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Hobby Dreamer

Unitram Tram Track Wish List

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Hobby Dreamer

With the arrival of the new Portrams and the future arrival of Kato track, what is your wish list for future Kato Unitram track?  What do you like or dislike about the new track? (Or the same for Tomix track).

 

Here's mine:

 

Likes:

The Unitram track looks fantastic! And the width between the track on the straight is just right. While, I am not convinced that 2 Portrams could not pass each other on a curve with 25mm space between tracks, Kato was wise to increase the radius of the outside curve to accommodate other uses for this track. Moreover, both ends of the curves attach to traditional Unitrack (in 2 different ways) to increase the possible track layout configurations and make use of existing track. Besides the good look, there is a lot of functionality to accommodate cateneries etc.

 

This track can also be used anywhere where ballast track is not wanted such as inside (or outside) warehouses etc.

 

Dislikes:

None, except the wish for more varied track as below. I agree with early comments about the street panels and slightly narrowed car lanes as well as potential incompatibility with other dio-town panels but there are some work-arounds.

 

Wish List:

- At least one double turnout as suggested by the street layout, and any accommodations that may be required such as varied length of straight track.

- a 90 degree double crossing, at minimum, although a 45 degree crossing would be useful for layouts that are not too deep.

- varied lengths of straight to accommodate layout configurations

- single track with a few radii; and especially a tighter radius for small streets, for tight loops or for tram barns.

- single turn-out from the double track so that a tram could go from North-South to E-W. (A double turnout for this would be great but it would depend a lot on product sales/success)

- generally the track that would be required to loop back from a single track to itself of from one track of a double track to the other.

 

What is your list?

 

Cheers

Rick

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John P Boogerd

I would like to see this track imbedded in plates to match the Diotown road plates so I can easily clip it together with my streets and buildings.

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bill937ca

The track configurations you are talking about are a world away from Japan. Consider for instance there has never been a single ended streetcar in Japan, never a streetcar loop.  45 degree junctions seem more common than 90 degree junctions. You will see a crossover, perhaps an X crossover, a 90 degree crossover but I highly doubt you will see a grand union or similar North American track configuration.  You will probably get large paving blocks like several Japanese cities use.

 

You might get a T intersection like Hiroshima has and the existing Diotown streets have. The Diotown streets don't even have a single lane street which are far more common than two lane streets in Tokyo and Osaka.

 

Kato makes Japanese prototype track that happens to be sold in North America. It doesn't make North American track.  There are only two switch configurations because most rolling stock does not exceed 20 meters in length. That's probably why many modelers outside Japan have trouble running oversize freight cars on Kato track.  I suspect Kato Unitram will only have one tram switch radius, probably less than the #4 and perhaps only a crossover and siding style switches.  That is what Japanese streetcar lines use. Remember the Portram tram is a Japanese solution to a Japanese law requiring streetcars to be under 50 feet in length.  Anything else requires a lengthy exemption application to the  Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry.

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bill937ca

I would like to see this track imbedded in plates to match the Diotown road plates so I can easily clip it together with my streets and buildings.

 

You do know there is a different in height?  Diotown streets are 3mm and the track is 7mm.  What comes now 7mm Diotown road plates or a 4mm under lay?

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Hobby Dreamer

Thanks Bill, that's very informative...

 

I still suspect that Kato will make a tight radius curve such as the one's they demonstrated. Surely, they weren't showing the potential of the trams to run on Tomix track. Moreover, their first box photos showed  a single track.

 

I might be using the wrong terminology but I still predict a double turnout to fill the gap suggested in the street plate. That is, the track will either turn to follow the oval or you switch it to go straight.

 

You are correct about the prototype track and trams but does Kato make an auto-reversing switch? If not then they may just make it possible to loop track. Kato was quick to make train sheds so they might also recognize that tram barns are a logical destination, and hence may make track to lead to these.

 

You are absolutely correct about Kato not making track for N.A., but I wonder if that is not because flex track is what is used (or rules) here, so they might just assume there is a very small demand. But Kato, unlike Tomix, does make N.A. train engines and has partnered with both N.A. and European companies for other items.

 

Compared to most of you I am a peanut when it comes to Japanese product and prototypes. I still wonder why Kato is making a distinctly universal looking tram when there must be dozens of domestic trams  they could have selected. Trams are becoming popular in N.A. since there are or will be new and improved releases of product that has been traditionally made. Bachmann has just made the Peter Witts in many liveries and Bowser and Con-Cor are both making PCCs. Previous offerings seemed like junk, and these new products have nice features such as DCC-ready.

