Brill Gas-Electrics

Brill gas-electric railbus eastbound passing Tuttle & Bailey. Photographer and date unknown.

Self-powered passenger equipment provides the railroads with a more cost-effective option than a locomotive-hauled train on lighter travelled branch lines. The New Haven rostered up to 39 gas railbuses from 1921 until 1952. They were a mix of gas-mechanical, gas-hydrolic or, like the Brill Model 250 above, gas-electric. There is a picture of 9100 in New Britain on page 501 of New Haven Power in 1934.

On the Highland Line it appears they were used during the '30s and possibly to the end of WWII. I believe they were also used as the New Britain Station to Berlin Station shuttle that was running 20 daily roundtrips when replaced by buses in 1935. These were most likely New England Transportation Co. busses, a subsidiary of the New Haven Railroad.

While I don't know exact number of the car above, it's one of 9101-4, or 9106-12 which were 76'3" cars with 18 windows. The only HO scale model available is a GHB brass release of a 63'3" car with 13 windows. Their version 2 looks to be the closest match (needs some modifications) to 9113 (an ex-O&W car), which was converted to Inspection Car 9 in 1940. At some point I may choose to model it for an inspection trip.


Comet on Train 128 at New Britain, 1951. Note how much lower (and shorter) it is than the baggage cars next to it. Kent Cochrane

In addition to railbuses, the New Haven rostered several streamlined trainsets over the years. Unlike regular passenger trains, these were complete trains that were designed to be run as a unit. Indeed, in the case of the Comet a single truck spanned the joint between each of the cars.

The Comet was built in 1935 by Goodyear-Zeppelin as a 3-car articulated trainset. A streamlined power coach at either end with an intermediate coach, it seated 160 people. Originally purchased for the Boston to Providence run (and even lettered as such), it ran a 44-minute schedule instead of the 57 minutes a standard train took on the run. Its light weight and design made it more efficient than a locomotive hauling two heavyweight cars, making its initial test run in 32.5 minutes (reaching more than 109 mph). It was quite successful, with 89% availability, but suffered from a common disadvantage with this type of train. Unlike a regular train, additional cars could not be added to accommodate fluctuations in ridership.

In 1950 a second Boston to Waterbury train (129/128) was added to the schedule, with the Comet handling the service. It was reassigned to Boston-Providence service, where it started, on April 1, 1951.

Modeling the Comet

It's relatively easy to model the Comet in HO scale. Two models are available. Railworks released brass models of both paint schemes. To handle the articulated nature of the set, they used gray foam inserts between the cars.

Con-Cor released a plastic model, ready for DCC Sound (which could be purchased separately). The initial release was the delivery scheme, with plans for the 1941 scheme for the second run. Evidently sales or pre-orders were insufficient for a second run, so that never occurred.

Paint Schemes

The Comet was repainted in 1941 in a blue and gray paint scheme which it carried until it was scrapped on September 29, 1951. I will be custom painting my Con-Cor model in this scheme, along with making a few other minor modifications.

Budd Rail Diesel Cars

RDC-3 and RDC-1 westbound on Train 131 at Stanley Works. Thomas J. McNamara c1953

Budd demonstrated their new Rail Disel Car (RDC) in 1949. Like the New Haven, older railbuses like the Brill gas-electrics were being retired, and largely seen as a failing category. The RDC reinvigorated the concept. Unlike articulated trainsets like Comet, RDCs could run in multiple units, allowing them to handle fluctuations in traffic. They were well suited for branchline and commuter service as a result. The New Haven was the second largest owner of Budd RDCs, often called "Budd Cars," or also known on the New Haven as "Shoreliners."

The New Haven rostered four different configurations of RDCs, including two Railway Post Office (RPO) variations:

  • RDC-1 - 89-passenger coach (29 units; 20-48)

  • RDC-2 - Baggage and 71-seat coach (2 units; 120-121)

  • RDC-3 - RPO (mail), baggage and 48-seat coach (6 units; 125-130)

  • RDC-4 - RPO (mail), and baggage only (3 units; 135-137)

RDC-3 126 eastbound at Washington St. Thomas J. McNamara, c1954

Much of Russell & Erwin between High and Washington Streets has been demolished.

RDC New Britain Assignments

RDC usage was well documented. These assignments are from internal assignment records, rather than just Engine Assignment booklets.

June 18, 1953 (Monday - Friday)

  • RDC-1

    • 20 - 446, 447

    • 21 - 446, 463

    • 25 - 156, 443, 460, 461, 463

    • 33 - 131, 136

  • RDC-2

    • 121 - 150, 157

  • RDC-3

    • 128 - 131, 136

    • 130 - 150, 157

Modeling RDCs

A number of models have been produced in the past, brass along with shorty Athearn models (the only one that was accurate at this length was the RDC-4) before Life-Like Proto 1000 models were released.

They were the best option until the release of accurate RDC-1, 2, and 3 models from Rapido with DCC Sound. All that's really needed is a little weathering...

Paint Schemes

All RDCs are in the delivery scheme of simple stainless steel with a script herald on each end door. The Rapido models come with decals for the "Fight Cancer" campaign of 1953. I will most likely add those decals to at least some of my units.

When delivered, there was no road number on the front of the car. Based on photos, it appears that this was applied starting mid-1954, beyond my modeling era.