Locomotive Roster: Kato Series 787 Relay Tsubame!

My roster to date has been filled with locomotives and trainsets from Germany, Switzerland, France, and the Netherlands. Now add Japan to the roster. "Unprototypical" you say? Yes, but this is Quinntopia... where I control the people, the roads, the buildings, and even the trains. :-)

The fact is, the country of origin of each of my trains is almost as interesting as the various designs, schemes and histories, and its my enjoyment of all these assets that allows me to enjoy and appreciate the world of model railroading so much.

And there is a lot of fantastic design (in my mind) with the Series 787 Relay Tsubame. Additionally, there is a level of quality, value, and care in the model created by Kato that is almost equally amazing.

This is a seven car set of very high quality, and yet it cost at least half of what I would pay for an equivalent set of a European outline. The set also comes packaged in, what I am sure to the Japanese is the 'standard', a very nice case that allows you to easily store or display your set (in Quinntopia, however, we demand that all of our loco's earn their keep! There will be no slouching on a shelf for this railroad!).

This set was also my very first actual DCC installation that did not either already come with DCC or merely required the installation of the decoder via a NEM 651 adapter (the Kato Thalys is something of an exception, it required the replacement of the stock DC light board with a ESU light board which has an NEM 651 adapter).

Needless to say, I was a bit intimidated. We've all read the posts and horror stories of decoders getting fried, the work required to 'mill out' enough space to install the decoder, etc, etc....

Fortunately, the good people over at the JNS Forum were able to assist me with valuable photos and their experiences with similar installations.

The experience was not too bad, owing more to the fact that there is plenty of space to install the decoder for the motor - plus the 2 decoders for each of the end cars (for the lights) - than any skill I have! I made a couple of stupid errors...not only getting a bit sloppy with the solder (I'm still learning!) but initially soldering the decoder leads to the wrong side of the electrical contact strips! See photo at right...this is NOT how to do it!

Well, that error was fixed and probably wouldn't have done any damage, because once I finished that part, I realized there was no way the contacts would fit back in the shell! Cleaned it up and repaired it, and no damage done.

I was also overly generous in the length of my decoder wires, and thus have more wire than I need. Sounds like a good thing, right? That is until you have to try and figure out how to stash all that excess wire so it doesn't look like the interior of your passenger cars is consumed by some large multi-colored octopus.

Other than some decoder programming issues with my Mobile Station (more on that in a future post), I am now able to enjoy a very cool, sleek, and tough looking electric train set from Japan. This will be the first of many trains from the other side of the world.


  1. Outstanding!

    If you like the bookshelf case—and I love them—you can buy empties from Kato or Tomix, although they might not be as flexible as you need them to be. Casco also sells empty cases which are a little more flexible in terms of what you can fit in each slot, but these cases are typically geared towards cramming more cars into less space (see here: http://www.yonpachi.co.jp/pc/free03.html).

  2. Also, now you have no excuse for offering us a cover photo for Tetsudo :D