Introduced: 1984 (Kato/Japan E8), 1985 (Kato/Japan E7) and 1992 (Chinese-made E8 and E7)
These models came into being when Charlie Vlk (former Con-Cor employee) mounted an old Atlas/Rivarossi E8 shell on a Con-Cor/Kato DL-109 mechanism in order to demonstrate to Jim Conway (Con-Cor president) the feasability of recycling Rivarossi E8A shells for a new locomotive. And so, a new Kato mechanism was contracted, and unto the N scale world a "new" locomotive was born - IE, the Con-Cor/Rivarossi E8. And shortly thereafter (the next year, in fact), the E7 emerged (making use of the same Kato-made chassis, but this time underneath old Roco E7 shells - the same shells originally produced for the 1977 Atlas/Roco E7).
Although the chassis/mechanism design is an old one (having its roots in Kato's 1960's PA model), it's still a decent one. The motor is a 5-poler (buried somewhere inside all of that metal). The chassis consists of three pieces - two lower halves and one upper half. All twelve wheels provide pickup (no traction tires), with current flowing directly from the metal truck assemblies into the electrically isolated lower frame halves (IE, no wires). Apart from the metal worms, all the rest of the gearing is plastic. Eight of the twelve wheels are geared. Couplers are truck-mounted Rapidos. A directional headlight is wired to the front of the chassis. The wheel flanges are reasonably sized, so no problems running these on Code-55 track.
General performance is certainly worthy of a solid "A" rating - pick-up is excellent, throttle response is smooth, and slow-speed performance is fine. No, they're not quite as smooth or as quiet as more recent offerings, but they're definitely runners. Unfortunately, due to the relatively primitive shells and the truck-mounted Rapido couplers, I can't quite give them an overall "A" rating.
The E8's were originally sold in gift-boxed A&A sets (one powered unit, one dummy). Some of the shells were actually painted by Rivarossi, with the rest being painted by Con-Cor. Both types of A unit (powered and dummy) boasted directional lighting.
Dummy B units were introduced in 1985 (both E7 and E8). These used the same plastic chassis originally used for dummy E8A's (just sans the lighting). The new shells were tooled for Con-Cor by Roco/Austria.
These locomotives were produced for Con-Cor by Kato up until 1989, at which point Kato and Con-Cor decided to go their separate ways. All tooling was subsequently returned to Con-Cor, and starting in 1992 Con-Cor began producing these models "in-house" (still importing the shells from Rivarossi and Roco, but using Chinese-manufactured mechanisms). Some of the individual parts may have changed (due to the necessity of finding new suppliers), but overall the model remained virtually the same (both in looks and performance). The only really noteworthy change was to the motor - a new 5-pole skew-wound job (which basically lowered the top-end speed and not much more than that).
Powered "B" units were also available during this "Made in China" era (consisting of a "B" shell stuck on a powered chassis, sans the lighting) -
These models were ultimately discontinued circa 2005 as part of Con-Cor's "the boss is retiring" downsizing effort.
Trivia - Con-Cor E7 and E8 shells will fit on Kato USA's DCC-Ready E8 chassis (a quick and easy way to make your Con-Cor loco DCC-Ready).
To remove the shells, simply spread the sides apart and lift.
