1 to the National Railway Museum in Port Adelaide, South Australia in 1996. Other overseas railways that purchased new RDCs were in Cuba, Brazil (on narrow gauge trucks) and Saudi Arabia.
|Arabian American Oil Company||RDC-2||4||Saudi Arabia|
|Commonwealth Railways (Australia)||RDC-1||3|
|Consolidated Railways of Cuba||RDC-1||11|
|RFFSA (Brazil)||RDC-1||27||Narrow gauge|
Where are they now ? The vast majority of RDCs have been retired and scrapped. There are apparently only seven RDCs currently remaining in revenue service in North America: TriMet of Portland Oregon operates two RDCs.
A number of RDCs have been preserved in railway museums across North America. The following museums in the United States have preserved RDCs:
The following museums in Canada have preserved RDCs:
A privately-owned RDC-9 is stored in Ottawa, Ontario. The National Railway Museum in Port Adelaide, South Australia has an RDC-1.
Rapido Trains Inc. has saved VIA RDC-1 #6133 from being scrapped at Industrial Rail, Moncton, New Brunswick. It is intended to use the restored RDC in both excursion and charter service in Southern Ontario. You can read more about this exciting project by clicking here.
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