Santa Fe acquired its last new self-propelled railcars in April 1952 in the form of a pair of stainless steel Rail Diesel Cars built by the Budd Corporation. The two model RDC-1's were numbered DC-191 and DC-192 - the DC presumably standing for Diesel Car to differentiate them from the M-series numbers of the doodlebugs. Each car had a seating capacity of 88 passengers. Budd designed the RDC-1 with a control cab at each end, but Santa Fe intended to operate their cars as a set and only maintain one control cab per car. As a result, only end of each car was decorated with a simple but attractive silver paint scheme with a square red, yellow, and black Santa Fe emblem on the end door and "cat whiskers" on either side. As with most RDC's, power for each car came in the form of two Detroit Diesel 6-110 engines slung under the carbody, one engine per truck. Each engine generated 275 starting and 213 continuous horsepower, transmitted to one axle of the adjacent truck via a torque converter transmission. The cars were fitted with Automatic Train Stop (ATS) and given a top authorized speed of 80 mph.

The pair of RDC's began their careers running between Los Angeles and San Diego, CA, making two round trips per day as trains 80, 81, 82, and 83. Within a year, the stepwells were removed from the control cab end of each car. A solid cab floor was installed, and stirrup steps were added for crew access to the side door. Passengers boarded the cars via the remaining stepwells at the other end of each car, which were situated in the center of the set when both cars were coupled. The steel plate on the cab ends of each car were also reinforced to provide better collision protection for the crew during grade crossing accidents. Such accidents became frequent enough on the Surf Line that Santa Fe endeavored to make the cars more visible to motorists. In mid-1955, the railroad repainted the cab ends of the cars red with a noseband similar to the standard Santa Fe "Warbonnet" passenger scheme, but without the actual Warbonnet curve on the sides of the cars. A Pyle National Gyralight oscillating headlight was also installed on the end door of each car above the noseband. The lights included a white light for normal use and a red light that came on during emergency brake applications.

On the evening of January 22, 1956, less than a year after receiving their new eye-catching paint, the pair of RDC's were operating as Tr.82 out of Los Angeles with a capacity load. Approaching Redondo Jct., the cars entered a 15 mph speed restricted curve at nearly 70 mph, turned over on their sides, and slid for several hundred feet. Thirty passengers were killed and another 140 injured in one of the state's worst passenger rail accidents. Santa Fe had been planning to replace the RDC's with a conventional streamliner to handle growing passenger loads on the run to San Diego, and the accident hastened their replacement. It would be the last time the cars would lose an assignment due to increasing ridership.

The damaged cars were sent to the Topeka shops on flatcars in mid-1956 to be repaired. The DC-191 emerged from rebuilding in mid-1957 looking much as it had before the accident. As for DC-192, the shops added a baggage section at the expense of more than half its seats - the "new" DC-192 could only accomodate 36 passengers.

The RDC's next assignment was to trains 311 and 312 between Newton and Dodge City, KS via Great Bend. Ordinarily, DC-192 ran solo on weekdays, with DC-191 joining it on weekends. This assignment lasted until the train was cancelled in June 1965. The cars were then tranferred to the El Pasoan schedule, Tr.13 and 14 between Albuquerque, NM and El Paso, TX. It would turn out to be their final assignment for the Santa Fe. William P. Diven took the two photos on this page during the cars' brief tenure on this route. When the schedule was eliminated in April 1968, the cars were stored.

In February 1970, DC-191 was sold to the Baltimore & Ohio for service with other RDC's in Pittsburgh-Versailles, PA commuter service. B&O initially numbered the car 1913, but soon renumbered it to 9918. When the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PATrain) took over the service in 1975, they leased the 9918 and other RDC's from B&O. The former DC-191 was involved in another spectacular wreck on December 30, 1976 when a four-car set of RDC's was set loose by vandals at Glenwood Yard in Pittsburgh. The cars ran unattended for over 7 miles until they struck a standing P&LE freight at Demmler Yard. The two lead cars were destroyed, but fortunately the 9918 was on the far end of the set and escaped relatively undamaged. The car was quickly returned to service following the accident.

PATrain returned the leased RDC's to B&O in 1980. B&O then sold the 9918 to the Maryland Department of Transportation in 1981 for commuter service with other RDC's between Brunswick, MD and Washington, D.C. Maryland's commuter rail operations were renamed MARC (Maryland Area Rail Commuter) in 1984, and the former DC-191 was renumbered 18. The car served until 1993, when it was retired and used as a parts source to keep other MARC RDC's running.

In 1995, MARC 18 was purchased by Kasten Rail Car Services (later Illinois Transit Assembly Corp.) and moved to East St. Louis, IL for storage. In 2004, ITAC swapped the RDC to the Pacific Railroad Society for ex-Illinois Central sleeper Bloomington. The car was moved west to Commerce, CA for storage and restoration to its former Santa Fe identity at PRS' Saunders Yard.


1. McCall, John B., The Doodlebugs, Dallas: Kachina Press, 1977 (reprinted by Santa Fe Historical & Modeling Society, 2002).
2. McCall, John B., Son of Doodlebug, Derby, KS: Santa Fe Railway Historical & Modeling Society, 2003.
3. Saalig, Ed, The Amazing Journey of Santa Fe's RDC Cars, Fullerton, CA: Pacific Railroad Society, 2008.
Special thanks to William P. Diven for the use of his photographs.

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