Introduced: 1997 (C44-9W), 2005 (AC4400CW), 2007 (revised C44-9W), 2009 (BNSF C44-9W) and 2017 (DCC-Equipped AC4400CW)
Apart from some minor differences in shell detailing, these models are pretty much identical. So, to save myself a bit of time I'm going to cover them both here. Kato's SD70M, SD70MAC and ES44AC models also use this same chassis / mechanism (although they are covered elsewhere in this encyclopedia).
Both of these models are typical Kato diesels - beautiful to behold and a joy to operate. Kato's 1997 C44-9W model was the first locomotive in N scale to come with working "ditch lights" (a feat accomplished by way of some interesting light-conducting plastic inside the shell).
In addition to the ditch lights, the rest of the model employs all of the other time-honored design features one normally associates with "modern" Kato diesels - shell-mounted couplers, split-frame DCC-Ready metal chassis, dual-flywheels, low-friction drive, plastic truck assemblies, plastic gearing, blackened wheels, all-wheel drive, and all-wheel pick-up (no traction tires). The motor is an open-sided 5-poler. Directional lighting is provided by a PC board mounted on top of the chassis (in the above picture, I've swapped out the stock lightboard for a Digitrax decoder). The couplers were Rapidos on the first run (easily swapped out for MT's). Subsequent runs come with Kato's proprietary "semi-automatic" knuckle couplers. Wheels are low-profile and have no problems on Code-55 track.
Performance is virtually perfect - smooth, quiet, flawless pickup and throttle response, exceptional pulling power, etc. On the downside, they are pretty much limited to 11"-radius curves and broader (anything sharper than that and the wheels are derailing).
Kato released their AC4400CW in 2005. And although the AC4400CW chassis/mechanism is virtually identical to the one used in the first-run C44-9W (and the two shells are basically the same size/shape), they do differ in some of their fine detailing (slightly different door and vent configurations and whatnot - ala the different prototypes). The AC4400CW also came with a couple of new features (over the original C44-9W). Namely, knuckle couplers and printed / lit numberboards. Starting with the 2017 production run, Kato's "Kobo Customs" division started selling AC4400CW's with factory-installed DCC decoders (Train Control Systems K1D4).
- Headlight, Ditch Lights and Numberboards accurate for prototype roadname
- KATO magnetic knuckle couplers (long shank knuckle couplers also provided)
- Directional Golden-white LED headlight and lighted ditch lights
- Illuminated printed numberboards
- Powerful KATO five-pole motor with dual brass flywheels and all-wheel electrical pickup
- DCC-friendly mechanism for drop-in decoder installation.
Note: Enhanced appearance details (cab handrails, magnetic coupler trip pin, MU hoses and numberboards) are hobbyist-installed.
Kato released a revised C44-9W model in 2007. These have a number of new features / improvements not included on the original (see below). And unlike the original release (or the AC4400CW), all of the various details come factory-installed on this new version -
Revised C44-9W Features:
- Seperately molded handrails
- New walkways with crisper detailing
- New undercarriage and fuel tank detailing
- High mounted ditch lights and a prototypically more accurate anti-climber
- Molded MU hoses
- Illuminated numberboards
- Prototypical late type Hi-Ad trucks
- New Kato straight shank knuckle coupler for a more prototypical appearance
The new Dash 9 chassis (introduced with the AC4400CW) is slightly different from the original C44-9W chassis (even though they share the same part numbers) -
Shells from first-run Dash 9's will fit on this new chassis, but not vice versa. I'm told that the chassis was changed to accommodate the new fuel tank and walkway assemblies.
Kato released a BNSF version of their C44-9W model in 2009 - the major change being the configuration of the side windows on the cab (four instead of two) -
The headliner of GE's 1993 freight locomotive line was the 6 motor, 4400hp C44-9W Dash 9. Slightly longer than its predecessors at 73 feet, 2 inches, the C44-9W used a new HiAd, bolsterless low-weight truck that was designed for better grip on the rails no matter the weather. A split cooling system lowered engine temperatures and fuel consumption as well, granting these locomotives a longer operation life and lower overhead costs.