 

I agree that Kato won't make complicated track configurations such as a Grand Union, but GUs are something that could only exist in the centre of a large layout - so they would not be practical. It would be prohibitive to produce. But Kato may make T-intersections, as you have mentioned.

 

If Kato is intending to make only the track they have demonstrated on the street layout then they won't be converting Tomix tram track users to switch and Tomix has the capability to do more than loops so Kato would lose out there.

 

It may be naivety or wishful thinking but there has to be more coming down the pipe, perhaps Kato is waiting for early sales and demand, or is keeping this hush-hush until enough product has been engineered.

 

Finally, Katio selected a close spacing between tracks - something Tomix does not do. Tomix tram track would have little appeal here for that reason alone. On the other hand Kato could sell track here and in Europe.

 

If they do things right then people will have trams on the surface and trains on viaducts. There is a real demand for good tram track and Kato is well on its way!

 

Thanks

Rick

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bill937ca

But Kato, unlike Tomix, does make N.A. train engines and has partnered with both N.A. and European companies for other items.

 

Compared to most of you I am a peanut when it comes to Japanese product and prototypes. I still wonder why Kato is making a distinctly universal looking tram when there must be dozens of domestic trams  they could have selected.

 

Kato makes iconic trains. Trains that have a story behind them.  

 

http://ttamt.blogspot.com/2008/02/katos-iconic-models.html

 

Even though you see North American or European trains those are only those North American trains that appeal to Japanese modellers. Even Kato's Japanese line has peculiar holes in it.  There are very few private railway trains. US modelers looking for non-iconic US trains are often very disappointed.

 

How do you figure the Portram LRV is "distinctly universal looking?" It is a Bremen type articulated car, however, no where else in the world will you find such a short articulated car. Most Bremen type articulated cars have 3 body 12 wheel or 4 body 16 wheel configurations.  (A Bremen type articulated car is a car with trucks under small body sections rather under the articulated sections).  It is a distinctively Japanese car built by Niigata and found in Toyama, Okayama, Kumamoto, and Takaoka that complies with Japanese tramway law. Most Japanese tram fleets add a few cars a year over a decade or so often with variations as the decade progresses.  Toyama Portram is a very rare uniform fleet.

 

European versions of the Bremen car do not have the same styling as the cars built by Niigata.

 

http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%96%E3%83%AC%E3%83%BC%E3%83%A1%E3%83%B3%E5%BD%A2

 

The original Okayama car has distinctively Japanese specs. I've heard technology of Siemens or Bombardier are used under license.  In Japan Siemens and Bombardier have a very limited market share and will almost certainly be squeezed out by domestic builders. Keikyu's whining Siemens motors will reportedly be replaced by domestic  motors.

 

Tram facts - Type: Double ended 2 section 4 axles articulated car,

Axle stand: (1A)'(A1)',

Length:18,000 mm,

Width:2,400 mm,

Height:3,407 mm,

Weight:21,000 kg,

Traction motors:2x100 kW,

Floor height:360 mm,

Passenger capacity:74 (20 seated).

 

Kumamoto is the latest system to add this style of car.

 

The Brand New Kumamoto Tram 0800

 

If Kato adds another tram it will probably one of the domestic Japanese designs or the low floor "Little Dancer' type cars.

 

Tosaden702.JPG

 

Iyotetsu2107.JPG

 

KagoshimaLRT1017.jpg

 

KagoshimaLRT7003.jpg

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bill937ca

T Kato was quick to make train sheds so they might also recognize that tram barns are a logical destination, and hence may make track to lead to these.

 

Here again I think you will be disappointed. Almost every Japanese carbarn I have seen in Japan is entered by a railway style siding.  Carbarns are generally parallel to the running track.  There are no 90 degree turns into the depot like most North American depots. Most Japanese cities are squeezed into small spaces at the bottom of mountains without generous space.

 

Most Japanese tram depots have transfer tables (Okayama, Toden Arakawa, Hankai Tramway, Hakodate, Tosa come to mind). While transfer tables were usually associated with repair shops and  rarely found in carbarns here and often carbarns that were gone early.

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Hobby Dreamer

Hi Bill,

 

Thanks again for your links, photos, knowledge and research.

