Kato EMD E8A and Pullman Bi-Level Train Set

Published: 2021-08-15 - By: CNW400
Last updated on: 2021-08-18
visibility: Public - Headline
In November 2019, Kato USA introduced the Chicago and North Western Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD) E8A Locomotive and Pullman Bi-Level Passenger Car “400” Series Six-Unit Train Set into their N Scale family. This release is an addition to a large product line of EMD model railroad locomotives and a six-unit (Kato 106-093) & four-unit (106-094) Chicago & North Western smoothside passenger car sets released in 2014.

Road Numbers and Pricing

The six-piece train set includes one diesel locomotive and five bi-level coach passenger cars (Kato Stock Number 106-104). The road numbers represented in this collection are:
  • Chicago & North Western #5022-A EMD E8A Locomotive
  • Chicago & North Western #903 Pullman Bi-Level Coach Buffet
  • Chicago & North Western #700 Pullman Bi-Level 4-Window Coach
  • Chicago & North Western #705 Pullman Bi-Level 4-Window Coach
  • Chicago & North Western #6400 Pullman Bi-Level Coach-Parlor Car
  • Chicago & North Western #154 Pullman Bi-Level Cab-Coach Car
The set comes packaged in a custom designed cushion-bookcase package with an extra slot available for an additional locomotive purchase of Chicago & North Western #5022-B (176-5365).

The suggested retail price is $260 for the DCC-Ready locomotive. A factory installed DCC version is available with a price tag of $365 and an ESU LokSound model for $485.

The separately sold Chicago & North Western E8A locomotive #5022-B is available for $110 DCC-Ready or $190 DCC installed.

LED light kits for the passenger cars are also available: Single Light Kit (11-211) with a suggested price of $12 and a six-pack of LED interior lights (11-212) for $60.

Prototype History

On January 2, 1935, the Chicago & North Western Railway answered the challenges from the Milwaukee Road and the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q) with a speedy line of their own from Chicago to the Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul). Initially, C&NW Class E-2 4-6-2 Pacific steam locomotives were converted into oil runners to haul heavyweight passenger cars the 409-mile trip at high speeds. Time Magazine reported in its January 14, 1935, issue that these newly refurbished C&NW engines were “the fastest train scheduled on the American Continent” and christened them with the ‘400’ nickname – implying the C&NW could cover the 400-mile journey in 400 minutes (about 6 and a half hours) or less. In reality, the C&NW ‘400’ Route averaged 7-hours the first few years – it was not until 1938 when the stream engines were fitted with a streamline overlay did the C&NW match the speed times of the Milwaukee Road Hiawatha and the Burlington's Twin Cities Zephyr. It was reported that the C&NW streamlined locomotives could reach speeds of 112mph on some stretches of track.

In 1939, the Chicago & North Western upgraded ‘The 400’ Route fleet with two pairs of EMD E3A locomotives and lightweight streamlined passenger cars. These were followed by EMD E6 locomotives in 1941 and EMD E7 models in 1947. The C&NW’s Chicago to Twin Cities route was known for its extremely reliable service and on-time schedule. Such great was the reputation of ‘The 400’ Route that the Chicago & North Western decided to rebrand additional passenger train fleets with the ‘400’ moniker. “The Route of the Famous 400” was born.

“Ride the 400", "Speed, Luxury and Safety", "400 Miles in 400 Minutes" and "The Train that Set the Pace for the World"

In 1941, the Chicago to Minneapolis-St. Paul route was renamed the ‘Twin Cities 400’. Other routes of ‘The Famous 400’ fleet included:
  • Capitol 400 (Chicago – Madison, Wisconsin)
  • Dakota 400 (Chicago - Huron, South Dakota)
  • Flambeau 400 (Chicago - Ashland, Wisconsin)
  • Kate Shelley 400 (Chicago – Omaha, Nebraska)
  • Minnesota 400 (Mankato, Minnesota - Wyeville, Wisconsin)
  • Peninsula 400 (Chicago – Ishpeming, Michigan)
  • Rochester 400 (Chicago – Mankato, Minnesota)
  • Shoreland 400 (Chicago - Green Bay, Wisconsin)
  • Valley 400 (Chicago – Menominee, Michigan)
Chicago trains originated at the Chicago & North Western Terminal (now the Ogilvie Transportation Center) on Madison Street in downtown Chicago.

The EMD E-units were a line of passenger diesel locomotives built by the General Motors Electro-Motive Division in La Grange, Illinois (a southwest suburb 16 miles from downtown Chicago). The E-unit model was manufactured from 1937 to 1963. The ‘E’ signifies 1800 horsepower (the initial power for this model) and the corresponding number refers to the successive production number. The ‘E’ was kept for models of greater power. The E-units were ideal for short consists – long trains would use multiple power units linked together. Locomotives built with a cab were called ‘A’-units (lead) and power built without a cab were called ‘B’-units (booster). Thus the conception of A-B-A, A-B-B-A or A-B-B power hook-ups was established.