In 1994, GE delivered the first AC4400CW locomotive, their answer to EMD's successful SD70MAC. Nearly 10 years later, the AC4400CW has become one of the most successful locomotives in the history of North American railroading. The AC4400CW is operated by railroads from East to West and Canada to Mexico. Union Pacific's large fleet of AC4400CW locomotives, with hundreds of locomotives on the roster, is full of variation. Some of UP's locomotives have come through mergers with Southern Pacific and Chicago & North Western. The main spotting feature for the AC4400CW, when compared to the similar C44-9W is the large Inverter Cabinet behind the helper's side of the cab (conductor/brakeman's side).
Shell removal is pretty simple - just take hold of the fuel tank with one hand and the shell with the other, then just sort of wiggle the shell up and off.
Grade: A (for both)
C44-9W reviewed: 9/97 Model Railroader ("Kato's latest N scale release is a superb model of GE's popular Dash 9-44CW (some railroads call it C44-9W) road diesel... Like previous Kato diesels, this one has a body made up of several highly detailed injection-molded styrene pieces. The cab and radiator grills snap into the main body shell. The frame, pilots, and step wells are cast in another piece that's designed so the running board casting nests into it. The acetal plastic handrails are secured to the running board assembly, and the body snaps in place over the chassis. The model comes assembled except for a couple of vertical handrails on the front corners of the cab, which the modeler must add. The remaining grab irons are molded in place. Several body styles are offered to match specific prototypes. Variations include both high and low number boards, either four five step wells, and on Santa Fe models a notched (nicknamed "gull-wing") cab. The body is sharply molded, with good detail in the grills, equipment-panel covers, and door latches... Mechanically, the Dash 9 follows Kato's proven split-frame design. A pair of large zinc alloy frame halves enclose the motor, twin brass flywheels, universal shafts, and worm assemblies which drive the trucks. All of the axles are driven to help pull the load and all wheels pick up electrical current. Our sample Dash 9 started smoothly and ran nicely throughout its speed range... The engine should easily pull about 20 freight cars... Two LEDs provide lights to the front and rear, with clear plastic rods to carry the light to the headlights and ditch lights... The Dash 9-44CW is another smooth-running, sharp-looking diesel from Kato. It will be right at home pulling fast freights or drag freights on layouts set from the early 1990s to the present. AT&SF, CSX, CN, C&NW, SP, UP, Undec. Price: $98")
AC4400CW reviewed 10/05 Model Railroader ("A superb N scale model of one of the most popular road diesel locomotives of the 1990s... This model is impressive with its smooth performance, excellent paint, and easily installed detail parts... The model is evenly painted and crisply lettered, and it closely matches prototype dimensions... A variety of user-installed details are packaged with the model, including magnetic coupler trip pins, printed number boards, nose-mounted hand grabs, and rear MU cables. All the details press-fit from the outside, which means the locomotive shell doesn't have to be removed... The details stay put without the need for cement... The AC4400 ran smoothly and quietly, characteristics we've come to expect from Kato. Low-speed operation was excellent. Our sample started at 1.1 volts and ran steadily at 3.5 mph, which is a bit better than our 4 mph average for N scale diesels. The model weighs a respectable 4.1 ounces but manages only .8 ounces of pulling power - about enough to handle 20 free-rolling cars on straight and level track. However, the drivers have a smoothly plated tire surface that commonly wears off over time to provide better adhesion... the model had no problem rounding 9.75" curves, although it looked quite unrealistic on those tight bends... Hidden latches hold the shell on the locomotive's three-piece deck assembly. Removing the body and deck parts required both a soft touch and a bit of judicious prying here and there. Undeneath is a split-frame die-cast metal chassis capped by a printed-circuit board holding the LED headlights. There's plenty of room to install a decoder. CSX, Undecorated $105, UP, C&NW $110")