 

Here again I think you will be disappointed.
(regarding what may come from Kato)

 

Ultimately Kato will produce what it will produce, and no doubt hobby companies have traditions, visions etc.; so perhaps I am only voicing wishful thinking based on excitement. I'm prepared both for the let-down as well as to research workarounds  so that I can have the layout I want. I still wonder, however, why there were not many people predicting Kato's new Unitram track. It seems to have caught many by surprise, although perhaps those with a good cognizance of this hobby and Kato predicted it.

 

What you wrote (and linked to) about Kato producing iconic trains is interesting but is that really common knowledge, or do people care? I've seen hundreds of Kato trains at various model train shows and stores but no one proudly mentioned their iconic nature. I don't doubt that you are absolutely correct but the percentage of purists is probably not that high.

 

You are an amazing researcher but I'd bet that if one placed the Portrams on layouts representing various countries very few people would spot them as Japanese in origin. (Notwithstanding the left doors). I've seen people discuss how the Modemo 300s look like London's Tramlink trams, but the Portrams do look a lot like Siemens  and Bombardier - at least to me, with my untrained eye. And I have heard that echoed.

 

I'm still optimistic that Kato will develop more track variants (based on the figure of eight they used to display the trams ability to take tight radii, etc). I also think these new Kato products may be more market driven than for other reasons since the release of new products during tough economic times only makes sense if there is a market. Hobbies are often first to suffer in tough economic times and uncertainty.

 

Ultimately, if sales of Kato trams and track do well this may spur other companies to produce product so we all win!

 

Thanks

Rick

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bill937ca

I think you are excited Hobby Dreamer!  That's OK I was excited for the first two years.

 

There is a very big difference between Japan and us.  It's the size of the market.  There is a Kato dealer in the UK who cites Japan as having 9,000,000 model railroaders, 95% of whom are Nine gauge or N gauge. (Japan has a population of 127,000,000).  By comparison MR did a survey a year or so and estimated that there are 500,000 model railroaders in North America.  Ten percent are N scale (50,000). The Japanese market is huge and homogeneous, while the North American market is small in comparison and splintered. How many N gauge traction fans are there? Hundreds? A thousand?  May be.

 

I suspect that what Kato is doing offering is a series of increments that create a Kato system layout.  First there the ground level line, then an elevated viaduct line for Shinkansen, then an elevated station, then the Diotown road plates, buildings, figures and accessories and now the Kato Unitram.  In itself I find none  of these as extensive as I would like, but each is capable of standing entirely on its own.  You can get Kato track, power packs, trains, the whole Diotown range and now a low floor tram system. I suspect Kato is assuming the majority of people will have their tram line buried behind the Shinkansen lines and ground tracks.

 

I expect everything we have seen will be offered:

 

-the tram,

-tram track,

-non-working overhead poles,

-safety islands.

 

Question is will the curves be as sharp as in North America?  May be, may be not. Generally Japanese tram lines are found in the middle of wide streets which changes the dynamics of curves.

 

 

I expect we will see a Manhasen version and a Kumamoto 0800 version (below).

 

Kumamoto_City_Tram_0801AB_3.png

 

Manhasen is largely single track with passing sidings so the switches for that might not appear until a Manhasen car is offered.

 

Kagoshima has some interesting track with astro-turf like grass between the rails as streetcar tracks are off limits in many Japanese cities for motor traffic.

 

 

The other Kagoshima line has a covered tram terminal that could easily be offered.

 

Taniyama_dentei_1.jpg

 

 

There is an X crossover there.  Hiroshima has at least 3 of those.  Hiroshima has several carport like terminals that could be prototypes. They should also have some hoardings with various ads as these seem to be common along various streetcar and rail lines at stops.

 

I don't think there will be a tram shed.  Kato will just publish a track configuration to use the existing locomotive shed.  A Greenmax shed would probably be the closer to many prototypes.

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Hobby Dreamer

Thanks again Bill for the info and your patience!

 

My excitement stems from growing up poor and not having many toys as a kid as well as a few years of recent ill health. So I am eager-beaver especially since trams have been my primary interest. (I grew up not far from the Roncesvalles tram barn for some years -so that's my excuse! ) Its nice to have trams and track available at the same time - both of good quality.

