Budd RDCs

rail diesel cars

Budd Company advertisement for its RDCs

Budd also manufactured rail diesel cars, self-propelled commuter cars. They were noted for the engine exhaust vents that stood on their roofs.  They tended to be operated in two-car sets, so they could be driven in either direction without being turned around; the engineer simply walked to the other end of the consist and began driving in the opposite direction. 


Budd's RDCs are still in use today in Canada and Australia. You can ride on a nicely restored one at the Conway Scenic Railway in North Conway, New Hampshire.

VIA Rail RDC Twin-Set at Qualicum Beach Station, British Columbia 

(Alasdair McLellan, Creative Commons license 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

In the past thirty years, some of Budd's RDC cars have gone on to be used without their Detroit Diesel engines. The engines have been removed, and the coaches have found use in push-pull operations with commuter and excursion railroads.
















This photograph shows the last Budd RDC

in Virginia Railway Express inventory. Scars from the removal

of the engine exhaust vents are still visible on the roof.

(Photograph provided by and used courtesy of the Virginia Railway Express)














Budd's signature scalloped stainless steel siding is visible on this Virginia Railway Express coach.

(Photograph provided by and used courtesy of the Virginia Railway Express)

You may have noticed that I'm partial towards the Virginia Railway Express. That's because I rode on the VRE from the summer it began service (1992) until I no longer commuted to downtown DC (Fall 2001).


When service began, the VRE operated only a few Mafersa coaches. As I understand it, delivery of the Mafersas fell behind, and the VRE had to scramble to find more coaches with which to transport its burgeoning ridership. Enter the Budd RDCs. Let's take a look at the history of the coaches that served with the VRE.

They began their service lives between 1949 and 1953 with the Boston and Maine, then moved to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). Their engines were intact, meaning they were still operating as rail diesel cars. 


















MBTA Budd RDCs are seen in Boston (May 1982). 

(Roger Puta, public domain via Wikimedia Commons)



Pictures of the coaches in the VRE Broad Run railyard show them without their engines but still wearing the MBTA's color scheme:  



We know they were sent to Morrison-Knudsen's plant in Boise, Idaho, where their engines and vents were removed and they were converted for use as standard passenger coaches. They became known as Boise Budds. We can assume that they were returned to the VRE, which replaced the MBTA color scheme with its own.

In the late 1990s, the VRE announced plans to replace its Boise Budds with new bi-level coaches. A group of us RDC fans protested, but to no avail. The bi-levels arrived, and the RDCs departed. 'Twas a very sad day.

So, where did the VRE RDCs go? Several railroads purchased them. We know about three:


*  Metro-North in New York.  The following video shows two ex-Virginia Railway Express RDCs in Poughkeepsie, New York, as a Metro-North car (at 7:45 on the timer):


The first, serving in its capacity as a cab car, still bears VRE insignia, while the second bears Metro-North insignia. 


*  Caltrain in the San Francisco area. The VRE's Boise Budds remained with Caltrain for only a short period before they were purchased by the Grand Canyon Railway.

*  Grand Canyon Railway in Arizona. The Grand Canyon Railway purchased some of the VRE's Boise Budds directly and some from Caltrain. They still are in service.



This Budd RDC serves on the Grand Canyon Railway. Again, scars

from the removal of the engine exhaust vents can be seen on the roof.

(Hermann Luyken, own work in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

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