Mechanism. After removing the front and rear coupler boxes, I carefully squeezed the plastic body shell to disengage the locking tabs along the bottom. Lifting off the body shell revealed a can motor with a brass flywheel on each end mounted in the center of a die-cast metal chassis. Universal shafts transfer power from the motor to the truck-mounted gearboxes. Two die-cast metal weights are positioned over each gearbox.
The printed-circuit (PC) board is attached to the top of the mechanism via two Phillips head screws. A golden-white light-emitting diode (LED) is soldered to each end of the board. These LEDs illuminate the directional headlights. Plastic tubes transfer light from the front LED to the number boxes and ditch lights in addition to the headlight.
Converting the DC version of the Kato Dash 9 to DCC involves simply removing the jumpers from the eight-pin socket on top of the PC board, then plugging in a decoder equipped with an 8-pin plug.
There’s also room to add a sound system. The plastic fuel tank has an enclosure for a 28mm round speaker as well as sound holes in the bottom of the tank.
Another option for those who wish to add sound to the model without converting to DCC is to operate the model with the Kato Sound Box. (See my review in the June 2015 issue). This sound system connects to a DC power pack and uses Kato Sound Cards that contain sound files of specific prototype locomotives. Kato has recently released a GE 3rd Generation Sound Card that would be appropriate for the Dash 9.
Performance. During testing, our DC version featured the smooth and quiet mechanism we’ve come to expect from Kato. Lights turned on and the locomotive started creeping along at 2 scale mph with only 1.25 volts (V) of track power. At the motor’s maximum operating voltage of 12V, the Dash 9 reached 78 scale mph. This is close to the prototype’s standard top speed of 70 mph. It’s also an improvement over Kato’s earlier 1996 Dash 9 release that had a 94 scale mph top speed.
The locomotive has a long wheelbase, so you’ll need a layout with curves no sharper than a 22" radius. After installing an ANE Model motor decoder (see my review in the January 2017 issue). I headed down to our staff layout, the Milwaukee, Racine & Troy, and put the Dash 9 to work.
The model easily negotiated a yard ladder of no. 6 turnouts without any binding in the trucks. Next I coupled the locomotive to a test train and sent it around a 1.5 percent climbing curve followed by a steady 3 percent upward grade. The Dash 9 single-handedly pulled 15 HO freight cars up the steep hill without slipping or stalling. On straight and level track, the locomotive can pull 40 free-rolling HO freight cars.
Like many other HO locomotives, the knuckle couplers are plastic parts. As I do on my own models, I suggest replacing the plastic couplers with those made of metal, especially on locomotives that will be heavily operated.
The Kato GE C44-9W remains a smooth operator and accurate HO model of a modern-era workhorse. The factory-installed detail and DCC friendly mechanism, not to a mention the availability of a sound-equipped version, make this Dash 9 better than ever.