Kato UniTrack Experiences

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by Herc Driver, Feb 23, 2008.

  1. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    Quick question please...has anyone made an Nscale layout with the Kato UniTrack and if so, how did go? What were your experiences with the turnouts, connections, DCC operations (if applicable)? I'm still in the planning stages of my new layout and thinking seriously about using the Kato track instead of Atlas Snap Track and Peco (or the like) turnouts.
  2. I have a door sized N scale layout made with Unitrack. I had very good luck with it, and would use it again. As far as sectional track goes, Kato is pretty much the top of the line. Great fit, no problems with electrical, decent selection of radii. Of several hundred sections, I did have two that had misaligned rails, but I had extras, so it didn't matter. I wound up using the two bad sections for practicing ballasting, etc. Downsides to Unitrack, some of which are the same with any sectional track are:
    1. The roadbed color varies from lot to lot, so you can end up with light and dark roadbed pieces next to each other. Not a problem if you are ballasting or painting the track anyway.
    2. Pricey compared to other sectional track.
    3. Also an issue with any track you choose - when handling, be careful not to let already connected sections bend vertically at the rail joiners, or the joiners can deform and loosen the connection. This could allow vertically misaligned rails. I had to file/dremmel a few joints that I had mis-handled in this manner.
    4. I didn't care, but some will note the not realistic look of the roadbed and tie spacing. I guess it's more like Japanese tie spacing. I think it's not an issue.
    5. Although there are lots of different radii available for Unitrack, there are no curved turnouts. Plus the curved sections are available in multiples of 15 degrees. So, it's hard to make those really pretty long, flowing curves you can get with flexible track. This is another issue you have with any sectional track.

    Overall, for a smaller layout where the extra cost isn't such a big deal, I highly recommend it. It would be a pretty big investment for a really large layout.

    Hope that helps a little.

  3. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    I appreciate all the info...thanks!

    I've built my first layout with Bachmann EZ-Track on a smooth door and re-ballasted the entire layout as well as colored the rails/ties. Overall, I liked the EZ track, but thought I might try the Kato after buying four straight sections at my LHS to look at and run a car or two over. I'm impressed at their attention to detail as is typical of Kato, but didn't know how well the turnouts worked. I'm starting completely over doing a very narrow shelf layout (one that actually rests on 48" high book shelves permanently mounted to the wall) and would really like to make a very long (almost 16') but narrow (about 14") switch-back or point-to-point layout. Ideally, and if I can plan it right, I'd like to design it in five pieces (on blue foam board) where the middle three sections could be switched around to change up the layout's operations every so often. I'm going to use manual throw turnouts to minimize the wiring issues, and thought a sectional track with a positive lock (like Kato or Bachmann) would ensure a more stable and durable connection.

    Thanks again for the info!
  4. You're welcome. You mentioned using manually thrown turnouts. Be aware that Kato turnouts are only available in an electric version. They can still be operated manually, though. Kato switches are really nice compared to Atlas electric turnouts, since the entire mechanism is hidden in the track bed. No ugly solenoids next to your turnouts and nothing to mount under your table. It's REALLY easy to wire them, you can either use Kato's switch controller with their mistake-proof connector, or you can use a DPDT switch, which is what I did. Kato did leave a little nub or button sticking through the roadbed that you can use to manually trigger the switches. You have to just be carefull when painting or ballasting that you don't fill in the slider where the nub is, or your switch won't work. If you do a search, John Sing has a great tutorial on how he dealt with Kato turnouts while ballasting his track. Mine is nowhere near as nice as his.

  5. railohio

    railohio Active Member

    Although I use flextrack and Atlas turnouts on my permanent layouts I do have a small collection of Unitrack to setup on the dining room table for an impromptu layout when I feel in the mood. I can see why people would choose it for a layout, it's durable and easy to work with and looks pretty good. It's a bit too "perfect" for even the best mainlines in America, but most modelers, I'd wager, don't realize that.
  6. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    I agree that the Kato looks very uniform, good observation. I'm planning on weathering the rails and the ballast to add variation where I can. My biggest concern is that since the whole layout is going to be built on the top of 5 shelving units, I want the most rigidity as possible. The track will be glued to 1" blue foam insulation - but still - I want to make sure the track won't move around as I just don't have the space. I've basically got almost 16 feet of surface length, but only 14 inches of width to use. I hope to add a bit at each end to get the width out to 20 inches to get a 9.75 radius dog bone loop at each end for continuously running passenger train operations, then turnouts from the mainline to branch/yard/staging lines within the dog bone design. So, if I go with the Kato I was hoping I'd get a reliable track, reliable turnouts and smooth running operations. (gee not too much to hope for huh?)
  7. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I don't think I would worry about track being too uniform in n scale. Part of the problem would be that any obvious defect (as in not uniform) is liable to cause derailing problems in n scale. This is a suggestion from an ho modeler so take it for what it is worth. My thought process on this is that if 1/16 of an inch is roughly equal to 1 foot in n scale, then any bump or wobble that approaches 1/16 of an inch would be roughly equivalant to a 1 foot wobble, bump, or dip in the track on the prototype! How forgiving is n scale equipment to such imperfections?
  8. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    Imperfections that large give my better cars/engines fits...whereas the really cheap engines and cars power over any track problems with gusto. (If I want to figure out if I have a track problem in a particular area, I take off all the cheap Bachmann or Concor cars and run a MicroTrain car. The MicroTrain products seem to have a fit over any hic-up on the track...so once the problem spot is highlighted, I can fix it and get on with operations.)

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