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Kato GS-4 Locomotive


Product: GS-4 Locomotive
Manufacturer: Kato
Scale: N
MSRP: $198.00
Available: Feb. '08
Rating: ***** (5 of 5)

Kato's GS-4 Locomotives

Kato's N scale GS-4 locomotives are decorated in Southern Pacific's red and orange "daylight" color scheme. The "GS" stands for "Golden State" or "General Service", depending on who you talk to, and is Southern Pacific's class designation for their 4-8-4 locomotives. The Kato GS-4 locomotive will be available in two road numbers; number 4449 is already shipping and number 4453 will follow in March or April. These locomotives were made for use with Kato's Southern Pacific "Morning Daylight" car sets, reproducing that famous passenger train of the 1940s.


  • Exceptional pulling power
  • Electrical pickups in driver and tender
  • Directional, operating headlight and simulated Mars light
  • Illuminated number boards
  • Detailed cab interior
  • Drivers operated by functional side rods
  • Front and rear knuckle couplers (magnetic)
  • DCC ready. Uses Kato EM13 Decoder (MSRP: $22)

Praise for the GS-4

The Kato GS-4 locomotive is beautifully painted and detailed. Watching the video of this locomotive pulling 18 cars up a 4% grade is quite impressive. This latest offering from Kato advances the state-of-the-art in N scale locomotives. For many N scalers this is the first "must have" of 2008.

Room for Improvement

I gave the GS-4 a full five stars, but as the saying goes "nobody's perfect". If I have one complaint about the GS-4, its that Kato used a proprietary connector in the tender for the DCC decoder. If you don't want to do any custom wiring then you have to use Kato's EM13 decoder. At $22 the EM13 doesn't cost any more than a third party decoder, but Kato isn't offering a sound decoder. In contrast, my Con-Cor Zephyr not only has the NMRA standard 8-pin connector, but also has a place to mount a speaker.

Sound Options

The lack of an industry standard connector limits your options for sound installation. If they'd used the NMRA standard 8-pin connector their customers could choose from a number of sound decoders to add the bells and whistles (literally), not to mention the classic steam chuff-chuff sounds, to their GS-4s. As things stand now, GS-4 owners have two choices: put a sound-only decoder in the passenger car behind the tender, or wait for a sound decoder manufacturer to come out with a unit that fits the Kato connector. I'm going with the second option; waiting for a Kato-compatible sound decoder.
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