As passenger traffic declined after World War II and railroads were losing money on passenger runs, the Budd Company set out to find a new way for railroads to provide passenger service at a profit. Their solution was the RDC (Rail Diesel Car), a self-propelled passenger car that railroads could use on low ridership routes and branch lines. Commonly known as "Budd Cars," the streamlined RDCs were designed with bi-directional, multi-unit capability and made extensive use of automotive and truck technology.
The RDC's twin 275 hp General Motors diesels and transmissions were units that had proven their mettle in WW II battle tanks. The motors were placed beneath the car frame to maximize passenger space. A bad engine could be slid out and replaced with a new engine in about 90 minutes to minimize down time. Disc brakes, combined with a Rolokron anti-wheelslip sensor, gave the RDC a shorter braking distance than a comparable passenger train. Exhaust stacks, radiators, and air intakes were mounted in a top section above the roof that resembled the vista domes found on streamlined passenger cars. Budd offered the RDC in four configurations, including the 90-seat all-passenger RDC 1 and other units featuring baggage and Railway Post Office sections.
RDCs proved so successful at their intended service that they were purchased by 25 North American carriers and railroads in Brazil, Cuba, Australia, and Saudi Arabia. They served some owners for more than 30 years and ultimately helped pave the way for a revival of commuter rail service in many parts of the United States.
Did You Know?
RDCs and other Budd passenger equipment made use of a patented "shotwelding" process that allowed their shiny stainless steel exteriors to be welded to stainless steel framing. Lacking this process, Budd's competitors were forced to rivet their stainless exteriors to frame members - a construction process that was far more prone to rust and corrosion. As a result, Budd alone was able to boast that that none of its railcar bodies ever wore out.