Grade: B (for all)
Kato-made E8 reviewed: 3/85 Railroad Model Craftsman, 1/85 Model Railroader ("Good news for modelers in N scale who like passenger trains! The powered half of this Con-Cor EMD E8A model set uses the same basic mechanism used in Con-Cor's PA and Alco DL-109 models, and this means good performance in addition to well detailed body castings... The Con-Cor model can also be used as an E9A since the external difference between the two was the headlight casing... Con-Cor does not offer a B unit, but one could be kitbashed from a pair of A unit bodies. Con-Cor uses the same Rivarossi cast plastic body that Atlas used several years ago... The Rivarossi body follows the scale proportions and detailing of the real locomotive pretty closely. There are a few proportional deviations that are minor in nature and irrelevant when compared to the fact that an E8 model is available. I found that the winterization hatches on the roof are a scale 12" too wide, and the dynamic brake hatch is 36" diameter instead of 48" diameter... The body casting has some mold parting lines around the cab front... The mechanism made by Kato is a variation of the excellent machinary made for Con-Cor's PA and DL-109 N scale models. The power-unit frame and gearbox componants are die-cast zinc alloy. The worms are brass, and the other gears are a hard, slippery plastic. The sideframes and the Rapido-style couplers are also hard plastic. The bottom portions of the power unit frame and the gearboxes are made in halves, with the right-half and left-half subassemblies insulated from each other and from the top casting. The motor brushes are grounded to the frame halves to provide all electrical connections without wires. The metal wheelsets are insulated at the center, and all 12 wheels provide electrical pickup. The powered unit drives on the front two and rear two wheelsets for 8-wheel drive. The two wheelsets closest to the center of the model are idlers. The dummy unit has a one-piece plastic frame and different truck castings. Two wheels on each truck are used for electrical pickup... The wheels of both the powered and the dummy units are a scale 42" diameter (E units had 36" diameter wheels), and the height of the truck sideframes has been increased slightly to accommodate them. Under most viewing conditions this increase is not noticeable. However, the larger proportions are discernable when placed next to properly proportioned sideframes... Each unit has clear plastic headlight and number-board castings and a diode-controlled 12V lamp... Our test unit ran smoothly right out of the box... You'll find it isn't necessary to have two powered units. Our sample locomotive pulled 22 standard passenger cars plus the dummy unit... As an added bonus, you'll find that the Atlas E7 body casting will fit over the Con-Cor E8 frames... Powered A unit and unpowered A unit, $59.98. Undec, Pennsy, B&O, CNW, ATSF, UP")
Kato-made E7 reviewed: 5/88 Model Railroader ("Con-Cor's most recent version of the E7 A-unit is a mixture of old and new parts that results in a nice looking and fine running model. It has the same one-piece plastic body shell that Con-Cor introduced a number of years ago. This is nicely detailed and matches prototype dimensions. The only flaw I noticed is that the entire roof of the B-unit is turned 180 degrees in relation to the sides... The big difference is in the mechanism, which is now made in Japan by Kato. The drive follows the design that has proven so successful in other Kato locomotives. A pair of heavy cast zinc alloy frame members are insulated from each other to divide the model in half electrically. The trucks are similarly split electrically so contacts on each side bring all of the drivers into the electrical pickup system. Tiny wipers on the motor contact the frame halves to complete the electrical circuit. A large weight casting fits over the top of the mechanism, and nearly encases the largest motor that will fit within the model's cross-section. It also holds the motor down so the spring brass brush contacts make a good connection with the appropriate frame halves. The usual complement of universals, worms and gears carry the motor's torque out to both ends of the unit where two axles are driven in each truck. Unlike the prototype, the model's idler axles are the inboard ones, closest to the fuel tank. All wheels are nickel-silver plated for good electrical pickup. The sample E7A started easily and ran smoothly throughout its speed range. Like many model locomotives. its top speed is pretty high, but its performance in the more normal speed ranges is excellent. The unit's one-ounce drawbar pull is equivalent to about 24 free-rolling freight cars on straight and level track... The dummy units have the same body castings as the powered units, but instead of mechanisms they have plastic floors and one-piece rigid frame trucks. These trucks are cast in a slippery black plastic material so they are surprisingly free rolling. Our samples came neatly painted and lettered for Union Pacific. The UP colors looked very close to my recollections of the prototypes except for the black running gear. UP painted these areas gray... The powered and dummy E7s all have Rapido type couplers mounted on their trucks... The major detail omissions on these models are the steps which should be under the cab doors and at the corners as on the real E7s... These are nice looking models that deliver excellent performance. ATSF, BN, NYC, PRR, SRR, UP. Powered A/Dummy A ($71.95), Powered A ($51.98), Dummy A ($17.98), Dummy B ($17.98)")