Kato (Japan) Siemens ACS-64 Amtrak Cities Sprinter

Introduced: 2015 (DCC-Ready version) and 2017 (decoder-equipped version)

Kato's gorgeous looking and smooth running ACS-64 was originally released as part of a complete four-car Amtrak Amfleet I passenger train set. It wasn't until 2016 that Kato finally did get around to making them available as a separate item. 2017 saw the release of DCC-equipped units (under Kato's "Kobo Customs" banner). These models feature preinstalled TCS K7D4 decoders.

As pictured below, the mechanism is absolutely state of the art. The chassis is all-metal and split-frame. The five-pole motor is equipped with dual flywheels. Six of the eight wheels provide pickup (by way of low-friction axle cups). Sticky-uppy wipers on the truck pickups transfer current to long/skinny contacts attached to the bottom of the chassis. The plastic sidesill piece holds said contact strips in place and makes them nice and springy (Kato's standard "shock absorber construction" scheme of recent years). A lightboard equipped with directional LED's is attached to the top of the chassis (and easily swapped out for a DCC decoder) -

All wheels are blackened and low-profile. All four axles are geared and all gearing is plastic. One wheel per truck is equipped with a traction tire. Separate pilot details containing the Kato automatic/magnetic couplers clip to either end of the sidesill piece -

The pantographs are non-functional (being made of plastic), however they are adjustable. They're also made up of several interconnected parts that are decidedly fragile, so do be careful how you handle them -

Cab detail inserts clip inside either end of the shell. Light-conducting plastic tubes route the bright white illumination from the lightboard to the cats-eye headlights and numberboards -

Performance is breathtakingly smooth and quiet at all speeds. The hefty chassis makes for superior pulling power. And these models might just have the most amazingly affective flywheels I've ever seen - drop down from full throttle and these babies will coast damned near four feet before slowly gliding to a stop. Honestly, if there's a better running locomotive out there in N scale, I haven't met it yet.

Here's what Kato has to say about them -

The ACS-64, also known as the "Amtrak Cities Sprinter", is Amtrak's replacement for the aging AEM-7 and HHP-8 electric locomotives operating in the Northeast and Keystone Corridors. Built by Siemens and based on the EuroSprinter European electric locomotive design, the Cities Sprinter is nonetheless a unique model to North America and is built entirely in the United States. The prototype, entering service in February 2014, is meant to pull as many as 18 Amfleet cars at speeds of up to 125 miles per hour.

This release features brand new locomotive tooling as well as brand new passenger cars. The Amfleet I, similar to Kato's previously released Amfleet II, replicates the prototype's distinctive inside bearing trucks and body shape, while the ACS-64 was built from the ground up to maximize pulling power and smooth running. Featuring all-new molding and detailing, designed with assistance from both Siemens and Amtrak, the ACS-64 has drop-in DCC compatibility, directional lighting, adjustable pantographs, and a seamless, modern look.

Shell removal -

There are four metal studs on the chassis that click inside of openings in the window inserts inside the shell. Said studs are situated over the outer wheels on each truck. To free the studs from the shell inserts, insert skinny screwdrivers (or toothpicks or whatever) between the window inserts and the chassis and then lift up on the shell. Once the shell is lifted slightly above all of the stud points, it should come off readily.

When putting the shell back on, note the orientation of the arrows inside the shell and on the chassis - they should all be pointing in the same direction (and major kudos to Kato for adding what should be a no-brainer inclusion on all models!)

Grade: A

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