News & Reviews Product Reviews Staff Reviews Rapido Trains HO RS18u diesel locomotive

Rapido Trains HO RS18u diesel locomotive

By Cody Grivno | March 28, 2024

Four-axle road unit is based on a Canadian Pacific prototype

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Color photo of HO locomotive painted red with black-and-white graphics.
The Rapido Trains HO RS18u diesel locomotive is decorated for CP Rail and six other railroads. The model is based on prototypes rebuilt by Canadian Pacific in the 1980s. Cody Grivno photo

Do you have a soft spot for railroad-rebuilt diesel locomotives? Then you’ll want to check out the HO scale Canadian Pacific RS18u from Rapido Trains. The model, designed from field measurements and a 3-D scan of a full-size engine, is offered in a variety of paint schemes from 1980 to the present.

The prototype

In 1980, CP started a program at its Angus Shops in Montreal to rebuild the railroad’s aging fleet of Montreal Locomotive Works RS18 diesels. When the program concluded in 1989, a total of 69 units were rebuilt. The locomotives, assigned to the 1800 through 1868 series and designated RS18u, featured a low short hood, tri-color class lights, and mechanical upgrades.

Our sample is decorated as CP Rail 1826, one of eight units rebuilt in 1984. It was retired by CP in April 1998 and sold for scrap to Century Metals in Lachine, Quebec, Canada a month later.

Model features

The Rapido model features a plastic shell and die-cast metal chassis. The CP-style pilots are fitted with factory-applied m.u. and train line hoses and uncoupling levers. The front of our sample has deck-mounted ditch lights.

The cab has the signature flat-top number board, class light, and bell housing that protrudes above the curved roof line. And yes, the class lights work.

Not to be overlooked is the detailed cab interior, which is painted light gray with three seats painted black. The control stand has illuminated gauges.

Long-hood features include etched-metal screens, formed-wire handrails and lift rings, and a three-chime air horn. A rerail frog, painted white, hangs below the sill on both sides.

Model vs. prototype

Our CP Rail sample is painted in the railroad’s Action Red scheme with Multimark herald. The red paint is smooth and evenly applied, and the graphics are opaque. The Multimark herald was especially well-executed, with crisp color-separation lines through the radiator shutters. A prototype image I found online showed the 1826 in fresh paint, sans Multimark, in March 1990.

The herald and lettering placement follow a photo from February 1985. A few small labels were omitted from the sill and long hood. The DRS-18 stencil (Diesel Road Switcher – 1,800hp) below the road number on the model doesn’t appear in the image.

On the layout

Rapido Trains offers the RS18u as a direct-current model with a 21-pin connector and with a dual-mode ESU LokSound decoder; we received the latter. I tested the model in our workshop using an NCE PowerCab system. At speed step 1, the four-axle unit moved at less than 1 scale mph. The model achieved a top speed of 77 scale mph at step 28. The full-size engines had a top speed of 75 mph.

I then took the RS18u over to our Milwaukee, Racine & Troy layout for real-world testing. The unit ran without incident while powering a short freight train. The locomotive pulled nine 50-foot freight cars up the 3% grade between Bay Junction and Skyridge.

It’s nice to see manufacturers like Rapido think outside the box and offer railroad-rebuilt diesels. Though small in number compared to other CP diesels, the RS18u was a signature part of the railroad’s locomotive fleet in the 1980s and 1990s.

See the Rapido Trains HO scale RS18u in action on our Milwaukee, Racine & Troy staff layout in this video.

Facts & features

Price: Direct current with 21-pin connector, $225; with dual-mode ESU LokSound decoder, $335


Rapido Trains

500 Alden Rd., Unit 21

Markham, Ontario, Canada

L3R 5H5

Era: 1984 to early 1990 (as decorated)

Road names: CP Rail (with and without Multimark in five road numbers each), Bath & Hammondsport (one number), Minnesota Commercial (two numbers), New Brunswick East Coast (two numbers), Ontario Southland (three numbers), Ottawa Central (three numbers), and Western New York & Pennsylvania (one number). Also available undecorated.


  • Correctly gauged metal wheels
  • Metal couplers, at correct height
  • Weight: 12.8 ounces
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