Blackhawk Down

Amtrak RDC's

Also in the package with the Atlas cylindrical covered hopper yesterday were a pair of Proto 1000 RDC’s in Amtrak livery to add to the solitary one i’ve had in my fleet for a few years now (yep, that would be why one of the ones in these pictures is weathered and the other two aren’t!)

The trio are to become my rendition of Amtrak‘s ‘Blackhawk’, which ran from Chicago to Dubuque Iowa via Illinois Central Gulf rails. Until 1978 this train ran with a similar trio of RDC’s before being replaced by a brand-new F40 and Amfleet coaches, sadly the train itself only lasted until 1981 when it was discontinued.

Interestingly, a resurrected Blackhawk is currently being investigated by the Illinois DOT and Amtrak, this PDF shows some of the current options being looked at under Midwest High Speed Rail initiatives, including routings on the CN (the train’s former IC route) and also routes west via the UP or the IC&E. It’s interesting to note that they plan to use Colorado Railcar DMU’s on this new service, what comes around, goes around!

Research on this train isn’t proving too easy however, it appears to suffer the same problem as in the UK in that if it doesn’t have a loco on the front then folk ignore it. So far i’ve found a short reminiscence by a Blackhawk rider which is high on atmosphere but not a huge lot of help with modelling it, and on the Amtrak Photo Archive there’s a photo here. If anyone has any more info then i’m eager to hear about it! There are plenty of photo’s of Amtrak RDC’s on the net as they lasted into the 1980’s out east…

All the pics i’ve found of this train show a mix of RDC1 (all coach) and RDC2 (coach baggage) cars, my version will be slightly compromised as it will consist of a trio of RDC2 – Proto do make an RDC1 in Amtrak paint, however they have added heavily tinted windows on that release which would have looked odd next to the clear ones on the RDC2, as I didn’t fancy re-flushglazing any I decided to live with an all RDC2 set.

Proto RDC's

So, work to be done includes:

  • Making a decision on DCC – it’s possible that I may hardwire DCC into one car and de-power the other pair to be trailers, these things have a huge can motor driving one truck, but weigh nearly as much as a Proto SD60!
  • Renumber one of the cars (I have two #36’s and a #35)
  • There are also some detail differences i’ve picked up on that I think will need to be addressed, Amtrak’s have corridor connections and those would foul the headlight location used on Proto’s model – Amtrak’s have headlights in a cowling on the roof which I will have to add somehow before installing the corridor connections.
  • They will also need close-coupling when I have the corridors on, but that will have to wait until I know how much I need to close the gap.

Fortunately I think i’ve found a detail part at Walthers that will do just that….watch this space!

 Martyn Read


3 Responses

  1. Hi MR

    If you are going to do another Walthers order, give me a shout.

    I need some SD60 flushglazing!



  2. Hi, I just typed up a whole bit of info and when I pressed submit it did not like the way my email was presented [I do not give it out or post it on the web so email trawlers cannot get hold of it] and deleted the lot, I work nights and want to go to bed so I have used one of my throw away addresses so if you can send me your address I will sort out what I know.

  3. Hi Alexander – you have mail!

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