Articles - Kato E8
06/01/2006
External Reference:
The E8/9 was built by EMD (Electro-Motive Division of General Motors). The Pennsylvania Railroad acquired these locomotives from 1950 through 1952. They were equipped with 2250HP engines, and classified by the PRR as EP22 (EMD, passenger, 2200 horsepower). There are some resources in books, namely "Pennsylvania Railroad", 1997, MBI Publishing Company, ISBN 0-7603-0379-7, pp 2, 25, 78, and "The History of the Pennsylvania Railroad", 1995, SmithMark Publishers, ISBN 0-8317-3787-5, pg 110.

The Kato models are fantastic, and quiet running locomotives.
PRR #5802 was one of the engines Kato released in 1993 (in original condition).
Kato E8
PRR #5890 was part of the Kato release in June 2000 (in original condition).
Kato E8

Disassembly

The trick to removing the shell is to insert four toothpicks in the right spots. It is applicable to both runs of the locomotives made by Kato (there isn't that much of a difference between the two runs in general, other than outward appearance).
Kato E8
Next, hold the locomotive upside down and grab it by the fuel tank. The metal frame should lift out of the body shell with ease. If it doesn't, the toothpicks aren't in the right spot, and they have not separated the two parts yet. Feeling which side doesn't want to budge should give you an idea which toothpick is the problem.
Kato E8
Installing the shell is pretty simple. Sometimes when the toothpicks are inserted, you may accidentally insert them between the outer body shell and the glass insert. This can be seen in the next photo. With a little bit of effort the glass insert can be snapped back into its position. This may take a bit of trail-and-error. When that is done, the metal frame can be inserted. I find it easier to insert the nose first (making sure to clear the LED and the coupler), and then snap the rear in place. Test the locomotive to make sure the electrical connections didn't come loose during assembly.
Kato E8

Headlight Replacement

External Reference:
Jim Hinds of Richmond Controls made available to us new golden-white LEDs that have a more prototypical look to them. The previous bright white LEDs had a distinctive blue tint to them. I converted one of my E8s to the golden-white LEDs and lined-up the three models in this photo shoot (this one used the camera's flash). From left to right, the bright white LED, the new "golden-white" LED, and the original Kato "standard" LED. The golden-white LEDs are definitely the way to go!
Kato E8
Same photo as above, but with the camera's flash turned off.
Kato E8
The original run of the Kato E8s came with the standard yellow LED. The second run came with the, then new, bright white LED's. Upgrading either model is the same, simple process, although some soldering is required. The model used in the photos below is the one that was released in 1993.
Kato E8
Before proceeding, make a note of the orientation of the LED. The black line points at a part of the LED that identifies which LED lead is positive and which is negative. It doesn't matter which one is which, as long as you install the new LED in the same orientation. Look for the gap.
Kato E8
Removing the old LED is quite simple. Use a low-wattage soldering iron to protect all the electronic components. Simply touch the soldering iron to one of the legs of the LED near the circuit board, and pull it out of the board using a pair of tweezers. The new LED needs to have its leads trimmed to fit properly. You can use the old LED as a guide, or you can line up the new LED as shown in the photo below. For the best effect, I have found putting the LED just to the front of the gray plastic insert of the metal frame body. This will shine the LED directly into the headlight lens of the body shell.
Kato E8
The next step is to put a 90-degree bend at the end of the LED's leads so that it can be properly soldered to the circuit board.
Kato E8
Installing the new LED is simply the reverse of removing the old one. Position the bent leads right above the holes in the circuit board, touch the leads (not the circuit board) with the soldering iron, and, with a bit of down force, the lead should just pop into the hole.
Kato E8
Next, bend and shape the LEDs leads so that it is straight (in-line with the locomotive), and bend down a bit so that it will clear the top of the body shell.
Kato E8
Before re-installing the body shell, be sure to test the new LED. A couple of quick check points: make sure that the locomotive is set to go forward; make sure that the decoder function that controls the front LED (usually F0) is turned on; make sure that the LED is in the right orientation as mentioned above.
Kato E8

DCC Conversion

I converted these locomotives to DCC when I bought them new, so I don't have progress photos. What I do remember is that the instructions that come with the Digitrax DN145K decoder are accurate. This particular installation was the first successful DCC conversion I did (early 2000). The only improvement you should consider making is soldering the lips that make the electrical connection between the rail and the decoder. The instructions say to bend these around the decoder. However, I found that when you re-assemble the body shell, the lips may no longer make contact. The lips are soldered on the unit shown in the photo below (identified by the circles).
Kato E8

