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This review appeared in Classic Toy Trains, February, 2002. Reprinted with permission of Kalmbach Publishing Company.

DASHING DAN – ATLAS O’S NEW DASH 8-40B

Review by Bob Keller

The General Electric Dash 8-40B demands you set up and take notice. The prototype features advanced Dash 8 electronics, a B-B (four-axle) wheel arrangement, and 4,000 horsepower.

In the 1980s and early ‘90s, this four-axle locomotive bucked the six-axle trend. It offered advanced electronics and a higher horsepower level (compared to, say a GP40’s 2,000 horsepower), while avoiding some of the maintenance of a similar six-axle locomotive. The engine found its niche, providing power for fast intermodal trains on a variety of railroads.

According to Andrew Toppan’s Motive Power Review website (www.hazegray.org/rail/product.htm), more than 370 Dash 8-40Bs and its affiliated models B39-8, B39-8E, and B40-8W were made between 1984 and 1990.

More than 1,500 six-axle versions (C40-8 and variants) of the Dash 8 were made by GE, and the firm still catalogs the engine type, although on the GE Transportation systems website (www.ge.com/transportation/ts2.htm) you’ll find a photo of a non-North American locomotive illustrating the product line.

The Model

I have a bias against B-B locomotives. That wheel arrangement is okay in elderly cab units, but for today’s big-time railroading C-C units rule the day! However, this model really worked for me. Why? Let’s start with the road name and model.

Atlas O offers this locomotive undecorated or painted and lettered for Burlington Northern Santa Fe, CSX, Cotton Belt, LMX, Norfolk Southern, Santa Fe, and Union Pacific road names. You’re probably familiar with all of them, but may wonder about LMX. It’s a corporation through which General Electric offers locomotive leasing. The LMX Dash 8s are a group of 100 engines originally leased by the Burlington Northern and maintained at the railroad’s Lincoln, Neb., shops. According to articles we examined, the LMX units are not, strictly speaking, Dash 8–40Bs. Rather, they are Dash 8-39Bs with a 100-hp upgrade.

No matter. Regardless of which prototype, this Atlas O LMX model looks great! It manage to capture the elements of a traditional GE engine – big, bulky with lots of radiator overhand – while the spirit of an Alco C-628 or C630 – a squat cab and short head of a humongous prime mover.

The tooling is clean and crisp, and the plastic shell looks great. There is ample rivet, hatch, and handle detail cast into the body.

There are a ton of screens on the body shell, although all are cast-in rather than see-through. The decks have tread texture, and there are two see-through cab steps. There are many delicate add-on grab irons and handrails, as well as the typical add-on horn.

The engine has directional lights, cab, and ditch lights. The strobe light on top of the cab looks like it should light up, but it isn’t intended to.

Most locomotive trucks just tend to “be there.” Once in a while a manufacturer adds cast-in detail or simulates a sand line, but these Atlas O B-B trucks go far beyond basic details. The trucks have chains on them for goodness sake, and the sand lines are bits of carefully crafted metal poised on the sides of the frame. Outstanding. Atlas O has raised the bar again on truck details.

The first time I saw LMX diesels was in the railroad yard at Billings, Mont., and the simple, dignified gray with white stripe and red lettering really stood out from the green Burlington Northern and the blue Montana Rail Link engines dotting the yard.

Atlas O really captures this feel with its superb decoration of the unit. The paint is applied neatly and evenly over the entire engine, and the striping is clean and precise even across the textured portions of the shell.

The gray of the carbody reveals textures on the shell that might otherwise go unnoticed on a solid black or dark blue locomotive. The red block on the nose (beneath the white stripes) is the perfect accent for the engine. There are quite a few small yet readable labels scattered around the body, including “electrical danger’ and “warning” signs.

On The Test Track

The Dash 8 is stylish and imposing, and responds perfectly to commands. Very little break-in time was required before it delivered optimum performance.

The locomotive weighs a heft 6 pounds, 9 ounces. Our sample has a low-speed average  of 11.6 scale mph and a high-end average of of 114.3 scale mph. The two-motored unit’s drawbar pull is a respectable 2 pound, 7 ounces Running a 18 volts with a 25-car mixed make and vintage freight train in tow, it clocked in at 104 scale mph.

Like all new Atlas O locomotives, the Dash 8 comes with Lionel’s TrainMaster Command Control and RailSounds. All TMCC functions worked as expected, and sound reproduction is first class. The Engine sound suite is a robust and interesting package that’s at its best in TrainMaster Command mode, when you can “ramp up” the RPMs. The multi-tone horn on the Atlas O Dash 8 is more appealing than most diesel honkers are.

The locomotive has remote-firing electro-couplers on both ends and a smoke unit. Just pour some fluid into the exhaust stack on top and watch the white stuff billow out! Our editor sees GE locomotives most every day running through his town, and he thought the Atlas O’s smoke unit was right on target with the prototype’s exhaust.

Atlas O has designed a clever spot for the backup RailSounds battery. You press the top of the radiator toward the rear of the engine and gently pull up to remove the lid. Slap in a 9-volt battery, and reattach the lid.

Pretty cool, though you’ll need to work at it once or twice before you can get the cover to release without fearing you’ll damage the shell.

With the volume off, the motor noise was a wee bit more noticeable than on the Atlas O SD35 we tested last March, but the performance was smooth in all speed ranges. Also, the whirring from the smoke unit fan was audible, but not too loud.

On one staff layout (using Ross Custom Switches with Caboose Industries ground throws), the Atlas O Dash 8 brushed the switch machine on O-72 (inside O-54) switches. Otherwise, the locomotive operated without a glitch. And it negotiated all types of track with no derailments.

Does a B-B engine belong in a C-C locomotive world? Why not? The Atlas O Dash 8-40B convinced me. It’s an outstanding product that delivers excellent performance, wrapped in an exceptionally detailed package, topped off by graphics are second to none. Operators will want to pencil this locomotives onto their “must-see” lists.

O GAUGE GE DASH 8-40B DIESEL BY ATLAS O

Price:  $399.95

Features:  O-36 operation, two can-style motors, Lionel TrainMaster and RailSounds systems.

Pros:  Terrific level of detail, especially on trucks, solid construction and operation.

Cons:  None

Made in the People’s Republic of China for Atlas O

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