Kato Unitram, Tomix TCS, and buying from Japan for GNine

G scale on 9mm track? Are you mad? If so, this is the forum for you.

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Kato Unitram, Tomix TCS, and buying from Japan for GNine

Postby velotrain » Mon Oct 05, 2015 6:38 pm

Well - about two hours ago this started as a reply to Simon's question in the "Ideas for new Kato tramway track" topic from March of 2013 under GNine. However, I've delved into so many related (to my train-of-thought mind) areas, that I realized I should just start a new topic.

He asked: "also wondered if the Kato layout would cut up."
The answer is that it depends on just what you want.
Here is my initial bash.

Track-bash small.jpg
Track-bash small.jpg (169.5 KiB) Viewed 1355 times

If you're asking about cutting it up into two separate turnouts - one with a crossing attached, I don't see the point. Just use Tomix track in that case. They have "wide tram track" should you want a road alongside.

And here's a 3-way junction using Tomix 103 and 140 radius for a mid-line terminal. I'm mostly interested in Japanese trams, and most of them can handle the tight radius, although the Kato Portram won't go any lower than the 140.

Junction bash - mid-line terminal.jpg
Junction bash - mid-line terminal.jpg (150.56 KiB) Viewed 1355 times

Another advantage of using Tomix track (at least the turnouts) is the availability of Tomix TCS 5563 (it stands for something else, but I think of it as Train Control System).

This only works with TCS controllers, but I consider it to be an amazing bargain. It comes preloaded with 8 programs, and perhaps the most interesting for GNine is the ability to run two trains alternately from a pair of passing sidings, in opposite directions (or not - as you choose).

It will support two turnouts and up to four sensors - the number determined by the program you are using. Momentum is built in and can be selected by a rotary dial, as can wait time at a "station" or reversing location. The modes using a runaround track require two sensors, the first for deceleration, and the second as an absolute stop to prevent fouling the turnout or the main.

Playing around, I discovered that it is possible to clone some of the functions with a duplicate set of sensors and turnouts. The sensors are designed to be inserted into Tomix track sections, but it looks to me that they could be used with other tracl / rails if you are careful with placement and alignment. Turnouts and sensors raise the cost, but I feel it's worth it for the automated functionality, without needing to gather components from multiple manufacturers / vendors and then needing to wire it all together. The Tomix solution is indeed plug and play.

Here are videos of the three modes that I find most interesting. The last one also includes a basic voice introduction to the system.


A few notes on ordering Japanese train stuff. Plaza Japan on eBay often has items that are sold out elsewhere, but their prices and shipping are higher than the next four sites. I'll shamelessly use their Motorized Chassis section (lately cluttered with Kato and Greenmax surplus stock) to see what's available, and then source it elsewhere for less.

Hobby Search is an excellent reference source, as they list pretty much everything that has been produced over perhaps the last decade, but a majority of it is not available, as the Japanese companies tend to produce many items only once and not rerun them - no matter the demand. Also, some popular trains and some other items are often sold out as reserve items and are no longer available by the point they are actually at the dealers. Luckily, track and control components are not in this category, although structures and details can be.

HS offers a weekly email which announces new items for reserve, and restocked items.
I don't care for the HS site design, and initially found it very confusing and distracting. I have learned to live with it, but still don't like it. The other reason it's a great reference site is that they usually have very large and sharp images of all products, often including instruction sheets - which will be in Japanese. There's a small check box at the top for not showing "sold out" items in search results. However - you can't make this a permanent selection, and there are several other categories of currently unavailable items that will still show up.

That brings me to another issue. HS will allow you to combine orders for future products (either new/reserve or restock), but only if they are scheduled for release / arrival in the same month. However, if you order one cheap thing and one expensive thing, but the expensive one doesn't arrive in the projected month, they're going to want to ship the cheap item to you separately. See note below on shipping from Japan. If everything you want is currently in stock, then you have no problem.

Hobby Source: http://www.1999.co.jp/eng/rail/

If you want even lower prices, here are two "private" dealers who are happy to work with the English speaking world. Being small, they don't have a lot in stock, and what they have is generally the latest Shinkansen and other new or popular train models. However, being small they're also willing to provide much more personalized service than HS. You can give them an initial order, and then add to it a week later. They're generally willing to hold your order until everything arrives, so it can go out as a single shipment.

