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ScaleTrains.com N scale GE Dash 9 diesel

Read this review from the August 2020 issue of Model Railroader
ScaleTrains.com N scale GE Dash 9 diesel
ScaleTrains.com N scale GE Dash 9 diesel
MRRPR0820_101
Prototype specific details include the flanged exhaust stack and the Leslie RS-3L airhorn.

Rumbling to life on N scale rails, a General Electric C44-9W joins the ScaleTrains.com Rivet Counter series roster. Like the HO scale version I reviewed in the June 2019 issue, the 1:160 locomotive features prototype-specific details and accurate paint schemes, and is available with a dual-mode ESU LokSound decoder that operates on Digital Command Control (DCC) and direct-current (DC) layouts.

In addition to the Rivet Counter version, the N scale Dash 9 is also available in versions with no sound and fewer factory-applied details as part of the firm’s value-priced Operator Series. At the time of this writing, many of the ScaleTrains.com Dash 9s are sold out at the manufacturer; however, they are still available at hobby shops and other online retailers.

The prototype. General Electric built more than 3,500 Dash 9 series locomotives between 1993 and 2004. At that time the Dash 9 was superseded by GE’s Evolution series. The heart of the Dash 9 was its 7FDL16 prime mover. Although there were some 4,000 hp and standard cab variants, most Dash 9s were designated C44-9W with a 4,400 hp rating and a wide safety cab.

The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. (ATSF) received its 100 C44-9W locomotives in 1994. In 1996 ATSF merged with Burlington Northern RR to become the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Ry. (BNSF), and the Dash 9s became part of the new BNSF roster. Some of these former ATSF units are being rebuilt with AC traction motors to improve performance and extend their service lives.

The model. The N scale Dash 9’s dimensions match a prototype diagram in the 1997 Car & Locomotive Cyclopedia (Simmons-Boardman). Our review sample is accurately detailed and decorated as ATSF no. 662 as the prototype appeared shortly after delivery to the Santa Fe in 1994.

Separate prototype-specific details include Sinclair “ice skate” and small cone antennas on the cab roof, Leslie RS-3L airhorn above the engine compartment, and a flanged exhaust stack. All the panel lines, grills, and other detail molded into the plastic body shell are well defined. The handrail and stanchion assemblies are flexible plastic securely mounted to the sills and body.

The Hi-Ad trucks are also well rendered, with separate brake cylinders and piping. On our Rivet Counter series model, the m.u. and air hoses and uncoupling levers are factory-installed plastic parts. On the Operator series models, these parts are provided but must be installed by the modeler.

The prototype no. 662 kept its number and warbonnet paint scheme after the BNSF merger and throughout the rest of its career, which according to prototype photos lasted into the 2010s. After 2000, the cigar band was updated with Bnsf replacing Santa Fe. The model’s paint scheme features sharp color separation. All lettering, herald, and stencil placement matches prototype photos.

MRRPR0720_04
The model’s mechanism is surrounded by a die-cast metal weight. The LokSound decoder plugs into a socket on the bottom of the main printed-circuit board.

The mechanism. After removing both draft-gear boxes, I could easily lift off the plastic locomotive body shell, revealing the mechanism. A dual-flywheel-equipped motor is sandwiched between two die-cast metal weights.

The main printed-circuit (PC) board is atop the mechanism. The ESU LokSound Select Micro decoder is plugged into a Next18 socket under the rear of the PC board. A well enclosed cube-type speaker provides clear, undistorted sound. All lighting is provided by surface-mounted light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

Performance. The N scale Dash 9’s drawbar pull is equivalent to 31 N scale freight cars on straight and level track. It also easily pulled a 20-car train up the 2 percent helix of our N scale Canadian Canyons layout.

As shown in the charts above, the model accelerated smoothly in both DCC and DC speed charts. However, with top speeds of 120 scale mph and 95 scale mph, respectively, the model was much faster than the prototype’s 70 mph top speed.

In DCC I used a LokProgrammer computer interface (sold separately, $179.99) to adjust the speed curve to better match the prototype. This interface makes programming the decoder’s indexed configuration variables (CVs) a much easier task. The LokProgrammer software, available as a free download at loksound.com, can be used without the interface, but the user must enter CV values manually via a DCC throttle.

I also set up the button-controlled independent brake (F10), changed the model’s address to match the locomotive number (662), and advanced consisted the Dash 9 with an N scale GE ET44AC.

Pressing function 8 triggered a start-up sequence for the 7FDL16 diesel engine. Function 9 let me manually notch the engine with the throttle knob without affecting locomotive speed. Other user-controlled functions include the horn, bell, dimmable headlights, and a realistic dynamic brake sequence.

The sound quality through the sugar-cube-type speaker is just as impressive as the HO scale Rivet Counter model I reviewed last year. The N scale model sounds like the prototypes I’ve heard when standing trackside.

On a DC layout, the sounds are limited to the diesel engine, which revs up or down with the throttle. There’s built-in momentum for more realistic starts and stops, and the headlights operate according to the direction of travel.

For those modeling North American main lines in the mid 1990s to 2010s, the Dash 9 is a must-have locomotive. The ScaleTrains.com GE C44-9W is an exemplary N scale model of this turn-of-the-21st-century workhorse.

Dash9perfchart
Facts and features
Prices: Rivet Counter versions: $239.99 (DCC and sound), $179.99 (DCC, no sound), and $144.99 (DC, no sound)
Operator versions: $134.99 (DCC, no sound) and $99.99 (DC, no sound)
Manufacturer
ScaleTrains.com Inc.
7598 Highway 411
Benton, TN 37307
scaletrains.com
Era: 1993 to present
Road names (multiple road numbers):
Rivet Counter line: Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe; BNSF Ry. (Heritage II and III schemes); Norfolk Southern (NS); Southern Pacific (SP); and Union Pacific (UP). Operator line: BNSF Ry. (Heritage I and III schemes), Canadian National, Chicago & North Western, NS, SP, and UP.
Features
• All-wheel drive and electrical pickup
• Body-mounted semi-scale knuckle couplers at correct height
• ESU LokPilot Micro decoder (DCC models without sound)
• ESU LokSound Select Micro decoder with cube-type speaker (DCC sound version only)
• Factory-installed (Rivet Counter) or modeler-installed (Operator) air and m.u. hoses and uncoupling levers
• Five-pole skew-wound motor with dual brass flywheels
• Light-emitting diode (LED) headlights and number boxes
• Metal wheels in gauge
• Minimum radius: 9¾" (11" recommended)
• Next18 DCC plug
• Operating LED ditch lights (Rivet Counter version)
• Operates on code 55 and 80 rail
• Weight: 3.7 ounces

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