Coupler Conversion

This article shows how I installed the Micro-Trains Z-scale couplers. These are model number 905. I prefer the assembled ones to the unassembled ones (model 903) because life is too short! Also note that I do not use magnetic uncouplers, so the way I install couplers may not make them compatible with other N-scale equipment. I found it easier to remove the shell from the metal frame before doing the conversion. See my other article for this model on how to remove the body shell, if you have not done so yet. The photos shown below are of the first-run models. However, other than for coupler style differences, the process for upgrading the couplers is identical for either run of this locomotive. This first photo is the "before" shot.
Kato E8
Using a pair tweezers, remove the brass strip that holds the coupler in place. This piece does not exist in the second run models.
Kato E8
Next, remove the plastic clip that holds the coupler. Effectively what you have to do is squeeze the sides in toward the middle of the locomotive. There is a clip that needs to be undone. It is hard to describe (and hard to photograph). Squeeze them in the direction shown by the arrows.
Kato E8
Here the clip has been removed. Once it is loose, the coupler will fall off.
Kato E8
Installing the front coupler as I show here requires the removal of the trip pin used by the Micro-Trains system for doing remote uncoupling over an uncoupling magnet. I uncouple manually, so I don't need it. However, if you depend on this uncoupling capability, you should not do the conversion the way I did. The reason for the removal of the trip pin here is that the trip pin will hit the E8's body shell. The coupler will therefore not move. You may need to use a longer shank or use an N-scale coupler for the front. Installing it the way I do allows for prototypical close-coupling, while still being able to uncouple manually. I clip off the trip pin using a small pair of rail nippers. Then I file the trip pin down to where it is even with the plastic coupler. Be careful when doing this because you will be putting a lot of pressure on the coupler. The trip pin cannot be removed or else the coupler falls apart. The photo shows the coupler ready for installation.
Kato E8
When you removed the old coupler, you undoubtedly noticed the hole in the plastic frame underneath the old draft box. Line up the new coupler with that hole and drop the Micro-Trains screw that came with the coupler in the hole. This will take a bit of practice and a steady hand.
Kato E8
The final step is to tighten the screw down in the hole. I didn't need to tap the hole of the plastic frame member. Use a bit of down-force to get the screw to catch, and then carefully tighten it until the coupler is secure enough. Test to make sure the coupler has free movement. If it doesn't it may be that you didn't remove enough of the trip pin.
Kato E8
We will now focus on the rear coupler. The rear coupler is molded into the rear truck of the locomotive, so removing it is a bit more drastic. This photo shows the original coupler.
Kato E8
Start by turning the coupler 90-degrees so that it can be pulled out.
Kato E8
Next, using a pair of tweezers remove the spring. You never know when it comes in handy in the future.
Kato E8
Then with a pair of nippers, cut away the remaining pieces of the coupler. This must be done otherwise the truck will hit the body mounted coupler.
Kato E8
This is what it looks like when the area has been cleaned up. It doesn't have to be perfect because you are not going to be able to see it anyway when the locomotive is running on the layout.
Kato E8
I prepare the rear Z-scale coupler the same way I described above for the front coupler. If you want to use the trip pins, you can leave it on the rear coupler because it should not interfere with the operation of the coupler. After putting the locomotive back together, I started to prepare for the rear coupler installation. There is a height difference between the bottom of the rear of the shell and the metal frame of the engine. It turns out to be about 0.030". I made a block of 2ft x 2ft (scale) of three pieces of 0.010" styrene (I didn't have any 0.030" styrene on hand at the time) and super glued them to the metal frame.
Kato E8
Then it was just a matter of tapping a pre-drilled hole in the styrene, and installing the coupler and its screw. Previously I had glued the coupler to a styrene shim, but one by one all the couplers fell off over a period of time. The method shown here appears to be more secure.
Kato E8
The final results speak for themselves. I really like the prototypical look of Z-scale couplers. I have found them to work very reliably. Personal experiences have shown that they work more reliably than the MT N-scale couplers. Don't know why. The next photo shows the nice close coupling between the E8 and Bowser caboose that also has Z-scale couplers installed.
Kato E8
A view of the front of the engine with the Z-scale coupler installed.
Kato E8