Quick Review: Rapido HO scale Flexi-Flo
Release in the fall of 2020, Rapido Train's much anticipated, and quickly sold out Flexi-Flo covered hoppers are a welcome addition to any 1964 to 2015 era layout!
Officially carded as the American Car & Foundry (ACF) PD3500 Covered Hopper, the name "Flexi-Flo" came from the New York Central. More details on the Prototype can be read on Rapido's website: https://rapidotrains.com/products/ho-scale/freight-cars/ho-scale-acf-flexi-flo
The Model: Rapido expertly created the model in HO scale, sparing no details. This isn't the first model of these cars in HO scale, with brass imports, and even AHM made a model during the 1970's and 1980's! I've seen in the past a few modelers who have turned great replicas from the AHM version, and I even started one myself in the late 2000's. Plano Model Products released a replacement etched walkway for these old AHM models.
The clear plastic allows for viewing of the model in the packaging, but Rapido includes a smooth, foggy plastic liner to separate the model from the clear plastic clamshell, so the model is hardly "visible."
Once removed from the box, the clamshell is opened like other common packaging on the market. Be sure to thoroughly read Rapido's well know, and amusing paperwork, it's almost better than the model!
Printing is smooth and accurate to the prototype, however, I was not able to find a photo of SYSX 836 in the FRA mandated reflective stripe era. While I appreciate the reflective stripes, since I model that era, a modeler who would choose to model SYSX 836 before the stripes were presumable added, has the more difficult task of removing them. See Removing Factory Printed Letters or Numbers (Microsol) if you would like to attempt to backdate one of these cars.
The under body details on this care are absolutely exquisite. Those pipes are one of the main reasons I never finished my kitbash of the AHM release!
Rapido includes a very nice version of the 125 ton trucks that most of these cars come equipped with. Not all do however, and Rapido has correctly included 100 ton trucks with the appropriate cars. Wheels are 38" in diameter on the 125 ton trucks, with code 110, RP25 contour, all 4 of mine were exactly in line for back to back spacing according to my NMRA gauge.
End details were another stopping point for my old AHM kitbash. These cars had two air reservoirs, used for both air brakes and for the pressure system to help unload the cars. In addition to that, there were cool stand off grabs, completely looped at the top of a hard stanchion on each corner of the car. Hand bending that grab was a daunting task I never accomplished.
Couplers installed are of a Kadee compatible design, Rapido terms "Macdonald-Cartier knuckle coupler." These are an in-house, Rapido designed and produced coupler. Centering is accomplished by way of Phosphor Bronze spring plate, similar to that used on Kadee #5. Both couplers are exactly at NMRA recommended practice verified by Kadee height gauge.
Being an enclosed car, one expects the model to closely conform to NMRA recommended practice 20.1 regarding car weight. As you can see the car weighs in at 3.7oz. Simple measurement of the car shows it is 6.25" long, meaning the car should weigh 4.2 oz to be in compliance with NMRA RP-20.1. This car should perform well on well laid HO scale track, but being underweight it may cause issues on some less than perfect layouts.
Final Thoughts: This car is a much needed car that saw 5 decades of service all over the country and Canada. Price tag was well with in line with modern high detailed products, with a USD MRSP of $59.95 (CAD $71.95). As of the publication of this article in December of 2020, the cars are getting close to being sold out everywhere. However i do see them popping up on the 2nd hand market already.
Score: I'm going to rate this car 4.5 out of 5, just due to the fact that the car is underweight according to NMRA RP-20.1.
©2020, Josh Baakko, https://www.modelrailroadtips.com