This review appeared
in Classic Toy Trains, February, 2002. Reprinted with permission of Kalmbach Publishing Company.
DASHING DAN – ATLAS O’S NEW DASH
Review by Bob Keller
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
O-36 operation, two can-style motors, Lionel TrainMaster
and RailSounds systems.
Terrific level of detail, especially on trucks, solid
construction and operation.
Made in the
People’s Republic of China for Atlas O