Budd's Port of Tillamook Bay RDC 553
Budd's RDC, or Rail Diesel Car, is a prolific example of the evolution that led to DMU and EMU (Electric Multiple Unit) designs. The RDC design was popular from its introduction in the 1950's as a perfect solution for passenger service on branchlines that wouldn't be economical to operate with a locomotive hauled train. Does any of this sound familiar?
Budd cataloged several variations of the RDC, including a straight coach, a combine, and a railway post office. Each of the cars has a cab on each end, and Budd's proprietary MU connections. Many RDCs were rebuilt with more reliable engines and standard 27 pin MU connections.
Port of Tillamook Bay 553 is in more or less original configuration. The car was built in June of 1953 for the New Jersey Central Railroad, and was put directly into commuter service. It is an RDC-1, or standard coach. It was later transfered to New Jersey Transit before being renumbered and then retired.
Following its retirement from NJT, the 553 and sister 552 were sold to a group that was proposing to start commuter service in the Portland, Oregon area. The plans fell through, and the 553 found itself in excursion service for future owner POTB.
The 553 features walkover seats with low backs. They're not overly comfortable, but they're sufficient for a 50 year old car. I've never ridden the car more than a few miles before getting up anyhow.
The 553 is fairly old, and in need of some truck work. Not that the POTB is a groomed mainline by any stretch of the imagination, but the car has a noticeable sway at speed. That could probably be corrected. Other than that, the car rides reasonably well overall.
Being a vintage car, the 553 isn't ADA compatible. It features one tiny restroom on the forward end, and relatively narrow entrances.
Despite its shortcomings, the RDC was certainly a high tech piece for its time. Putting the 553 head to head with Colorado Railcar's DMU prototype isn't a very fair comparison without factoring in the difference in time. (Adjusted for inflation?)
But its very interesting that the same reasoning that gave rise to the RDC to begin with have led to the current interest in DMUs today. Time will tell if there are as many CRM DMUs around 50 years from now as there are RDCs today.
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