review is from Model Railroad News, March 2002. Reprinted
with permission of Lamplight Publishing.
ATLAS O DASH 8-40B LOCOMOTIVE
by David Otte
each new locomotive release, Atlas O has introduced some new
features that only further enhances their beautiful O scale
models. Their last release, the SD-35, included TrainMaster
Command Control and RailSounds, is a great leap forward in
moving the 3-rail industry to a standard control system.
Atlas O’s newest release, the General Electric Dash 8-40B,
is equipped not only with TMCC and RS 4.0, but a new
operating diesel exhaust unit.
us O gaugers ever closer to realism, the Dash 8 model is
available in both 3-rail and 2-rail versions (less TMCC and
RS 4.0). Road names include:
Burlington Northern Santa Fe, CSX, Cotton Belt, LMX,
Norfolk Southern, Santa Fe, Union Pacific and an undecorated
version. Two road numbers are available per road name.
GE’s Dash 8
ultimate in four-axle (B-B) locomotive design, the success
of the Dash 8-40B is in no small part due to the persistence
of General Electric in creating a line of high horsepower
four-axle locomotives. While EMD was limited to a 3000 hp
prime mover for powering their B-B design, the GP40 series,
GE had developed a 3300 hp four-axle locomotive within their
Universal Locomotive series in 1967, the U33B. Two years
later, GE was able to squeeze another 200 hp out of their
prime mover design with the release of the U36B. But sales
remained slow for both manufacturers with regards to four
axle diesels. By the 1970s, six-axle (C-C) locomotives were
dominating the rails, as an emerging need for hauling high
tonnage commodities such as coal became the norm.
the end of the decade, though, another type of traffic was
being seen on railroads in ever increasing quantities in the
form of piggyback loads. Intermodal traffic would triple
between 1960 and 1980. Railroads began looking at high
horsepower B-B truck locomotives for high- speed piggyback
service. Why four-axle over six-axle unites you ask?
Piggyback trains are rather lightweight compared to regular
freight trains. Great tractive effort, as a six-axle unit
delivered, was not at issue, but speed was important to such
a time sensitive commodity. After all, the railroads were
directly competing with the trucking industry. What was more
important was horsepower, because the higher the horsepower,
the faster the train.
rekindled interest in the B-B design put EMD into a position
of looking for a new series of four-axle power. The result
was the 3500 hp GP50. GE, already in the game with their
U36B, countered with an improved 3600 hp version, the B36-7.
The Dash 7 series saw many improvements including greater
reliability and better fuel consumption over its EMD
counterpart. The GP50, on the other hand, was plagued with
maintenance problems. EMD began to see GE cut into their
locomotive sales. As Intermodal traffic continued to grow in
the mid 1980s, both manufacturers continued to develop B-B
power. In turn, EMD released the 3800 hp GP60 while GE
continued to make improvements to their existing line
culminating in the Dash 8 series. By 1988, GE had squeezed
4000 hp out of their Dash 8 series prime mover leaving EMD a
lap behind in this high horsepower race.
of the success of the Dash 8-40B can be attributed to the
new microprocessor controls that maximize tractive effort
and fuel consumption by constantly evaluating and adjusting
auxiliary systems such as cooling fans, traction motor
blowers, and air compressors. By the spring of 1989 151 Dash
8-40Bs would be built. Railroads purchasing the GE units
included Conrail, Santa Fe, New York Susquehanna &
Western, and Cotton Belt. A variation of the Dash 8-40B was
also put into production in 1990 featuring the North
American Safety Cab and designated the Dash 8-40BW.
The Atlas O Dash 8
O has been pretty consistent with past locomotive releases
in bringing us O gaugers accurate scale models with a level
of detail other companies are still striving to meet. The
Dash 8 is no different. The usual high quality construction
includes die cast metal chassis, sill, fuel tank, pilots,
trucks, and couplers; metal handrails and stanchions; and a
highly detailed injection molded plastic body.
16 inches long over the end platforms, the model dimensions
out to within about a scale 1 foot of the prototype’s
overall dimensions. As we have come to expect, all the
proper access doors, handles, latches, rivets, hinges, air
intakes, panel line, and grab irons are accounted for on the
body shell. I was especially impressed with how Atlas O
modeled the screen and vent openings, and all the molded on
details. For example, the radiator wings on the roof of the
locomotive have grid-like vent openings in them with what
appears to be screen mesh beneath the frames, but it is all
molded as one piece. Furthermore, if you hold the engine up
in a well-lit area you can see the profile of the radiator
cooling fan shroud behind the radiator air intake grill just
under the radiator wings. Again this is a molded-on detail!