 

I guess I did not really understand the scale of the hobby in Japan - it explains the outpouring of products. I don't know what MR said about larger scales but many older guys collect Lionel, so it will take time for N to really take hold. I think if people could see the product availability and quality they might head towards N. Another problem may be that the steam era is still dominant, and its easier to see things in HO or larger. (Or that Loblaws is the main model train supplier!)

 

To me, that Manhasen car looks great! Not a large difference from the Portrams. If you look at the (I believe) Bachmann N-scale trams and the Kato/Tomytec offerings its a planetary difference in look, quality etc.  The Manhasen  cars also do not really look "Japanese". (perhaps this reflects my lack of attention to detail but since I plan not to base a layout on a prototype these trams are perfect to me - and maybe that is all I see).

 

Jeff has been helpful with ideas and advice. I plan to start with a point-to-point shelf layout but am hoping for a bit more variety in Kato track.

 

Until the Kato announcement I was very close to buying HO as I wanted a hobby to do on winter nights now that TV has turned into a sewer... (no offense to TV addicts.. its a nice sewer as far as sewers go..)

 

Part of the attraction to the hobby is that you get an end result and reward for your effort. But you can start with ready made structures etc so have some Plug and Play and model building at the same time.

 

Thanks again Bill..  can't wait for these trams..

Rick

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cteno4

I think kato is really looking at the tram market as something they can get a good toe hold into. Tomix started out with their plate system and tight radius curves and points, but the plate system was really a pretty quick and dirty solution. it works and can look pretty good, but also can be a bit finicky to work with. i think they came at it at the tomytec level. I see kato as seeing themselves coming in the next level up in quality/presentation than tomix is now. the interesting thing to see is if tomix will come back swinging with a higher quality line of tram plate track (they have recently done some other nice new plate tracks) and trams or if they will continue at the tomytec level and choose to keep it two more distinct niches and each to their own. also will be interesting to see if kato gets into the trams themselves more. like bill said they like to make trains with stories and there are plenty of trams like that, but it will put them in direct competition with modemo. modemo should be a winner in all this as trams get more popular with options for track more folks will want trams and modemo is the leader there!

 

Also as bill noted this is a logical part of the whole progression of kato's layout line. I hope doug's comments on jrforum that kato has a lot to come here in this area turns out to be the case! i really agree tram modeling can really let you do a lot in a small space and japanese scenes really lend them selves to doing the tram modeling and cramming a lot into a tiny space. in fact its more prototypical to cram way more into a scene than most folks actually do!

 

bill thanks for the great ref shots!

 

cheers

 

jeff

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Hobby Dreamer

I just viewed the videos Bill provided.... Actually Katos track, spacing, centenary and tram stop are quite realistic especially from the first video.

 

Thanks again Bill..

Rick

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bill937ca

This is Nagasaki Electric Tramway 3000, perhaps a more attractive car. It has been released already by at least one company.  Almost every system has own modern car.  The Little Dancer is popular, but there are numerous versions of that car.

 

 

 

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John P Boogerd

I would like to see this track imbedded in plates to match the Diotown road plates so I can easily clip it together with my streets and buildings.

 

You do know there is a different in height?  Diotown streets are 3mm and the track is 7mm.  What comes now 7mm Diotown road plates or a 4mm under lay?

 

Thankyou, Bill, I didn't know that but then I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed.  I saw a small photo in the 2009 Kato catalogue of a tram running along track in the middle of a model street that I think uses the road plates.  I was hoping that I could get something that simply fits together.  Being from Europe originally, I have always liked trams as I used them regularly as a kid in Holland.  I have a Modemo tram that just arrived and I would like to run it when I build a sort of layout.

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cteno4

Bill, as always, you da man in finding this good stuff! You are evil, giving me too many ideas of things to do!

 

been looking at a lot of these to see what to do about about my street platforms and the road at those points. im doing a two lane road on either side of the track which is on a lot of the lines in the cities. the thing i have not gotten a great view of is exactly where the 3 feet comes from when the road meets a platform. it looks like both lanes still go there, the curb remains straight on the side of the street, so i expect it just has the lanes narrow a foot or so each, but never have gotten a clear view of it from videos or picts out there.

 

sometimes there is a third bus lane, bus stop, and or parking lane and this will sometimes go away around the platform areas, but i dont have the room on the ttrak modules to do the third lane.

