Super-elevated curves and cant track from Kato and Tomix!

If there ever was a brilliant idea that- once you see it -you think "why didn't they think of this a long time ago?"  Well for me its got to be the new super-elevated curves (or 'cant' track as Tomix calls it) being put out now by both Kato (for Unitrack) and Tomix (for Finetrack).

Having once attempted to create this effect with traditional snap track (and quickly giving up in failure), I am so excited to see a good, easy to add system being produced!

So how do they look?  First, some comparisons:  From left to right below is the Kato 414/381 radius double-track, super-elevated curve (item 20-181); to the right of that (the second Thalys) is a traditional Kato 381 radius, to the right of that is the Tomix 391 radius, 'canted' (i.e. 'super-elevated), 'wide rail', single-track section of Finetrack (item # 1744); and just to the right of that (out of the picture) is another Relay Tsubame on another plain jane 381 radius):

I am super excited about how great they look!  Not sure how well it comes across in the photo, but even standing still it appears like the locomotives on the super-elevated track are actually moving compared to the traditional curves!

Here's another photo with a close up comparison of two Relay Tsubame's on curved track.  As above, the track on the left is the Tomix 'super-elevated' with a radius of 391, next to it is traditional Kato 381 radius:

Nothing I can say can do a better job than that photo!  So how does each system compare?

Here's a close up profile of the Unitrack Super-elevated curve:

As you can see, pretty apparent super-elevation!  As of this writing, Kato only produces a super-elevated curve in a double track version, which is a kind of bummer.  There is some news that they do plan on producing a single track version in the near future (no doubt prompted to do so by arch-rival Tomix!).

Below is a profile shot of the Tomix 'cant' track (or 'wide rail' or whatever....). 

Again, pretty cool super-elevation on this!  Of course, if you're not using Tomix Finetrack, you'll notice that they have this unusual and proprietary 'connector' thing on one rail.  The Kato Unitrack adapters sections are actually made just for these Tomix track sections (Side note: a lot of folks, myself included, were under the impression that the Kato Unitrack 'adapter section' was for all non-Unitrack connections, but that's not true.  Kato Unitrack is pretty straight forward code 80 and you can easily connect Atlas code 80, Minitrix, and Fleischmann and probably others that I don't have).

Some observations on these curved tracks:
  • YOU WILL NEED THE EASEMENT SECTIONS for both the Unitrack and Finetrack super-elevated curves. The 'easement' sections are just what they sound like....traditional 'flat' on one end of the curve, which then 'eases' into the 'super-elevated'elevation on the other end.  Obviously, you connect your straight, non-super-elevated track to one end, and the super-elevated section to the other.  
  • "Short" easements and "long" super-elevated curves.  In other words, the 'easement' sections for both lines are 22.5 degrees, whereas the super-elevated curves are 45 degrees.  This limits some of the flexibility you might otherwise want if your actual radius is greater than the 381/391 or 414 that are offered. More on this below.
  • For whatever reason, both the Kato and Tomix versions are molded and painted to resemble concrete ties.  This is disappointing as it will 'stick out' when connected to traditional 'wood tie' track.  I have it in my mind to try and paint the ties, but that's something down the road when I've run out of interesting things to do.
  • And yes, the Tomix Finetrack curve is unusually wide.  Not really sure what they're planning...perhaps it has something to do with increasing stability, or maybe its just an asthetic requirement to be consistent with other pieces they are producing. The Kato double track version is consistent with their other double track pieces.
Below is a photo showing pieces from both systems which will better illustrate why your radius options are a little challenged with both company's products.  The track on the top is the Kato double track, and the track below that is the Tomix single track version:

The smaller sections on the bottom right of both company's super-elevated curve systems is the 'easement' track (or what Tomix calls the 'approach track') and is 22.5 degrees. The longer pieces are the fully super-elevated curves, which are 45 degrees- and do not get any smaller unless you take a hacksaw to them!  Obviously, if you JUST want a 90 degree radius curve, you'll have to make a compromise and use two easements on each side one 45 degree curve section.  This will reduce the impact of large sweeping (and super-elevated!) curves unfortunately.

You could do what I tried, which is to put two easements on the leading edge of the curves, add in the super-elevated pieces, and then plug some traditional straight pieces between the two super-elevated curves.  Not sure if I'll stick with this arrangement, but it is possible and I haven't had any problems, but I also don't think I'm gaining anything over what I proposed in the above paragraph.

As you can tell from the above photo, I have the Unitrack super-elevated curves/easements on my layout.  I haven't had a lot of running time the past several months, but when I have run trains across these curves, I have not noticed any problems at all.  So far, so good!   I have yet to install or run trains on the Tomix curves.  These will be used to replace some standard Kato viaduct pieces (single track) to create a much more interesting, sweeping, SUPER-ELEVATED bridge that will replace the somewhat boring set-up I have now (check back on this blog in several months and hopefully I'll have an update on that).

Yes, I'm 'sold' on super-elevated curves!  I'm hoping that these products are successful and we can begin to see more variations in the sizes that are offered in the future so I can 'upgrade' all those traditional curves!