That is why Atlas O has become one of the leaders in the O
gauge market; they take that extra little step to make sure
the detail is all there.
applied detail parts include:
MU cables, snow plow, horn, antenna, wind-shield
wipers, fourteen different hand grabs, uncoupling bars,
brake wheel, non-functioning rotary beacon, air hoses, air
reservoir tanks, and cab sunshades. Painted crew figures are
seated in the cab. The pilot steps have see through
perforated holes and the walk ways feature realistic looking
molded on tread plate. Perhaps most impressive of all are
the truck side frames. Not only are they fantastic replicas
of the GE FB types trucks, but also they feature separately
applied brake cylinders, air lines, struts, speed recorder,
and sanding lines to each wheel. On the lead truck they have
even included the manual brake hardware and chain.
review sample looks quite business-like in its blue and
yellow Santa Fe Warbonnet freight scheme. The Santa Fe
purchased forty Dash 8-40Bs between 1988 and 1989.
Originally numbered 7410-7449, most of the units are still
in service today on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe.
Although the Santa Fe Dash 8s were delivered with
nose-mounted headlights and rooftop-mounted air conditioners
– something the model does not take into account – the
Santa Fe Atlas O version is splendid in appearance.
paint application is excellent as always. The yellow, a
difficult color to paint with, is completely opaque and not
applied too thick as to diminish the details of the model.
The parting lines between the blue and yellow are sharp and
there is no over spray. All lettering, including the Santa
Fe Cigar Band on the nose, is extremely crisp and smoothly
applied. Just as they are no the Santa Fe prototypes, the
Atlas O model has “Danger 600 Volts” signage posted on
the appropriate access doors as well as other signs denoting
fuel fills, brake cylinder cut off cocks, lube oil cooler
drain, and so on. Proudly displayed on either side of the
front of the Dash 8 are true replicas of the GE builder’s
minimum radius the Atlas O Dash 8 will operate on is O36.
During our testing session, we ran the locomotive over
Lionel tubular rail O42 and the Atlas O’s O54
curve/switches and encountered no derailments or clearance
problems. Generally, the Dash 8 performs as expected,
running just as smoothly as its Atlas O predecessor
locomotives A consistent low speed of about a scale 15 mph
as achieved without load and a high-end speed of well over a
scale 100 mph was experienced. The drive system consists of
twin can motors with flywheels and metal gearing. One set of
wheels on each truck utilizes traction tires and this, along
with the fact that the Dash 8 weighs 6 pounds, means you can
pull dozens of freight cars without tasking this engine a
bit. In conventional mode, we tested the Atlas O model with
a MTH Z4000 transformer. To my surprise the Dash 8 ran and
sounded relatively well under the MTH power supply. The only
anomaly was that the functions of the bell button and
whistle button were reversed. In the past we have found the
mix of MTH and TMCC/RailSound equipped locomotive
to be less than favorable.
operating under Command Control, we were able to experience
the full features of the Dash 8:
multi-horn sounds, mechanical bell, Crewtalk,
TowerCom, four diesel-roar levels, and ElectroCouplers.
Everything worked as advertised except for the squealing
brake feature. When I depressed the brake button on the
CAB-1 remote, the train slowed down, but no sounds could be
heard. I tried on several occasions and even reprogrammed
the Atlas O engine to factory presets as described in the
instruction manual, but without success. Through my previous
experience with the RailSounds system, my guess is that this
problem is probably just a glitch in our sample and not a
common problem. But on a more positive note, Atlas has made
the RailSounds back up battery much more accessible than it
was on their SD-35 model (see the March 2001 issue of Model
Railroad News). The top of the radiator pulls up and a
9-volt alkaline battery easily slips right into the
lighting effects of the Atlas O Dash 8 include constant
directional lighting (in Command mode), operating
headlights, marker lights, and ditch lights. The ditch
lights are a bit oversized compared to prototype practice,
but they definitely add to the lighting effect and look good
while the engine is in operation. All of the lighting
features work as they are supposed to and are plenty bright
enough to be seen in a well-lit room.
newest feature to come the way of Atlas O is their diesel
exhaust unit. Smoke units have started to become pretty much
a standard on O gauge diesel locomotive models so it was
only a matter of time before it would show up on an Atlas O
model. The smoke unit is fan driven and it blows out plenty
of smoke. A switch located on the underside of the cab will
allow the operator to turn the unit off if no smoke is
desired. However, smoke fluid does not come with the Dash 8.
Any Lionel or MTH compatible smoke fluid will do.
line, there is nothing negative to say about Atlas O’s
latest release. They have totally lived up to their
reputation and have even gone a step further with the Dash
8. Atlas O’s ability to create a highly detailed, accurate
model crossed with RailSounds, TMCC, and now a smoke unit,
add up to a winning combination. Check out the Dash 8 at
your local Atlas O dealer today and see this new model in
person. You won’t be disappointed!