Kato 23-140 Streetcar Stop

Hobby Search is now taking reservations for the Kato 23-140 floor level streetcar platform.  This the type of platform with a ramp leading up to the short platform that is used on the Arakawa line in Tokyo. Generally there is space to load one 13 meter streetcar like the Toden 8800 or 9000 series at these stops. And Modemo will be bringing out the Toden 9000 series this fall.

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The Evolution of N Gauge Tram Track, Part 3

In August 2009, during the JAM model railway show Kato manufacturers of the Unitrack line, announced a new street track line called Unitram. The initial product was the Unitram Starter set which appeared in November 2009 and was followed by the V50 Unitram Street Track Basic Set in December 2009.

Unitram allowed modelers to quickly set up a complete layout including street track with a 25mm track center (standard Unitrack double track track center is 33mm), bracket arm overhead poles, sidewalks,  traffic lights, blocks and pavement marked according to Japanese roadway standards.  Initially the layout was limited to a rectangular layout or some variation of this basic design.


A Unitram straight track section. The large hole is for mounting a plastic bracket arm overhead piece.

Unitram included a single low floor tram offered in many different liveries for two different Japanese operators and a re-issue of the Kato Pocket Line trams, but nothing else in the way of trams.

By late 2012 individual street track pieces were announced.  The line was being expanded to include crossovers (released November 2012) and double track turnouts (released February 2013). Now it was possible to build a full tram layout with crossovers and turnouts with or without the pavement pieces.

Unitram turnout closeup. Both points are thrown with a single switch.  The turnout can be set for either power routing or spring operation.

Unitram turnout closeup. Both points are thrown with a single switch. The turnout can be set for either power routing or spring operation.

With Unitram the curve radius is 180mm or at 1/150th a radius of 27m which is wider than current minimum light rail standards.  But I have found some curves in existing European systems of similar dimensions and sometimes off a square or piazza into a narrow two lane street.

There are some Japanese road markings on the individual street track pieces, but these locations are minimal. In some locations it may be possible to cover them by creating small mid intersection traffic islands.

Unitram offers a very good but limited system that could be enhanced by the addition of small radius curves. Currently your options are straight or 90 degree curves. In the future I am sure this will change. Inspite of this Unitram is now my favorite Japanese street track system.

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Unitram Street Track 186mm straight re-release

Hobby Search is taking reservations for a May re-release of the Kato Unitram 186mm straight street track piece. If Kato is doing a re-release this means that they must completely sold out at the manufacturer level.  This item was just released to the market in February 2013.

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The Evolution of N Gauge Tram Track, Part 2

After the announcement of Kato Unitram during August 2009 at JAM 2009 in Tokyo, Tomix announced an upgrading of their tram track line. Wide Tram as the new tram snap track line was called would ultimately include a moving bus attachment, and the ability to create single track or double track lines.

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Wide Tram rail offers a seamless rail joint whereas the 3076 track covers always seemed to have a gap of a mm or two at joints. The rail was T-rail which is sometimes used as tram rail, but is not as common as grooved rail.  Additionally some modelers were put off by the visible ties.


The 37mm width of Wide Tram single track was wide enough that I had used a single piece to create a three lane street. The wide narrow gauge track centers also is an issue for some modelers but there are plenty of prototypes for this in Japan and Europe today, and years ago in North America.

First to appear in October 2009 was the Tomix 5538 under track DC power feed for Wide Rail and Slab Rail eliminating the awkward standard stock rail Tomix DC feeder.

Even with Wide Tram turnouts are still handled by adding covers to Tomix 1231 and 1232 turnouts, but a new Tram Rail Accessories Kit 2 was offered in March 2010 with a smooth ashpalt pavement surface to match the Wide Tram track surface. Power routing and spring switch capability were thus retained.

Next to be released were the Wide Tram Super-Mini Oval Layout Set,  Tomix 91085, and Wide Tram Mini Rail Basic Set, Tomix 91086, in September 2010. Wide Tram straight track was offered as Tomix 1790 S70, Tomix 1791 S140 and curved track as Tomix 1795 C103, Tomix 1796 C140, Tomix 1797 C177 were released later in September 2010.

