Exclusive Preview – The Kato CN Transcontinental Set

The Prototype

Following World War II, the Canadian National Railway embarked on an ambitious modernization program for it’s passenger services, purchasing a fleet of new lightweight coaches and sleeping cars for long distance routes. Although the new cars were successful, the program was never fully realized due to metal shortages following the war, and CN was obligated to restore and upgrade a selection of much older rolling stock alongside the new cars. By the 1960s these refurbished cars were no longer viable, and with increasing competition from both automobiles and the more scenic long distance routes offered by Canadian Pacific, CN looked to the south for new options.

To combat these challenges, CN took delivery of several ex-Milwaukee Road Super Dome cars and Skytop Lounges. These were placed into service on the scenic western leg of the Super Continental route between Winnipeg and Vancouver, supplemented with a selection of former Union Pacific and Pennsylvania Railroad single level cars purchased to replace the aging legacy fleet. Although uniformly painted in CN’s smart black and white scheme of the era, these eclectic consists were popular among railfans for their varying car styles and operational histories.

The lightweight transcontinental fleet lasted in operation with CN until the launch of VIA Rail in 1978 (although the former Milwaukee Road Skytop Lounges were disposed of in 1977) and many of the cars continued for several more years under VIA Rail ownership.

The Model

Available for the first time ever in ready-to-run N Scale, the Kato CN Transcontinental Set is a fitting tribute to the unique and eclectic long distance trains operated by CN in the 1960s and 70s. Based primarily on the consist of the Super Continental, the set includes 7 passenger cars and 3 locomotives (available separately to the cars).

An EMD F7A and F7B painted in CN’s iconic striped scheme has been produced to lead the train, while an additional F7A is available separately to create a typical 3-unit consist. All locomotives are powered, featuring all-wheel pickup and smooth, quiet running motors for scale speed operation and synchronized speed control, and each of the F7As comes equipped with a functioning LED headlight. All models will be available with either standard DC motors or with DCC installed, and a limited run of ESU Loksound equipped models will also be available.


The 7-car passenger consist follows the power, featuring models seen in other Kato sets but never before produced in this livery. These include an ex-Union Pacific baggage car, ex-Union Pacific coach, ex-Pennsylvania Railroad 10-6 Sleeper, a Milwaukee Road Super Dome, ex-Union Pacific ACF Diner, ex-Milwaukee Road Pullman 10-6 Sleeper, and an ex-Milwaukee Skytop Lounge observation car. All cars have been finished and detailed to reflect CN’s black and white passenger scheme, but retain their original details and individuality just as with the prototypes.

All cars feature free-rolling metal wheels, knuckle couplers, and fully molded interiors. The Skytop Lounge also features a clear drumhead with LED lighting. One set of road numbers has been announced to date, with named cars including “Terra Nova River”, “Fraser”, “Vermillion River”, and “Trinity”, all based on actual prototype cars with the same heritage as their model counterparts. The consist is expected to arrive in stock soon, and will be available either with or without constant voltage interior LED lighting.

The passenger car set comes in Kato’s signature bookcase style packaging for safe, easy storage of all models in a single box, while the A and B unit set comes in separate boxes, in a sleeve for storage either together or individually.

The Kato CN Transcontinental Train Set is a unique, eclectic, yet prototypical set which is sure to turn heads and catch the eye of viewers on any N Scale railroad. Look out for these soon in our N Scale department at Modeltrainstuff.com!

Thanks to Kato USA for providing this sample set for us to review.