Here's the breakdown on the part numbers from each company:

Tomix "Wide Rail" 'canted' Finetrack:

Easements: Tomix Item 1754 "Wide PC Approach Track"  CR(L)C391-22.5-WP(F)  - This package includes two 22.5 degree easement curves. 
Super-Elevated Curves:  Tomix Item 1744 "Wide PC Curved Track C391-45-WP(F) - Includes 2x 45 degree sections.

To complete a 'half circle' or 180 degree curve, you'll need the  'easement' or 'approach' package (2 x 22.5 = 45 degrees), plus 2 packages of the Curved track (you'll end up with an extra piece unfortunately since you only need three of these [ 3 x 45 = 135, + the 2 easements/approach tracks which add another 45 degrees; so 135+45  = 180]. degrees). If you want a fill circle of track, then you'll just add another package of Easements and one more package of curves - and no extras!

Also, I just noticed that if the 391 radius is too large for you,  Hobbysearch Japan also has a 354 mm radius version out now! 

Kato Unitrack 

Easements: Kato Item 20-182 "Concrete Tie Double-Track Superelevated Easement Curve Let, Right 414/381-22.5" Similar to Tomix, you get 2 22.5 degree pieces in this package.
Super-Elevated Curves:  Item 20-181 "Concrete Tie Double-Track Superelevated Curve 414/318-45".  The options for Kato are the same as Tomix above regarding how many packages of each you'll need.

Also, Kato has the same curves in a double track viaduct configuration as well.  I've also heard that there's a smaller radius version of the double-track super-elevated  curves, but I haven't seen it.


  1. Something I've wondered, especially about the Tomix track (since that's the brand I use) is whether you could use straight pieces, a little twisted in the middle, as easments instead of the easment curves? That might help the appearance of 45 and 90 degree curves a bit.

  2. I really love those new tracks. They are incredible to run on... and the finetracks are designed the way they are because they are made to look like a viaduc. No need for a special track bed... but lots of others small pieces: rail guards, beams and pilars.

  3. la saucisse:
    That makes a ton of sense that these are built for viaducts. There are interesting holes in the roadbed for the small pieces you are talking about. I've just about got the Tomix track installed. I'm replacing some tigher radius Kato viaduct pieces with this track, but had to build my own viaduct bridge in the process. I am getting excited about seeing this track 'in action'!

    I think its very possible to add a 'normal' track instead of the easement, just as long as its long enough so that the rails don't get out of alignement it should be okay. I may test this out myself!

  4. kato makes a transition piece -straight snap track. do you know the gauge and which joiners fit? thanks pabecker,do

  5. pabeckerdo.

    I'm a little confused by your question. I think you are referring to the adaptor piece that connects Kato Unitrack to Tomix Finetrack. You don't need this piece to connect Kato to most other brand's code 80 track. On my layout, I have Kato directly connected to Atlas Code 80, Minitrix, and Fleischmann profitrack (all of these without the adaptor piece)

  6. I have purchased the super-elevated double track Kit that makes an oval. I need to widen the oval to a larger circle - so I placed a short section of straight track in-between two curves (not realizing I needed the transition (SHORT CURVE) track (Left and RIGHT) after each long curve. The rails are uneven and causes the train to de-rail. Kato does not sell the short curved transition piece in the US market. Let me explain it this way: the box has it so you make a straight piece, molded to go into a short curve piece (during the phase the track goes from flat (where it connects to the straight piece), to a 45 degree angle in which you need the larger curved piece which is also at a 45 degree, then you add another curve then the short curve which then transitions from a 45 back to being flat so that it can connect to a flat straight piece. The problem was I wanted to add a piece of straight track in between the two long curves, but because they are angled at a 45 they do not mach up with the flat piece hence the short transisition piece, Well You need 4 short lefts and 4 short rights... KATO doen;t sell them individually... so whar do I do?? I can;t use it as it is as it won't fit my current layout.

  7. Hi Anonymous,

    So its sounds like you need another set of the 'short curve/easement' pieces, right?

    Have you thought about ordering some from eBay? Just do a search for Kato easement curves and Plaza Japan or some other source from Japan should be able to help you get the piece you want.

    This would mean that one side of your loop / oval would have a total of 4 easement (or short curves as you call them) and 2 of the long ones. You would have an easement entering the curve, a long curve, an easement exiting the curve, your short straight pieces as you described, and then another easement/long curve/ easement, etc...

    Does that help?

  8. Thank You for your posts... Picked up a Kato super elevated/concrete tie set used on ebay and I had no idea about the easement curves, or why my trains were de-railing in one direction... Since I knew Kato stuff was too well made to have these short comings, I immediately thought I bought some bad track. Your blog saved the day!

  9. @nittany4

    I'm glad this information was helpful! You're right, Kato makes good stuff and I hope you enjoy your curves!

  10. Interesting stuff here. Can someone help. I am looking for a track plan fot a layout that I saw a few photos of on the Internet. It is by a "mr. Wood" of Spain ( Espagna).
    If anyone knows of it, can you contact me at loulasalle@hotmail.com. Currently, I model in 3rail sale O, but I have been smitten by Quinn's layout, and a LRV layout that I saw on the Internet. I have put together framework for a 10x5' layout in N.


    Lou La Salle