 

the private RoW on the one video was great! i want to definitely have a series of modules showing the back side of life with some non street scenes with the trams. little Taniyama station is also cute and something very fun to model potentially, especially with the ru2-1 pause circuit where it would make the trams disappear into the station for a long stop! the kaogshima astroturf also looks like fun to do on a couple of modules!

 

tram videos like this are also great for figuring out the flow of buildings to model around a tram street! too many ideas!

 

cheers

 

jeff

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bill937ca

LOL!

 

OK, here's the plan for your tram line.  It's Nagasaki on the right-of-way for lines 1 and 3 (with JR next 'door').

 

 

I just love this crossing!!  beep-beep-beep  OUT of the way!

 

 

The problem is that there are so many great trains and scenes to model and so little time and space.  :cheesy

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Mudkip Orange

the private RoW on the one video was great! i want to definitely have a series of modules showing the back side of life with some non street scenes with the trams.

 

Wide Streets in Japan are universally a post-WWII design feature. Their primary purpose was originally to serve as a firebreak, as WWII-era Japanese cities were built of wood. The post-WWII tram lines were just one of many ways to use the space. In Tokyo and Osaka the wide streets were decked over with 2, 3, or 4 levels of tollway.

 

All of the pre-WWII tram lines (Enoden, etc) run in a mix of narrow streets and private ROW. In more than a few cases, post-WWII reconstruction created wide streets around the paths of the existing tram network, so with a little freelancing even your favorite urban line can utilize the narrow confines of an Enoden-type system.

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Mudkip Orange
Even Kato's Japanese line has peculiar holes in it.  There are very few private railway trains. US modelers looking for non-iconic US trains are often very disappointed.

 

I don't know that it's that peculiar. Kato focuses on the 1067mm system, and on Shinkansen. Their huge product holes (Keio, Keihan, etc) are 1435/1372/other.

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cteno4

the private RoW on the one video was great! i want to definitely have a series of modules showing the back side of life with some non street scenes with the trams.

 

Wide Streets in Japan are universally a post-WWII design feature. Their primary purpose was originally to serve as a firebreak, as WWII-era Japanese cities were built of wood. The post-WWII tram lines were just one of many ways to use the space. In Tokyo and Osaka the wide streets were decked over with 2, 3, or 4 levels of tollway.

 

All of the pre-WWII tram lines (Enoden, etc) run in a mix of narrow streets and private ROW. In more than a few cases, post-WWII reconstruction created wide streets around the paths of the existing tram network, so with a little freelancing even your favorite urban line can utilize the narrow confines of an Enoden-type system.

 

Yes i actually plan to mix different scenes in the ttrak to be more of an example of the different scenes you can see in japan. not meant to be a totally prototypical single layout. part wide city street trams like hiroshima, part private row, and even a little rural maybe on one end single loop.

 

cheers

 

jeff

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bill937ca

This Japanese language web page has photos of streetcar terminals in Hakodate, Hiroshima, on the Tosa Electric Railway, in Kumamoto, Nagasaki and Kagoshima.  There are four photos of most terminals.

 

http://www.geocities.jp/a_steele/Streetcar.html

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cteno4

Bill,

 

killer page dude! great ideas for platforms and love some of the end bumpers!

 

jeff

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Mudkip Orange

Seconded.

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bill937ca

For those  of you who don't like the Tomix track spacing check-out this photo.

 

http://f14.aaa.livedoor.jp/~edoky/00301205.jpg

 

This appears to be the same spacing but with center poles and supports.

 

http://f14.aaa.livedoor.jp/~edoky/00301201.jpg

 

I believe Nagasaki Electric Tramway aka Nagaden is the prototype Tomix used in creating their tram track. The track spacing, advertising signs and other features match.

 

http://f14.aaa.livedoor.jp/~edoky/00301201.htm

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bill937ca

WOW, check this one:

 

http://www.geocities.jp/a_steele/station/Shokakuji-shita.html

 

It looks like the wide street was constructed over the top of a creekbed. The tram terminus is built over the top of where the creek emerges.

 

Another photo of Shokakuji Shita.  This is the terminal of lines 1 and 4.  It sits at the base of a hill,  below Sofukuji temple

 

00301214.jpg

 

http://www.naga-den.com/kikaku/logo/rosen.pdf

 

 

Sofukuji temple

 

http://www.japan-photo.de/e-temp34.htm

 

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4402.html

 

http://www.at-nagasaki.jp/foreign/english/spot/018.html

 

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Sofukuji

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