RAIL DIESEL CAR MODIFICATIONS
The P&C's RDC stops to pick up passengers during a guest appearance at Ken Donahoe's
garden railroad on April 14, 2003. Battery power makes this unit easy to run on other
layouts no matter how they are powered. Ken has DCC in those F3's. Photo by Tom Weaver.
The first time I saw the Aristocraft RDC was at East Coast Large Scale Show in Somerset NJ a few
years ago. I liked its long, lean look and and accurately shaped ends and roof blister. It took a couple
years before it got to market, and I was waiting for the Reading paint scheme, but finally I gave up
waiting and got a Long Island car as a Christmas present. It didn't take too long before I took it apart to
make a few modifications.
1. First I disassembled the car and removed and discarded all interior lighting and cardboard baffles.
Since it would be converted to battery power, I also removed the circuit board. I marked, removed, and
cut the ends of the steel weight, so that the remaining piece was 16 3/4 inches long.
7. Next I rewired the unit for battery power. I installed 18 volts' worth of 3-amp-hour NiMH
batteries and a 75 mHz Onboard receiver. I also installed a charging jack and on/off switch on
one of the underbody motor assemblies. See the battery power page for more details on circuitry.
8. Next I linked the transmitter and receiver and got 'er running. This was great fun!!
The area where the truck swivels was cut
out and moved up about 5 mm by adding
styrene spacers and securing with nuts and
bolts. Also a new access hole was cut for
the wires because the trucks were turned
180 degrees to shorten the car's rigid
wheelbase from 26 down to 17 inches.
The P&C's Budd car makes a stop at the Marshallton Central Railroad, one of many
railroads it has visited.
2. I wanted to lower the body about 5 mm because the car seems to ride too high on the trucks.
I did this by raising the area where the trucks meet the body. I cut 3 1/4 inch ovals in the
aluminum frame around the truck mounts. I made a spacer out of 2 pieces of .080 styrene, 3 5/8
by 5 inch, with a 3-inch-diameter round hole in the center. I sandwiched the spacers between the
metal parts and bolted them all together with 8 bolts (I used the small nuts and bolts that come
with Kadee 820 couplers). I remounted the trucks but had to shave a little plastic here and there,
on the trucks and the spacers, to enable them to swivel freely.
3. To lengthen the run time on batteries, I de-motored one of the trucks. To do this, I
disassembled the power brick, removed the motor and the gear-axle side of the universal joint,
and removed the gear inside the case on the swiveled axle. Even with only one truck powered,
this car can pull a decent size train!
4. In order to improved the tracking with this long car, I reversed the orientation of the trucks, so
that the swiveled axles would be toward the ends. I also had to open a new access hole for the
5. Unfortunately, the underbody details on this model are a mirror image of the way they are on
the prototype (the motor housings should be on the right as you look at the car from the side).
Since I had already removed the circuit board, I didn't have to worry about the underbody switch
panel. I flipped over the steel weight, so its holes would line up with the mounting screws at the
reversed locations. Then I lined up the details, marked the holes, drilled, and reiinstalled in their
6. The air tanks look far too low, so I shortened them by a half inch with wirecutters and a file
and remounted them. Because of the cuts, the original screw wouldn't work, so I improvised.
9. Next I made end walls, because the cardboard was removed in Step 1. I cut and fit .040
styrene walls between the cab and body at each end, and attached to the end pieces using pieces
of styrene. The color of the cab side of these end walls should be silver.
10. I Installed a Kadee coupler on the front and shortened the Aristo coupler on the other end.
11. This was a Long Island car I wanted to change to Reading. I painted the orange end doors
silver. Then I removed the paint on the aluminum sides with a single-edged razor blade. For
side-panel lettering I used 1/4 inch stick-on lettering and colored it with Polly-S black paint. I
made Reading Diamond Logos for the ends by shrinking an image on a copier using adhesive
paper, and for the yellow I used a highlighter pen.
12. I masked the roof blister and painted the radiator screens flat black.
13. Then finally I reassembled the car; roof blister to body, body to frame, then ends to frame and
14. After I ran this car for a while, I finally got around to installing LED headlights. I removed the
front cab and replaced the headlights with bright yellow LED's (All Electronics #LED-72). I
installed a 2-cell AA baterry holder to the back of the cab wall, wired a 2.5 ohm resistor in series,
and installed a mini toggle switch under the motorman's door. These lights are incredibly bright
and they don't have that bluish hue that "white" LED's have. For more details on this circuit, click
15. For the rear lights (red LED's), I found I could use the original Aristo LED's and wire it the
same way I did the headlights. With bright headlights in front and red taillights in back, it looks
This battery-powered Budd car is a great car to take around to visit other garden railroads. To
make the task easier, I built a "Budd Tote" to carry the car and its transmitter.
For more about the Budd Tote, click