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Home / News & Reviews / Product Reviews / Rapido Trains N scale General Electric Dash 8-40CM diesel locomotive

Rapido Trains N scale General Electric Dash 8-40CM diesel locomotive

By Cody Grivno | December 25, 2020

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A General Electric (GE) Dash 8-40CM has joined the growing lineup of N scale diesel locomotives from Rapido Trains. The six-axle road unit features a plastic body; separate, factory-applied wire grab irons; and body-mounted couplers.

The prototype. In the late 1980s, Canadian National enlisted General Electric to produce a variant of the Dash 8-40C better suited for Canada’s harsh winters. The result? The Dash 8-40CM.

The cowl-body design did its part. The engine compartment could be reached from the inside.

To address visibility to the rear of the locomotive, a pitfall of earlier cowl-body designs, the sides were tapered in toward the cab. This has been dubbed by railfans as a “Draper Taper” for the idea’s originator, CN assistant chief of motive power William L. Draper. The taper was earlier used on Bombardier HR-616s and General Motors Diesel Division SD50Fs.

The Dash 8-40CMs rode on MLW- Dofasco trucks harvested from retired C630M diesels that were traded in. The road locomotives also featured CN’s distinct four-window safety cab, tricolor class lights above the number boards, and a cab-mounted bell.

Front of a locomotive

General Electric produced the Dash 8-40CM between February 1990 and March 1994. At the end of the production run, 84 units were built, all for Canadian railroads. Canadian National, which commissioned the design, rostered the most with 55. BC Rail had the second largest fleet with 26. Quebec, North Shore & Labrador, a 257-mile ore- hauling railroad that runs through northeastern Quebec and western Labrador, acquired three.

The model. The Rapido Trains Dash 8-40CM has a one-piece injection- molded plastic body, die-cast metal chassis, and modeler-installed cab sunshades. The pilots have a separate, factory applied snow plow (front only), m.u. cables, train line hoses, and uncoupling levers. Other features on the shell include wire grab irons, factory-printed number boards, and separate sand filler hatches. The class lights above the number boards are printed.

The CN version correctly has battery boxes behind the cab on both sides, tall sand fillers, a single back-up light, and a K3L air horn. A set of louvers on the access door below the cab number on the conductor’s side was omitted.

The QNS&L and BCOL units have dual back-up lights, short sand fillers, and a K5 air horn. In addition, the BCOL unit has rock lights. Up on top, the CN locomotive has two wire grab irons; molded antennas, door handles, and hinges; and raised nubs on the walking surfaces. Below, the model has a one-piece plastic fuel tank, separate pipes and air filters, molded traction motor cables, and air reservoirs mounted crosswise on the front and back of the fuel tank.

A look inside. To separate the shell from the chassis, I first unscrewed and removed the draft-gear boxes. Then I carefully separated the handrails attached to the shell from the stairwells. A split metal weight fills the interior. The weight conceals the coreless motor and dual flywheels. Light-emitting-diodes project light into tubes for the number boxes and various lights. The ESU LokSound V5 decoder is attached to a motherboard on top of the weight. A downward-facing speaker is located above the rear truck. The sound file was recorded from a full- size Dash 8-40CM.

interior of a locomotive

By the numbers. Our sample is deco- rated as CN no. 2429. The unit was repainted from its as-delivered scheme to the railroad’s current scheme depicted on the model in the summer of 2012. Most of the paint was smooth and evenly applied. The paint was a bit heavy on the battery boxes, and the color separation lines were a bit soft on those parts. For the most part, lettering matched prototype images. I didn’t see evidence of a builder’s plate on the frame after the repaint. Also, the F should be to the left of the Caution No Footboard stencil on the conductor’s side. The model’s dimensions closely follow prototype drawings of a BC Rail unit published in the January/February 1994 issue of Diesel Era magazine.

performance chart

To the test track. Rapido Trains recommends running its Dash 8-40CM for an hour in each direction to break it in. Additional gear lubrication shouldn’t be necessary. Our sample is equipped with a dual-mode ESU LokSound V5 sound decoder. I tested it first in direct current (DC). The sounds came on at 8.2V, which is typical of sound-equipped models in DC.

The model started moving at 2.7 scale mph at 9V. It achieved a top speed of 57 scale mph at 12V. The top speed for the full-size units was 65 mph. I then tested the locomotive in Digital Command Control (DCC) with an NCE PowerCab. At step 1 the Dash 8-40CM crawled along at under 1 scale mph. The six-axle road unit topped out at 75 scale mph at step 28.

The locomotive is equipped with two traction tires (six extras are included), one each on the front and rear truck. The drawbar pull was 1.76 ounces, equivalent to 42 cars on straight and level track. I then took the Dash 8-40CM to our Canadian Canyons project layout [see the January 2019 Model Railroader. – Ed.] with 25 modern freight cars equipped with metal wheelsets. The locomotive easily pulled the train up the 1.9 percent grade in the helix. The body-mounted couplers are installed at the correct height. The metal wheels are correctly gauged.

Happy wanderers. Don’t think the Dash 8-40CMs stayed north of the border. After CN acquired Wisconsin Central, Illinois Central, and other lines, the Dash 8-40CMs became regular visitors to the United States. In 2013, a three-unit consist of BC Rail Dash 8-40CMs came through Waukesha, Wis., where MR’s headquarters are located.

If you want to add some interest to your contemporary N scale diesel fleet, take a look at the Rapido Trains Dash 8-40CM. The cowl-body unit looks and sounds good and is a strong puller.

Price: Direct current with ESU Next18, $149.95; with dual-mode ESU LokSound sound decoder, $259.95.
Rapido Trains
500 Alden Rd., Unit 21
Markham, ON L3R 5H5
Era: February 1990 to present
Road names: Canadian National (website, stripes, North America, and no stripes schemes); British Columbia Ry. (post-2010, as-delivered, and CN website schemes); and Quebec, North Shore & Labrador. Two to six road numbers per scheme; also available undecorated (BCOL and CN versions)
• Body-mounted couplers, at correct
• Coreless motor with dual flywheels • Correctly gauged metal wheels
• Detailed underbody
• Die-cast metal chassis
• Prototype-specific details
• Separate, factory-applied grab irons
and handrails
• Weight: 4.6 ounces

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