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Trainman O gauge Dash 8-40CW from Atlas O

Trainman O gauge Dash 8-40CW from Atlas O

Price: $269.95 (no. 20022007, conventional) $429.95 (no. 20032007, command control) Min Curve: O-36 Features: Scale dimensions, directional LED lighting, horn and bell sounds, and prototypical lettering and painting. BNSF and Santa Fe models have prototype-specific “gull-wing” cabs. Command-control models include Lionel TrainMaster Command Control, RailSounds, remote couplers, and Electric RR Co. speed control. Current-production road names: Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe; BNSF; CSX; and Union Pacific. For more information, visit /
Over the years I’ve become quite a fan of the Master Line models produced by Atlas O. The attention to detail is second to none.

Atlas didn’t stop there. Fortunately for O gaugers, the firm then introduced its Trainman product line. The idea behind the Trainman line is simple: A line of high-quality, modestly detailed O gauge models with a price tag that won’t break the bank. With this philosophy in mind, when the new Trainman O gauge Dash 8-40CW arrived at my door I fully expected to find a model that, while very well built, would leave me wanting in some way. Boy, was I wrong!

Before we delve further into this model, though, let’s talk briefly about the real thing. General Electric built Dash 8-40CW locomotives from 1990 to 1994. The 40CW was distinguished from its predecessor, the 40C, by the addition of a new wide-nose “safety cab.” With its six-axle trucks and a V16 diesel prime mover, the locomotive delivered an impressive 4,000 horsepower.

The Dash 8 proved popular with American railroads, and GE built 756 of those workhorses before they were succeeded by the Dash 9-44CW in 1994. Most Dash 8-40CWs remain in service, so this is definitely an engine you can still catch on railroads all over North America.

Opening the box
Atlas’ O scale rendition of the Dash 8-40CW comes packaged in the cardboard and Styrofoam setup typical of most manufacturers today. Looking inside its Styrofoam case I was pleasantly surprised to find the engine secured to a protective plastic cradle (you’ll need a Philips head screwdriver to remove the cradle). This packaging is typically found only on higher-priced engines, so I was impressed to see Atlas taking so much care on a more budget-friendly model. This was a wise decision by Atlas, as any cost savings gained from omitting the cradle would have been negated by a slew of damaged engines being sent back by angry customers. Smart!
With the locomotive you’ll find an instruction manual, spare traction tires, and a 9-volt battery. Just to clear up any confusion, the 9-volt battery serves as a backup power supply for the sound system when the locomotive is operated conventionally. If you’re going to be running this engine with Lionel’s TMCC/Legacy command-control system, Atlas O recommends the battery not be installed.

The paint job on my sample Dash 8-40CW was flawless, which is par for the course for Atlas. On the lower portion of the engine, you’ll find the pilots, trucks, and fuel tank are all made of die-cast metal. The truck side frames are nicely detailed, and the fuel tank sports some hand-painted details, which is a nice touch. Plastic parts include the plow on the front pilot as well as the air tanks above the fuel tank. The body of the engine is entirely plastic. You’ll find a nice smattering of add-on metal grab irons on the front and rear of the engine as well as an add-on plastic horn. Pretty much every other detail is molded into the plastic body.

Molded-in details can sometimes take away from the realism of a model, but that’s not the case here. The details are deeply recessed into the plastic, especially the vents. The vents are so deeply recessed, in fact, you’ll think they are the real thing.

By far, my favorite detail is the abundance of sharply rendered prototypical placards and tiny stenciled warnings and labels. This is often the first thing to get cut, but Atlas didn’t go down that road.

The cab has two areas where modest cost-cutting has taken place. First, instead of add-on windshield wipers this model sports wipers molded into the windshields. Atlas has done such a good job painting the wipers they appear to be separate pieces. Only a close inspection reveals the truth. Second, the interior of the cab is empty, no lighting, no crew figures, and no control panel. Hey, it’s always great to have a detailed cab interior, but most people won’t notice the empty cab. I think the lower price tag on this engine makes these concessions a fair trade.

On the test track
Atlas offers the model in both conventional and command-control versions. Conventional models have horn and bell sounds as well as ditch lights that alternate when the horn sounds. Command control versions have Lionel TrainMaster Command Control, RailSounds, and Electric RR Co. speed control.

I tested a command-control version. Once I had started up my engine, I was treated to great prime mover sounds, a powerful horn, a bell, and a few selected crew-talk sounds. Atlas upgraded sound systems a few years back, and it has made a big difference, particularly in crew talk sounds, which now use some of the same crew talk sequences found on Lionel’s Legacy-equipped engines.

I operated the locomotive using Lionel’s TMCC/Legacy system and experienced no problems at all. Operation on my test track was flawless, and the engine tracked through all switches seamlessly. With 100-step speed control, you can run this Dash 8 at a crawl or you can highball it down the main line at break-neck speeds. The twin flywheel motors that drive this model are more than enough to pull most anything.

I was lucky to have two of these engines. I assigned both to a “train” function in my Legacy remote. The sight of these giants thundering down the rails with a long freight was thoroughly enjoyable.

I was impressed with this model. The O gauge Dash 8-40CW from Atlas is a lesson in smart cost control. At a glance, it looks like a locomotive you’ll have to shell out big money for. It’s only after careful study that you find the areas where Atlas was able to keep the cost down.

Other train manufacturers, take note. This is the right way to make a high-quality, affordable and breathtaking locomotive!


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