But it would not be until May 2011 that tram modelers would finally have a 90-degree tram crossover. But even then the crossover would only be offered in a track set, with small S47.5, S37 and S18.5 straights used in maintaining Tomix’s 140mm track geometry.

By combining the Tomix 91088 Wide Tram Mini Rail Crisscross Set and 91086 Wide Tram Mini Rail Basic Set you could create a single track figure eight track set.

Also added were Tomix 5568 tram track sensors allowing some operations to be automated.

What is really interesting is the universal appeal of Tomix Wide Tram track  along with the two Tomytec tram drives. I have found these products listed for sale on web sites in Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK and in addition to the Japanese home market.  Its appeal seems to be strongest to modelers of micro layouts. Its certainly much easier than paving track with Spackle.

Next a look at Unitram.

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The Evolution of N Gauge Tram Track, Part 1

During the summer of 2005 Japanese model train manufacturer Tomix released  a new series  of tight radius curves in its Fine Track line which would appeal to tram modelers. There was the Tomix 1111 C103 (103 mm radius) Super-Mini curved track, Tomix 1112 C140 Mini curved track and Tomix 1113 C177 Mini-curved track, all of which were released in August 2005. Each package of curved track included 30 degree and 60 degree curves. At 1/150 these curves scaled out to prototype radius of 15.5m, 21m and 26.5m.

Tomix 1231 and 1232 Mini electric points followed in September 2005 and their 140mm radius curves allowed you to create tram like turnouts. These points with power routing could also function as spring switches.

These were followed in September 2005 by four Super-mini  rail and Mini-rail track sets including the Tomix 91082 Mini Rail Points set with manual mini rail points (which were never released individually).

By spring 2006 previews of the new Tomix 3076 Tram rail Accessories Kit were published on the Japanese language RMM staff blog 2006.4.28  and 2006.5.4. For the first time in N gauge you create tram track by gluing the Tomix 3076 track covers onto Fine Track C140 straights or  any of the Super-Mini Rail or Mini Rail curves or points. Tomix 3076 was released in June 2006 and soon there was a buzz on various n gauge discussion boards.

As a devoted tram enthusiast I found myself  in Spring 2007 excitedly purchasing the Tomix track, Tomix 3076 track covers, Modemo trams and details like the Greenmax 46-2 tram stop to create a small layout.

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With the detail of the  tram covers, Tomix Fine Track, some foam board (which proved to be hard to cut curves out of) and a few buildings you could create a small tram line very quickly.

As great as the Tomix tram covers were they weren’t the ultimate answer.  The 37mm standard Tomix track spacing put off some modelers. One of the drawbacks of the original tram track was the awkward DC feeder which did not fit under the street track. The Mini-Rail points when covered still had gaps never found in tram tracks in city streets. Anything more than simple junctions required much cutting and gluing of the track covers–which proved to a tricky endeavor because of supports to hold the covers at flush with the top of the rails. The glue used to hold covers in place had a tenacity to be messy.

All these products remain available in 2013. In the meantime, there was more yet to come.

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Unitram Spring Switch

Each Unitram turnout has instructions for setting up the turnout as a spring switch. Trailing switches are generally spring switches as their is no need to select a direction of travel.

A tram moving through the switch forces the point over and once the tram clears the switch the points spring back into position as you can see in the short video below.

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Unitram Turnout Up Close

Unitram now offers double point 180mm radius (7 4/5 inches) turnouts in either left or right. At 1/150 as most Japanese model trains are scaled, 180mm (180 x 150 = 27000) equals a 27 meter radius which is very wide by tram standards. Prototype radius in Europe are typically 15-18m,  Philadelphia is 10.7m and Toronto and Lisbon are 11m. New light rail lines typically are no more than 25m.

When thrown both points move together. Unitram points are factory set to power routing, but can be adjusted to non-power routing for use as trailing spring switches or for DCC operation.

Unitram turnout up close.

Unitram turnout up close.

The black slot between the switches is the manual throw. The small diamond plate surface between the tips of the points is the location of the manual throw on European prototype double point tram switches.

Unitram turnout is a very pleasing looking turnout that I will begin testing soon,

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