Bringing the Super Chief to Life in N Scale

There are several named trains throughout history which have transcended both the railfan and railroading world, making a lasting impression in popular culture. There’s the Orient Express; made famous by Agatha Christie’s mystery novel of the same name. The 20th Century Limited; remembered as an icon of the art deco era. And there’s the Super Chief; the luxury transcontinental service still considered by many as the benchmark of civilized travel.


Launched in 1936, the Super Chief was the pride of the Santa Fe Railroad. Traveling 2,227 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles, the Chief would pass through some of the most varied and dramatic scenery in the west, arriving at it’s destination in just over 36 hours – a record for the era. If there was ever a train which captured the essence of the golden age of railroading, this was it. Running exclusively with streamlined equipment, passengers could enjoy stunning views of deserts, mountains, cities, and farmland from the comfort of their private quarters, or in one of the many shared spaces such as the dome cars or rear observation car.

It was likely the passengers themselves who helped cement the train’s place in history. With Hollywood personalities such as Elizebeth Taylor, Humphrey Bogart, and Bing Crosby all making appearances on the service, the Chief became known as the train of the stars, appearing in countless movies and TV shows, with the silver passenger cars and warbonnet painted locomotives becoming some of the most recognized rolling stock in the world.

The Super Chief remained the Santa Fe’s flagship operation until the launch of Amtrak in 1971. Although the stars and first class service are now long gone, the route can still be experienced aboard Amtrak’s Southwest Chief.

The Model

First released in 2005, the Kato Super Chief is back in N scale for 2019. As with the original release, two sets are available, replicating all cars seen in a typical 1950s era consist. The main set features 8 cars; a Baggage Express car, Railway Post Office, 10-6 Sleeper, Pleasure Dome, Diner, Dormitory Lounge, 4-4-2 Sleeper, and a Sleeper/Lounge Observation car. This will more than suffice for an authentic looking Super Chief, however to complete the true 12 car set seen on the prototype, the 4 car add-on pack can also be purchased. This will add two additional 10-6 sleepers and two 4-4-2 sleepers to the consist.

Each car has been painted with appropriate colors, and has been finished with crisply printed lettering. Authentic names such as Palm Stream, Regal Crest, and Vista Canyon adorn the sleeper and observation cars. The unnamed cars have likewise been authentically numbered.

The level of detail on these cars is simply stunning. Beginning with the shells themselves, Kato has been careful to replicate the streamlined fluting with perfect scaling, in addition to all rivets, vents and seams. Each car additionally features a selection of separately manufactured components. Notable examples include the mail catchers on the RPO car, and the entertainment antennas mounted to the Pleasure Dome car. All passenger cars come fully furnished with a molded plastic interior, and each car features a selection of underside equipment. Bringing up the rear, a lighted Super Chief drumhead has been included on the end of the observation car.

All cars feature low flange wheels, Kato magnetic knuckle couplers, and shock absorber construction for smooth and reliable operation. Both sets are available with fully lit interiors, or can be purchased unlighted (with the exception of the drumhead). A lighting kit is available for these examples.

Built to accompany these sets, a line of new Warbonnet F7 locomotives has also been released (and is due shortly). Examples will be available with DCC and sound, DCC/silent, or DC/silent.

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