Locomotive Roster: ACTS Class 66; Kato 10820

Time to take another look at one of the trains in my collection...the Kato ACTS Class 66!  I'd never seen one of these before I noticed this available at the usual N scale on-line retailers....what struck me was the color scheme on this particular model...bright green and gray?  Very modern and very interesting in my opinion!  I also like the Dutch slogan on the side of the locomotive ("vervoer dat spoort" which Google Translate interprets as "transport line" which sounds somewhat under-whelming).

When the locomotive arrived, I thought I had made a terrible mistake...this engine is under-sized!  What did Kato do?!!!  Well....nothing.  As I've since discovered, the prototype is noticeably and significantly shorter than a 'standard locomotive'.  According to Wikipedia, it measures 3.9m /  in height, compared to an SD-40-2 which measures about 4.8m/ 13'7" or a more plausible comparison to a NS 1600 class or BB 15000 which measures 4.3m / 14'.   It still looks quite strange behind some rolling stock, and definitely looks a bit weird next to other locomotives.

Another interesting thing....this is a Japanese made model of a Dutch prototype based on an English version of an American-designed, Canadian manufactured locomotive.  In other words, this is a locomotive created by EMD (or whatever they are called now) for the UK, and now proving quite popular all across continental Europe!

Conversion to DCC was as easy as it gets.  A very straight forward removal of the shell reveals the hefty metal chassis and the NEM 651 socket (NOTE: Please read the comments if you are looking for additional information on the decoder install for this locomotive...as with many things in this hobby, not everyone has the same experience!  Some others have shared their problems which are good to note!).
After removing the 'dummy plug' that sits in the NEM 651 socket, the appropriate decoder  (I used a Digitrax DZ125IN, which is small enough not to be an issue) is then easily inserted and VOILÀ! Your digital!  No problems or hassles at all with this install, and took all of less than 2 minutes!  It would be nice if Minitrix's NEM 651 plugs were so easy to use!  I think it would also be nice if Kato (clearly having some knowledge of the NEM 651 standard) were to start adopting it for its US models which (as far as I know from observing) often require a full board replacement and are specific to various models.  Let's not even talk about Kato's Japanese offerings....
One area where the locomotive does not live up to some of the standards that have been set by other European manufacturers is that the printing on some of the small letters and numbers is not quite as crisp compared to what you would find on a Minitrix or Fleischmann model today (and others).  Nothing that can be noticed with the naked eye in normal operation, etc...  but it is a somewhat more apparent in some of the photo close-ups.  I'll be the first to admit that this is rather on the picky side of things.....
In terms of operation, however, Kato seldom leaves anything left to be desired and that is true with this locomotive!  It is very smooth running and seemingly will have a lot of pulling power (have not really put it to the test on my 3% grades....yet).
The lights are provided by LED's, which are an appealing white color - and not the irritating 'blue white'-but a nice solid white color (not "sunny white" either however).  There are no red lights for the reverse direction.  I don't know how I feel about that myself, but I thought I would mention it.
In sum, there's never any buyer's remorse with these Kato engines....a great price for solid value!  I only wish that Kato would produce more locomotives rather than continue to produce so many that have already been well-covered by Fleischmann and Minitrix!


  1. Which decoder did you plug in to the loco? I got 2 of these (both with a different color scheme) for my father's layout, but due to the construction of the thing, the standard Minitrix/Rautenhaus (Selectrix) decoders wouldn't fit. Ended up using an ESU Lokpilot Micro with cable harness, and shortened those cables.

    Kato's QC on these isn't 100% btw, 1 of the loco's has white LEDs on 1 end, and more yellow-ish ones on the other end ;)

    I see the real things quite regularly, as they're in use quite heavily in the Netherlands. Even the prototype sometimes looks rather silly due to its size. They do seem fairly heavy, and can pull quite a bit though.

    As for the red LEDs, I've never seen one of them driving with tail lights on. They either have a string of freight cars trailing them (and then the last freight car might have tail lights, but not always), or they're running with shunting lights, in which case they have the white headlights on both ends turned on.

