EMD GP8 Review and Test

The EMD GP8 comes in green or black from Tgauge.com. It’s built on the 35.5 mm motorized chassis with buckeye couplers. It has one long 7.5 mm coupler version which feels a bit fragile. The design is “solid” meaning that in this scale you may be afraid of breaking things but it’s not flimsy when you handle it. Still a bit worried about the long coupler. 

The dimensions are :
Length: 40mm
Width: 8.5mm
Height: 11.5mm
Weight: 2.48g

NOTE: 8.5mm wide is about 1-2 mm wider then most other rolling stock so take that into account when you design a layout. 

How prototypical is it? At 1:450 scale it’s really hard to get things truly prototypical and you have to exaggerate some details. Compromises like that is done in N and Z scale as well, it’s just more extreme in T Gauge. If you look at the TGauge.com ICE 3 train set it looks very prototypical but you don’t have cooling fans, hand rails, steps, panels etc to consider. 

The first thing to point out is that it’s an EMD GP8, not a GP7 or 9 which is what most modelers are used to. GP8 is the designation given to a rebuilt GP7 or 9 and the result is that you don’t have a consistent look, you have low nose and high nose versions and a mix of components. The most visible detail on the TGauge EMD GP8 is the two what I assume are 48” fans, which is something that later models of GP9 had. 

Long story short, it’s not that prototypical, the loco itself is a bit oversized, details are oversized but this is 1:450 scale and you have to be able to mass produce it. I would say you can pass it off as an EMD GP7, 8 or 9 if you are after “likeness”. To me it looks more as a late model EMD GP9 due to the two large fans.  

We are getting skewed when we look at pictures like I have in this blog post. These are taken with a macro lens and it means you will see details and imperfections that is never really visible with your eyes. 

If you are looking for more prototypical North American stock I would highly recommend CCE Models, Jesse Svoboda produces very detailed models with hair thin etched hand rails etc. 

How does it run? Very well would be the short answer. After I took it out the box I ran it for 10 min at a medium speed to “break it in”. I then began testing at low speed starting from stand still controlling it manually with the TGuage.com PWM Power box. It was surprisingly smooth and I was able to run it at low speed without any real issues. When I have tested the same thing with the 16m (35.5mm) motorized chassis I had it stall and being a bit jerky. I saw nothing of that really with the GP8. I think the slightly higher weight 2.48g gram vs the 16m chassis 2.08 gram contributes. You would think that 0.4 gram would make no difference but for T Gauge it does, and I would guess you have a lower point of gravity than the 16m kit bash chassis because of the width. 

For me personally I am not bothered about it not being very prototypical, its a great generic EMD GP-X Diesel Loco for your North American layout that runs really well. The Cascade Loop is a great example of a layout using the EMD GP8.

TGauge.com: EMD GP8 Black

Micro Layout Mockup

I decided on the option 4 track plan but I changed the inner oval to be raised versus the outer making the overpass a bit more complex. I made a “mockup” of the layout pinning the tracks to the foam board and created “elevated track support” out of cardboard. This is a great way to literally see the mechanics of the layout. 

Mockup of layout


The gradient is steep but I am not so concerned about that. I can see how the raised curve may bank a bit and that can potentially be a real issue. The magnetic wheels will help in both cases though. I need a short straight track to connect the elevated curve with the 60mm straight track. Not ideal but I will try to hide that section. 

I did also decided on the layout theme. I will build something ultra modern with a “sun powered tram” serving a multi story shopping/transport center. I will incorporate the tracks into the structure with 4 stops. Modern architecture with a lot of straight lines, rectangle and “squarish” elements looks like a perfect fit for 1/450 scale (or not). 


Micro Layout Options

Time to figure out the track layout. Step one; build a foam board “replica” of the IKEA frame I am using. I fixed copy paper to the “baseboard” with pins so I can draw outlines on the paper vs directly on the foam board. That way I can reuse the foam board template over and over. The foam board allows me to fix track sections to the baseboard using pins. 

The workable area inside the frame is 21.8 x 21.8mm (≈ 8.3 x 8.3in) with a height of 30mm (≈1.18in).

Height calculation: 
16M Chassis = 6.6mm 
Fine Track = 2mm
Track Base (cork?) = 2mm
Total = 10.6mm (≈0.42in)

Overpass margin: 15mm – 10.6mm = 4.4mm (≈0.16in) headroom.

I am choosing 15mm because its half the height of the 30mm I have to work with. 4mm headroom does not sound like much but in this case it is “plenty”. For the second level I will also have 15mm (0.6in) of available space. If I replace the track base with a bridge foundation I will have 2mm (0.08in) to work with which is 90cm (35in) IRL. 

The magnetic wheels allows me to be fairly aggressive with the track grade and I am using that to the fullest in my designs. I came up with 4 options I like. At this point I am not really considering the theme of the layout, just trying to get an interesting track plan. The numbers indicates height of track; 0 = 0mm from ground,  +1 = 7.5mm, +2 = 15mm. 

Layout option 1: Twice around oval with a circle and an overpass (A), one straight track for a platform/station (B). Simple and straight forward.

Micro Layout option 1
Micro Layout option 1

Layout option 2: Twice around ovals with a curved overpass (A), two straight tracks for platforms/stations (B), a section of track (C) that require trimming a 60mm straight track. This layout is a bit more challenging, more track, and allows for two stops.

