Revell rapido

1967

Starting in 1967, Arnold and Revell, Inc. of Venice, California entered into a distribution relationship. These new trains would be called MicroTRAINs.  The first catalog, dated 1967, shows first generation Arnold rapido F-units on the cover:

Yet, inside the catalog shows the new generation F-units, which have a more accurate nose contour and windshield shape:

Close observers will note that the unit pictured is most likely an H0 scaled unit, but the larger point is that the 1967 catalog indicates that Arnold was going to retool some of its product line to improve consumer acceptance in the North American market. While Arnold’s European locomotives were becoming closer to being accurate, the American units had been toy-like up until that point.

The balance of the Revell / rapido catalog is pure Arnold rapido, although there are some interesting improvements.

The Baldwin switcher gained end platforms and was available in both Chicago & Northwestern and Southern Pacific liveries.  The F-units, some of the freight cars and all of the passenger cars all appear to be H0-Scale, represented what would become available in the new Revell rapido product line.

Revell / rapido used the term MicroTRACK for the Arnold rapido track and accessory range.

Several basic structures were also available.  A completed 20” by 40” layout with track but no trains was also available.

The 1967 Revell/rapido catalog was an interesting start of an interesting chapter for Arnold rapido in North America.  Not clear is the ongoing relationship with New York’s Charles Merzbach, who had imported Arnold rapido into America for the previous seven years.

1968

There apparently were two different Revell/rapido catalogs for 1968.

By 1968, the Revell/rapido catalog had become more fanciful. Many of the locomotives and cars pictured in the 1968 catalog were H0 units, presumably shown as “preproduction” items, an industry euphemism for “We haven’t manufactured this yet.”  Railroad researcher Charlie Vlk put it this way:

    • The illustrations in the Revell-Rapido catalogs relied heavily on HO stand-ins for the rolling stock.... some showed the Hudson (which turned out to be the Heavy Pacific with a (nice) four wheel trailing truck instead of a Milwaukee Road (brass HO) Baltic pictured... and the "Omaha" 0-6-0 got really butchered to fit on the German tank engine chassis, again the illustrations are often a HO brass model.  The freight cars were Revell Rapido N,  Revell HO or Athearn. " 

You can see what he is talking about:

The Arnold rapido Baldwin switcher was still there, but only in the starter set, not available by itself.

On the other hand, both the 2-6-2 steam locomotive and the Union Pacific ALCo are definitely H0.  The SW diesel is also somebody else’s, probably Athearn. The Prairie-type engine is a brass import. The U.P. C-430 is clearly a Tyco/Mantua unit, right down to the “4301” number board found on the H0 product.

In other words, these items were planned but were not yet manufactured.  In fact, they never would be manufactured either as Arnold/rapido or Revell/rapido.  The balance of the 1968 catalog was a repeat of what had been shown in the 1967 Revell/rapido catalog.

1969

There was at least a dealer catalog for 1969.

We know that this was a dealer catalog because of the descriptive text on the cover. One give-away is the “Profitable, Complete Layout/Set Combinations”, a phrase which would not appear on a consumer’s catalog. It’s hard enough for model railroaders to accept that model train manufacturing is a business at all, much less a for-profit one.

There were cars distributed over the years.  Here are some examples:

3 photos courtesy of Jim Jordan

As of this writing, little else has turned up about Revell/rapido, and presumably the product line went away shortly after 1969, although some of the building kits still turn up on eBay.

At first glance, it would appear that Revell/rapido was a failure, but I don’t think so.  Again, Charlie Vlk:

  • Some of the best Rapido tooling happened thanks to Revell influences. 

Revell in the 1960’s was an acknowledged expert in casting plastic for models. By 1967, Revell had produced extensive lines of model airplanes, ships, cars and even model railroad structures.  And, if you’re not sure if Revell influenced Arnold, compare the two locomotives below:

Arnold rapido Swiss locomotive, 1960’s

Arnold rapido Swiss locomotive, 1980’s

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