The E8 had 2,250 horsepower with two GM-built model 567B prime movers. The E8, nicknamed the ‘bulldog’ because of its distinctive front nose configuration, was produced August 1949 thru January 1954. A total of 450 A units and 46 B units were manufactured with twenty-two of those belonging to the Chicago & North Western (5019B, 5021A & B thru 5030 A &B and 5031A).

The E8 was the last of the great passenger locomotives to be built as the automobile and improved highway system helped the public to disregard rail service as a mode of long-distance transportation. The successor E9 model was in production 1954 thru 1964 with less than 150 units ordered (100 A units and 44 B units). The original ‘400’ Route, ‘Twin Cities 400’ was discontinued on July 23, 1963, and all intercity passenger service on the Chicago & North Western ended with the formation of Amtrak in 1971. Furthermore, much of the late C&NW’s commuter lines in the greater Chicago area are currently under the direction and management of Metra.

Finally, Pullman-Standard and St. Louis Car Company built the unique double-decker Pullman Gallery Passenger Car for the Chicago & North Western in their yellow and green livery from 1956 to 1970. The distinctive, green-tinted rectangular shaped window cars had seating on the car's upper level which was accessible by four sets of stairs in the center vestibule. The top featured a narrow walkway with metal handrails and an open middle section with open views below. Pullman produced two versions of these passenger cars – with a control cab (8700 Series) or without (7600 Series) a control cab. Pullman manufactured two hundred and forty-six 7600 Series cars and sixty-four 8700 Series cars for the C&NW. The St. Louis Car Company supplied the initial order of sixteen 7600 Series cars in the mid-1950’s.
Upper-Level Seating – C&NW Coach #6 at Illinois Railway Museum (Koltz)

The Pullman Bi-Level cars were used on the mid-distance Flambeau 400 and Peninsula 400 routes. They were also used for local Chicago commuter service with a 10-car train during morning & evening rush-hours and a 3-car train during off-peak hours.

C&NW #411 (EMD-F7A) Pulling Bi-Level Cars at Illinois Railway Museum (Koltz)

The 8700 Series control cab cars were developed in 1960 and built to use head-end power (HEP) for electrical needs and multiple unit (MU) cabling for push-pull operation. Head-end power is an electrical power distribution system where a main power source is usually located at the front of a train, either a locomotive or generator car. The power source supplies the electrical needs for climate control, lighting, etc. to the adjoining passenger cars. The push–pull configuration allows trains to be driven from either end of the consist with a control cab unit located at the rear. The Chicago & North Western was one of the first railroads to implement the “push-pull” method of commuter operations saving both time and money.

The Model

The six-unit set arrived in a seven-slot foam cushioned bookcase holder with a handsomely decorated cardboard sleeve. The cars are covered with a thin plastic ‘bubble wrap’ sheet to protect from damage during the shipping process. Also included in the case is a one-page information sheet and a small package of magnetic coupler trip pins if the model owner wishes to install.

Box and Sleeve

The paint job is clean and crisp along the entire model set. The colors are bright and neatly applied. The models are painted in the familiar C&NW green and yellow color scheme. All lettering is clear and legible. Lettering and decals are sharp and positioned in the correct locations according to 1960’s prototype images with one exception: the Kato set reflects the Flambeau 400 and Peninsula 400 routes and has the correct ‘400’ Route nose decal. The only photos I could locate of the ‘real-life’ #5022-A (Built in July 1950) had the basic C&NW red and black logo. Not certain if 5022-A was re-decorated before these images were taken or if the real engine was never assigned to a ‘400’ fleet.

Kato #5022-A --- 1950 Built EMD E8A

If you are looking for a prototypical 1960’s Chicago & North Western E8 locomotive- we have a winner here. If you are looking for a prototypical ‘real-life’ #5022-A - you might be disappointed.

When compared to other C&NW EMD E8 engines during the 1960’s, the Kato model is ‘spot-on’ with most of them. Unfortunately depending on the stage of E8 production or if there was a conversion of another model locomotive - subtle differences are present. Photographs of the ‘real-life’ 5022-A do not match the Kato model...while prototype images of different road number E8 locomotives are represented truly by the Kato engine. I will continue to compare those 1960 era models to the Kato engine and not get too ‘hung-up’ on road numbers.

First, the Kato model faithfully captures the distinctive E8 ‘bulldog’ nose design and dual directional golden white LED headlights on the engine front. The number boards are correctly blanked-out to reflect the later years of service. Surprisingly, I did not find a set of windshield wiper blades in the bookcase package – Kato is usually exceptionally good at providing such details. Furthermore, the front of train is equipped with a body mounted Kato magnetic knuckle coupler.

