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This review is from Model Railroader,  January 2002. Reprinted with permission of Kalmbach Publishing Company 


by Paul Schmidt

This new Atlas O scale Dash 8-40B is the company’s first high-horsepower modern diesel, and like its prototype this is an impressive and powerful unit.

General Electric introduced the standard-cab Dash 8-40B in May 1988. According to The Contemporary Diesel Spotter’s Guide – 2000 edition (Withers Publishing), GE built 150 of these four-axle, 4,000-hp units before production ended a year later.

Purchasers included the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (40 units); Conrail (30); New York Susquehanna & Western (24 financed through CSX); and Southern Pacific (55). The SP’s subsidiary St. Louis-Southwestern (Cotton Belt) also owned 35 Dash 8-40Bs.

The model consists of a crisply detailed styrene cab and body shell on top of a well-detailed die-cast metal chassis, sill unit, and fuel tank. Separately applied details include metal handrails and stanchions, horn, windshield wipers, snowplow, multiple-unit hoses, brake wheel, beacon, antennas, exhaust hatch, uncoupling levers, an cab sunshades.

Although there is no cab interior detail, two painted engine crew figures are included. A black plastic shield hides the front motor from view.

Installation of two electrical m.u. cables and the handbrake chain on the engineer’s side of the lead truck is left to the purchaser. Although the directions show how to install the cables, there’s no information on the brake chain.

The model’s overall dimensions closely match the prototype drawings published in the April 1989 MODEL RAILROADER. The length, width, height, and wheelbase are right on.

We tested a two-rail ready-to-run version with a smoke unit. A high-rail AC Dash 8-40B, with Lionel TrainMaster command control and Railsounds, is also available.

The only detail noticeably missing on the model is two raised panels just ahead of the first radiator panel and aft of the exhaust stack. Our sample is painted for the St. Louis-Southwestern (Cotton Belt). The real Cotton Belt Dash 8-40Bs had optional roof-mounted air conditions and raised antenna platforms some modelers may want to add.

The trucks have cast-metal side-frames with added details cast in acetal plastic. The trucks nicely capture the appearance of GE’s floating bolster prototype with the exception that the holders for the prototype sand hoses are mounted on the trucks at an upward angle while the model’s are parallel to the rail.

Removing the body shell from the frame wasn’t easy as no instructions were included with the model. Disassembly involves removing six screws: four underneath the cab and two just ahead of the rear coupler.

Then the metal handrails must be pulled out of the cab sides and the handrail ends held away from the cab sides to avoid scraping the paint. A gentle rocking motion will eventually work the body shell and cab free, providing access to the locomotive’s interior.

Each truck surrounds a vertically mounted can motor with a brass flywheel mounted at the top end. A series of gears transfers power to all axles, and all wheels pick up electricity.

Several printed-circuit boards are concealed inside the hood and fastened to the frame. The main board includes an eight-pin socket for a DCC decoder. Atlas has included a power connection harness and installation instructions for DCC conversion. If you’d like the sound, the bottom of the fuel tank is perforated and offers plenty of space for a good-sized speaker Atlas also sells.

All of the lights reach full brightness at about five volts. When moving forward, the headlights, the ditch lights, and the rear red marker lights are lit, while the rear headlight and front red marker lights are lit in reverse. The amber beacon on the cab roof does not operate.

There are plastic, Kadee-compatible knuckle couplers mounted on each pilot, and the couplers are at the correct height. All the wheelsets on our sample were in gauge, although the wheel width slightly exceeds the National Model Railroad Association standards.

Our sample ran smoothly and quietly. While the starting speed is a little high, this should decrease as the mechanism is broken in. The model’s weight and dual motors translate into a lot of muscle, and its 27-ounce drawbar pull should be good for about 80 free-rolling cars on straight, level track.

The paint and lettering on our sample are excellent, right down to the well-executed General Electric logos on each side sill just forward of the cab.

O scale modelers who like modern-era diesels will be pleased with this good-looking, powerful model from Atlas. – Paul Schmidt, associate editor

O Scale GE Dash 8-40B

Price:  (two-rail version) $349.95


Atlas O Model Railroad Co., Inc.

603 Sweetland Ave.

Hillside, NJ 07205-1799


Plastic and metal ready-to-run locomotive


Directional headlights

Drawbar pull:  1 pound, 11 ounces

Eight-wheel drive and electrical pick up

Engine weight:  5 pounds, 14.5 ounces

Minimum Radius:  36”

NMRA DCC socket

Smoke unit

Twin motors with flywheels


Minimum, midrange, and maximum speeds on filtered DC, straight track:

Road names:

Burlington Northern Santa Fe

Cotton Belt



Norfolk Southern

Santa Fe

Union Pacific

(Two unit numbers per road name)


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