Kato (Japan) EMD SDP40F

Introduced: 2016

These fine looking and superb running models were originally released in concert with Kato's eight car Amtrak "Southwest Limited" passenger car set. They are available in a variety of different detailing packages (based on prototype) -

- Type I car body details represent the prototypical appearance of these units "as built" - steam generators, nose headlights, forward mounted 4-Chime air horns, and no front porch railings.

- Type IV car body details represent the prototypical appearance of these units in later freight service - front porch railings, notched nose, nose/cab headlights as appropriate, additional roof antennas, cab A/C units as appropriate, and rear mounted 3-chime air horns.

Internally, the design is very much along the same lines as Kato's MP36PH model (released in 2011) -

The model features a standard split-frame / DCC-Ready / all-metal chassis with dual-flywheels, low-friction drive, plastic truck assemblies, plastic gearing, blackened wheels, all-wheel drive, and all-wheel pick-up (no traction tires). The trucks are the same as the ones used on Kato's "early" and "snoot" SD40-2's (same part number). The motor is an open-sided 5-poler. The couplers are Kato's proprietary magnetic knuckle couplers (easily swapped out for MT's). Wheels are low-profile and have no problems on Code-55 track. All detailing comes preinstalled. The PC board has motor contacts and thus can be swapped out for a DCC decoder. Built-to-order DCC-equipped versions (both sound and non-sound) were released as part of Kato's "Kobo Customs" line.

This model continues Kato's recent trend towards "screwless" chassis design (with clips on the motor saddle, fuel tank and underframe serving to hold the whole thing together). Unlike the MP36PH, the pilot and end platform (wherein live the couplers) clip to the underframe rather than the chassis. In addition to the screwless chassis, these models also employ Kato's so-called "shock absorber" construction. IE, the chassis wiper strips are held firmly in place (and thus "sprung") by the long plastic underframe.

The bright white directional lighting is controlled by the PC board mounted on top of the chassis. And unlike the MP36PH, this model has both headlight and backup lights. Capacitors on the PC board help to keep the lighting bright and constant. Light-conducting plastic inside the shell routes the photons to the headlight, backup light and numberboards.

Performance is outstanding in every way- smooth, quiet, flawless pickup and throttle response, pulling power to spare, no problems on sharp (9.75"-radius) curves, etc. And like the rest of Kato's line of six-axle diesels, these things glide around the rails virtually sans friction (taking nearly two feet to come to a complete stop when dropping down from full throttle). My only minor nitpick is with the snowplow and MU cable details. They are simply press fit in place and seem quite prone to coming dislodged (and in the case of the MU cables, dislodged and lost). So, before putting one of these babies on the rails, I'd recommend first applying a bit of white glue to the mounting posts of said details in order to hold them more firmly in place.

Trivia - prior to their official announcement, Kato teased these models by tweeting out "some dainty people for tea are flying over soon", which I think is just clever as all get out.

Prototype -

The EMD SDP40F was Amtrak's first, official, built to order locomotive (previously they had operated using second hand equipment, such as E8's, F7's and even GG1's). A need for new and more reliable equipment spurred the development of the SDP40F. Based on the framework of the SD40-2, the SDP40F was geared for speed, with a top operational velocity of 100 mph and a pair of steam generators to supply heat and hot water for the passenger trains it would pull, such as the ex-Santa Fe "El Capitan" and "Super chief" (renamed the "Southwest Chief" in its combined state).

Thanks to their SD40-2 heritage, the SDP40F's were fairly simply converted to freight use, which allowed them to maintain relevance after the introduction of their successor, the EMD F40PH, in the late 70's and early 80's. A number of SDP40F's were traded over to the Santa Fe Railway in 1984 where they were modified and repainted into the distinctive warbonnet scheme and maintained in service for nearly 15 years.

Model Features -

- Equipped with body mounted KATO magnetic knuckle couplers
- Directional Golden White LED headlights and illuminated preprinted numberboards
- Powerful five pole motor with all wheel electrical pickup and blackened wheels
- DCC-Ready
- Locomotives equipped with ESU LokSound DCC decoders are available from the Kato KOBO Custom Division (built to order)

Shell removal -

The shell is held to the chassis by its window inserts (openings in said inserts clip to the four metal mount points on the chassis) -

To remove the shell, first unhook the two handrails from the rear platform (and the two front handrails as well if your model is so equipped). Next, insert small screwdrivers (or whatever) between the window inserts and the chassis to free up the four clips. Once the clips are freed, the shell should lift right off (just be sure to lift straight up rather than one end or the other first).

Grade: A

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