Classic EMD ‘Bulldog’ Nose with C&NW ‘400’ Logo

Kato did a respectable job modeling the sides and top of a typical C&NW 1960’s E8 engine – just not the real 5022-A. Both sides feature the common four circle port holes configuration, correct two door access with stirrup steps and sand filling receptacle (square next to cabin door). The prototype 5022-A sports three round port holes with two smaller square windows near the rear. The Kato model features highly detailed rivet patterns and grill panels. The C&NW green top also features crisp rivet detail and prototypical E8 elements: four 34” fans, a steam generator stack and air intake valve near the rear and a separately applied horn. The Kato model properly does not feature a dynamic brake hatch. The locomotive rear is unimpressive with a molded door, light, and flat grab iron details.

Highly Accurate and Detailed Roof

Finally, the injection molded plastic body is fitted on a metal chassis and rides along free rolling blackened metal wheels on newly tooled A-1-A Blomberg trucks. The rear Kato magnetic knuckle coupler is truck mounted. The Kato ‘400’ Pullman Bi-Level Passenger Car set includes:
  • Buffet Coach #903: Built in 1958 this car had 48 coach seats and 32 diner seats with a small kitchen area-snack counter. Became Amtrak #9601 from 1974 thru 1990.
  • Bi-Level Four-Window Coach Cars #700 & #705: Built in 1958 and used on the Flambeau 400 Route. Both cars featured 96 seats (64 lower and 32 upper). Also became part of the Amtrak fleet in 1974
  • Parlor Coach #6400: A type of passenger car that provided superior comforts and amenities. Was rebuilt for local commuter service as car #225 in 1965.
  • Cab Coach #154: Built in 1960 – these cab cars were exclusively used for local commuter service and not for intercity passenger routes. An error for Kato to label this type of local passenger car for ‘400’ Route service but I can understand their desire to include a unique railcar for those who wish to model both commuter and mid-distance passenger routes.
All five passenger cars have been retooled by Kato to reflect 1960’s C&NW passenger service. The entire consist features the late livery yellow and green paint schemes with green tinted windows. The passenger cars sport panel roofs with sharp rivet detail patterns and fan & vent roof details. One complaint is the molded flat grab irons that are in the correct placements on the ends of each side panel. Just a little dissatisfaction for a rather beautiful set – ‘aftermarket’ grab iron parts can be installed for a more realistic appearance. Furthermore, the models display interior seating features and roll on blackened metal wheels with all-wheel electrical pickup.

C&NW Signature Green-Tinted Windows – Interior Features

Buffet car #903 has the correct large window pattern when compared to prototype images: 3 x 4 on the lower level and 2 x 4 on the upper level. I believe the small square window on the second level is where the bathroom was located. Three air conditioning intake vents are located above the center entry doors.

Buffet Car #903

The two coach cars and parlor car have the same molded body with prototypical 4x4 large window patterns on each level and two intake vents above the doors.

Coach Cars #700 & #705

Lastly, Control Cab #154 again has the proper 4x4 large window configuration but also a smaller window on each side panel and two square windows on the control end of the car. These smaller windows have extra fine wiper blade and window trim detail. This car end also features separately applied scale appropriate end ladders, horn, and directional head & taillights.

Control Cab #154

The Kato coach and control cab models are based on commuter car prototypes that are slightly different from the bi-level cars typically used on C&NW's intercity ‘400’ fleet. Besides a few minor tooling and lettering issues, my main gripe with Kato is their coupler system. In my experience, if you are pulling exclusively Kato passenger or freight cars, I have had no issues. But once you start mixing Micro-Trains Line (MTL) or Atlas Accumate couplers into the equation, I find myself having uncoupling or derailment issues.

The undersides are painted black with highly elaborate molded details such cylinders, tanks and reservoirs. The passenger cars roll along blackened metal wheels with truck-mounted Kato magnetic knuckle couplers EXCEPT the control cab pilot end which has a body-mounted coupler. The cab car also has an on-off switch on the underside to deactivate the cab lights for mid-train operation.

Highly Detailed Underside

The bi-level cars are 6 ¼ inches in length and weigh 1.1 -1.2 ounces, which is light according to the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) recommendations (1.4 -1.5 ounces). The engine performed well on Kato Uni-track at high and low speeds forward and in reverse. It had no issues pulling cars on level track and on a slight incline. I have seen these passenger cars easily handle a 9 3/4” radius curve. Quiet motor and smooth performance - everything expected from a Kato product.


In short, if you are a fan of the Chicago & North Western Railway or just a fan of passenger service, Kato makes it an easy decision to add this model to your railroad. Quality built, good-looking model that is mostly true to the prototype. This is the commuter train of my childhood – Kato made a fine representation that bought back many fond memories.

View the entire collection of Kato USA ‘Chicago & North Western’ products HERE.

About the Author

CNW400 became enamored with trains while watching the ‘Green & Yellow’ double-decker cars clad with shiny green windows (C&NW) rumble by his childhood house in Chicago. His first train set was the Tyco Bicentennial model in 1976. Always a fan of the railroad, CNW400 is newer to the hobby, active for the last four years (now that all the kids are grown-up!). Furthermore, he is also a collector of railroadiana focusing on lanterns, locks & keys and insulators.