Micro Layout option 2
Micro Layout option 2

Layout option 3: Twice around squarish loop combined with a circle. Has a curved overpass (A), one straight track for a platform/station (B), one section of trimmed track (C). The overpass can probably be more challenging than it looks. 

Micro Layout option 3
Micro Layout option 3

Layout Option 4: Twice around squarish loop combined with an oval. Has the simplest overpass (A), potentially room for three platforms/stations (B). Will require two more 60mm straight tracks (C) and maybe some shorter trimmed straight track sections in some places. At the moment this is the layout I am leaning towards. Plan would be to keep the tracks from the overpass at 15mm heigh through the straight track to the right (C). That should give me three stops. For a small “go around” layout it is a bit more interesting if you can have multiple stops (with some way overkill automation just for the fun of it).

Micro Layout option 4
Micro Layout option 4

Fine Track Test Run

I have been running circles (literally) with my Fine Track Set, and some ovals as well. Been testing how the 16m (35.5mm) chassis is running on the tracks and to understand the ins and outs of using the Fine Tracks. Previously I have only been running the DB ICE 3 set on the standard tracks with the raised bed and it worked perfectly. 

With the Fine Tracks it becomes more tricky because they don’t have a perfect fit. It illustrated to me how the smallest miss alignment or “bump” can cause an issue on this scale. My test runs have not been under ideal conditions in any way, the tracks were not flat, they flex as the engine drives around etc. I had some derailments and stalling but it was always an issue with a gap in the track joint, or some misaligned track. If I carefully reconnected and adjusted the tracks, did some “polishing” (abrasive paper) and/or temporarily fix the track I could make the operation smooth. 

It is impressive that despite the less than ideal set-up it worked fairly well, the magnetic wheels is a great “feature” in this case. The bottom line is that I am confident it will work but I need to be very meticulous when I lay the track and respect the size of the scale. 

Fine Track Set

I received two Fine Track sets from TGauge.com with 60 and 70 mm radius curves. They look really good with high detail and feels solid to work with despite the small size. There were a couple of broken of “tie ends” on the 70mm track. I am sure if I asked I would get a replacement but in my case it is not and issue. 


Connecting the tracks is easy, but you have to remember that it is 1:450 scale and it will be a bit “delicate”. If you connect and disconnect the tracks several times you will need to give the joiners a pinch (carefully) with a plier to tighten them a bit.

The set includes: 

  • 4 x 60 or 70 mm radius curves
  • 2 x 60 mm straight track 
  • 1 x Power cable 
  • 5 x Track connectors (Same as the FlexiTrack joiners) 
  • 1 x Bag of track screws 
  • 1 x 2000 grade cleaning paper. 

If you put together the tracks using the 60mm radius curves you get an oval loop of 190 x 130mm, 7.5 x 5in (outside edge of track), and with the 70mm radius curves 210 x 150mm, 8.3 x 6in (outside edge of track). The Fine Track set comes in two colors, brown and grey. I ordered the grey because I like to start from a light base when weathering the track. 

The recommended max length chassis is 38mm which means that the 16m motorized kit bash chassis (35.5mm) is really the only viable rolling stock. The smallest Engine (Loco) availble is 21m (≈ 46mm) so it will require you to do some “scratch” building using the 16m kit bash chassis. Don’t forget that the set does NOT include a Power control, you have to buy that separately.  

In my case I am using the controller I got with the DB ICE starter kit (for now at least). 

Fine Track Set 60mm Grey
Fine Track Set 70mm Grey
16m Kit Bash Chassis


Micro Layout update 1

I have decided to build my “micro layout” in an IKEA frame. Ribba is a square frame 25 x 25 cm, 9 ¾ x 9 ¾. The workable area inside the frame is 21.8 x 21.8mm ≈  8.3 x 8.3″ and a height of 3 cm ≈ 1.18“. 

I will use two sets of fine track with 60 and 70 cm radius curves respectively so I can make something a little bit more interesting than just an oval. The frame height allows me to run two levels of track. I created fine track templates and printed them to test out some layout ideas while I wait for my order to arrive. You can download the template if you want to print out your own. 

IKEA Ribba




Layout idea

After playing around with the ICE 3 starter kit and looking around on-line to find some inspiration I think I want to build a “micro layout” as my first T Gauge project. I need to get some experience and test out concepts for how to build and model for T Gauge. 

I found the “Fine Track Set” on the TGauge.com site. They have two different sets, one with 60 and one with 70mm radius curves and you can choose brown or grey ties. What I really like with the fine tracks is that there is no raised trackbed which looks better to me. 

The maximum chassis length you can run is 38mm on the 60mm radius curves. The chassis for ICE is about 54mm so I need to get some shorter chassis for my layout using the fine tracks. 

TGauge.com – track

Image from TGauge.com - Fine Track Set
Image from TGauge.com – Fine Track Set


Image from TGauge.com - Fine Track Set
Image from TGauge.com – Fine Track Set

The Journey Begins

I just began testing my first T Gauge kit from TGauge.com. I knew 1:450 scale would be tiny, but until you hold a train in your hand it is hard to imagine just how tiny it is. I am used to building Z-scale layouts but this will for sure be a challenge. I have several ideas for layouts and the size will allow me to build multiple layouts in a very small space or maybe some modular system. 

I bought the Deutsche Bahn ICE 3 Train Set with 8 cars and 120mm radius curves. You can buy another version with 4 cars that is a little less money. With the starter set you get everything you need, track, controller, switchback sensors etc. 


ICE starter pack from Gauge.
ICE starter pack from TGauge.