  2. Hurray - you finally reviewed something I've got..

    I heard that there were problems with the plug in NEM651 decoder obscuring the light pipes .. so I got a drop in decoder , and had even more problems:

    1. Getting the decoder in - 0.01mm too thing for the clips cast into the chassis - some fiddling with a big knife and I managed to fix that without breaking anything.
    2. The decoder (which was stated as being suitable) was too big (coudln't get the shell back on) - I had to dismantle one cab end and cut the ends off the light pipes - not really happy about this - but it worked and I didn't break anything (much)
    3. The drop-in decoder was supposed to use the original motor clips from the original board - did they fit (did they %$&*!) - very close to shorting out on the chassis, and not fitting right - it ran for literally 20cm then stopped - again remedial work (this time with foam pads keeping the clips in contact with the motor seems to have worked) ..so far..

    All in all I can say I recommend Digitrax's product :)

    As for the model - I agree - printing not quite as good as minitrix (but the molding better than the dapol model - which is horrible - no wire handrails) Don't know about the Graham Farish model it doesn't have a DCC plug so..

    However it seems a good runner and quiet too (its the only Kato I've got) - I've heard that kato use teflon bearings and never need oiling - there were no oiling instructions in the package anyway - which is definitely a good thing - I'll definately take that japanese invention

    One minor issue for me is the huge horn casing above the cab - the UK ones are flush eg http://www.flickr.com/photos/bonedome/4591453201/ , but apparently euro ones stick out a bit -so I suppose its accurate.

    By the way - no traction tyres - never liked those things but they do make a difference - another review mentions its pulling power here (with video) http://jobiwan.over-blog.fr/article-33433572.html (no connection to me)

  3. Hello Jerry ,

    very beautifull !!!

    I really love this modern diesel engine .We have a lot in France from Forein compagny.

    i think i wil buy one in a future but maybe the hoobytrain .



  4. Hi Jerry, thanks for the update.
    I myself had stayed away from Kato models, due to (obviously wrong) rumors that their (late) implementation of NEM651 sockets wasn't optimal.

    FYI, the "association of model railroad industry" (most EU vendors) obviously willing to multiply standards in an already too technical and small industry, announced the new "Next 18" plug.
    That said, it looks good on paper...let's see if manufacturers really adopt this standard, which may make our life easier (and make us pull our hair within the transition period).

    Oh, one last thing. You meant to wright "VOILÀ" rather than "VIOLA" which is the past for "to rape" in French. Careful not to trigger déjà vu angst while using foreign expressions ;-))

  5. Oh, here is the like to the Next 18 proposed standard (in German): http://www.railcommunity.org/attachments/article/53/Next18_20110127.pdf

  6. @ Martijn: I used the Digitrax DZ125IN, but you are right it is a tight fit. The benefit of the DZ125IN is that its very small....I do expect that anything a little larger would be a problem!

    Interesting comments about the QC...I've had such good luck with Kato (versus Minitrix or Fleischmann's new releases) that I have been taking their quality control for granted!

    @SF5Xe+ : Yeah, As both you and Martijn reminded me, the decoder install was not as seamless as I made it sound...although certainly a lot easier than any Minitrix install where the pins don't make contact with their NEM 651 sockets. I think I got lucky in that I had the DZ125IN on hand to install and its just small enough not to short out on the chassis, etc...

    @Pascal - Thanks as always!

    @Pierre! Good to hear from you again! Thank you for the correction on my use of the word "voila!"...that was not my intention, although perhaps it was slip given how frustrating these installs can be? No, not really! I have corrected my faux pas! Thanks! I'm interested in the new standard...I share your concern that a new standard will only create more confusion, but we can hope....

  7. re: size discrepancies compared to an SD-40-2. The UK has a smaller loading gauge than Europe and a much smaller one than the US. The Class 66 was originally designed for the UK, so it is quite a bit smaller.

  8. Hello,

    I have version 'ECR'(Euro Cargo Rail) bought for several months now. You can find a brief description of the locomotive produced by Kato: http://jobiwan.over-blog.fr/article-33433572.html
    Despite its few shortcomings, I am pretty satisfied.

  9. Hi Jerry,

    Bjorn calling again ;-)

    'Vervoer dat spoort' must not be translated one on one, cause this is a typical Dutch espression that means so much more than the one on one translation. The best way to interpretate it is 'transportation on the right track' meaning that trains are the best means of transportation.

    Greetings, Bjorn