David (transplanted Australian) at http://www.loco1hobby.net/en/

Nariichi at http://www.modeltrainplus.net/

A note on the above two dealers, particularly for Americans. We tend to get right to the point in email messages, while other parts of the world feel that there should be a proper greeting and closing, even if paper isn't the medium. Japan is known for it's perhaps formal system of courtesy, and if contacting either David or Nariichi by email I'd suggest observing this - a simple "hello" will suffice. However, I've also been taken to task for not using a greeting in a message to a UK dealer. Since I only had an email address and no idea of who would be reading my query, I didn't see it as essential and have no idea of how I would phrase it. I'm just not a "Dear Sir" sort of guy.

Yet another source is AmiAmi, where I sometimes find something priced as much as 10% less than the above two guys. Their site is not very friendly, and I'd recommend getting an item number from HS and using it with the manufacturer's name for a search.
http://slist.amiami.com/top/search/list ... pagemax=40

SHIPPING - There are two basic options, with a few wrinkles to the second one. EMS is priority shipping, and I usually get things (in Boston, US) in a few days - sometimes as few as 2. Tracking and insurance are automatically included, and sellers will often recommend this for expensive and/or heavy items, as there is a weight limit to option 2.

SAL is much less expensive, but goes on a space available basis. For me, this means anywhere between 2 and 4 weeks, and there can be delays when entering your country. In the US, that's more likely due to the postal service, while for the UK it's so Royal Mail can figure out how much they want to charge you for allowing your package to enter the country. The very cheapest is plain SAL, but I usually use Registered SAL, which might be 25% additional, but I feel it is worth it. I should say that I have never had any issues with SAL shipping over say 2-3 dozen shipments.


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Re: Kato Unitram, Tomix TCS, and buying from Japan for GNine

Postby docnjoj » Tue Oct 06, 2015 1:48 pm

Thanks for this great info. I stocked up on Kato stuff for my prospective G9 layout. Good to know about Tomix though. I use Deltang radio and unpowered track, so different problems but fewer of them.
David (Doc)
David (Doc)
Fairhope, AL USA
After extensive recalculation, I have determined that the meaning of life is NOT 42! The secret of life, however is "enjoying the passage of time" (James Taylor)

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Re: Kato Unitram, Tomix TCS, and buying from Japan for GNine

Postby Gerry Bullock » Wed Oct 07, 2015 4:09 pm

I've always used Plaza Japan and never paid a penny in duty ( it should have been charged on at least 3 parcels). Concluded that whoever deals with that here in UK couldn't understand the Japanese on the Customs declaration.
So little time, so many ideas!!!!! GerryB.

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Re: Kato Unitram, Tomix TCS, and buying from Japan for GNine

Postby rue_d_etropal » Thu Oct 08, 2015 4:24 pm

one of my customers when I was running model shop said they had to pay duty on a more expensive item from Plaza Japan. Maybe it was both expensive and bulky. So far I have not had to pay anything.

I have heard of more people paying duty for items from USA.

The prices Plaza Japan quote I consider very reasonable, certainly cheaper than I have seen elsewhere. To be fair, even the prices for Kato motor chassis in UK is pretty reasonable. The big problem is still getting stock shipped over to retailers in UK. It is a lot easier to buy direct. Interestingly I think Plaza Japan have a sister shop which sells plastic kits. Something I ordered a couple of years ago looked like it came from same company, but name was very different. If it is, then it is a shame they are not under same banner so postage can be shared.

I know this is under wrong thread, but most here probably use Plaza Japan for 9mm gauge items. They also do some useful items for 16.5mm gauge. One item is a small bogied chassis, which might suit some Gn15 models. I have bought a couple, actually for my 1/32 and 1/35th scale models, but the motor is centre mounted , lowish profile, and can go round 20cm radius curves.
Simon Dawson
(Simon D.),
Narrow gauge Francophile interested in 1m, 60cm,50cm , 40cm and smaller gauges . Build in scales from 1/6th to 1/24th. Also 1/32nd and 1/35th using 16.5mm track to represent 50cm and 60cm gauges.

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