The Aristo Doodlebug has been on the market for some time, and has enjoyed a great deal of success. It is a smooth runner, that lends an early "20th Century" touch to any layout. The model is basically that of the gasoline distillate powered railcar used to provide passenger service on lightly traveled lines.
The Budd RDC eventually replaced these units in the late 1940's and 1950's. Aristo quite cleverly produced this model from their Standard Heavyweight coach, as did many prototype railroads. This model has a baggage compartment in the front so that it can carry small amounts of freight or mail as required. Just like the Aristo coaches, the cars have a full interior, though no passengers. These can be easily added by the modeler with some minor surgery to the legs. Included is an engineer which looks like the typical Aristo "clone". Some paint changes can drastically alter his appearance, so that he looks more like the "motorman" of the time period.
The interior lighting consists of four bulbs in sockets similar to the Standard heavyweight coach. Many people feel that these lights are too bright. An easy fix is to color the bulbs with a black permanent marker. This will not make the bulbs solid black, but will dim them to produce a more pleasant lighting effect. If you want to get more technical, you can change the bulb wiring from the original parallel configuration to a series configuration by tying two sockets together. This would cut the voltage to the bulbs down, and produce a softer light.
Many of these cars used Winton distillate engines with electric drive when originally built. This was changed to a more powerful and efficient diesel, before they were retired and replaced with shiny new RDC's. The Aristo model has exhaust stacks, but no smoke unit. It would not be too difficult for a modeler to modify a smoke unit and install it in this car. Drilling holes for the smoke to exit through the exhaust stacks would be a fairly simple process. Most of the smoke unit wiring could be hidden in the baggage compartment. Phoenix has come out with a sound unit for this model which sounds real nice. It includes a horn sound which is prototypical for this unit. Sierra recommends the "Goose" sound system which has the right engine sound and horn fro this model also.
The Doodlebug is powered with a single ball bearing power brick mounted in the front truck. It unfortunately has traction tires which limit power pickup. These traction tire wheels can be replaced with solid wheels which would greatly improve pickup on less than perfect track. They can be ordered directly from Aristo and are simple to replace.
Since this is a model of a 72 foot car at 1:29 scale, it would probably be most comfortable on 8 foot diameter curves or larger. Kadee recommends that you use a #787 coupler for the pilot, and a #813 for the rear. Their conversion information may be found at www.kadee.com.
The major complaint with the Doodlebug has been the roof warping and lifting in the heat. There are two areas that are prone to this problem, the front and the sides. When the front of the roof lifts, the baggage doors fall out. This problem exists because there is nothing holding the front of the roof down. Many fixes for this problem have been proposed with the simplest being to glue a brass strip, bent in an "L" shape, to the front panel of the roof so that it hooks underneath a similar panel of the cab roof. Screws Could also be used when screwed to an attached block of styrene glued to the back of the radiator under the roof. Side warpage usually makes the roof bow at the middle. This can be easily fixed by drilling small holes in each side of the roof flange, and inserting a piece of 0.025" piano wire into the holes.
The rear of the Doodlebug needs a red warning light. Out of the box, it is very plain looking. This can be accomplished by drilling holes on either side of the rear door and installing red LED's or by hanging a red LED on the tailgate similar to the prototype. Either method is correct for this type of car and can be easily wired into the existing lighting circuit. Housings can be fabricated with styrene or brass tubing.
In all, this is a good looking model and one that will look right at home on a small layout that needs passenger service, but does not warrant a long string of coaches. Some of the paint schemes are unrealistic, but marketing has prevailed, and the cars are painted to appeal to the buying public. Aristo lettering can be easily removed with brake fluid and a Q-Tip, and your home road can be easily added with dry transfers or decals.