Locomotive Roster: KiHa 261; MicroAce A-8673

Time for an overview of another new addition to my fleet! the KiHa 261 from MicroAce!
About the Prototype:
This is a MicroAce model of a DMU set that is operated by the Hokkaido Railway Company- or JR Hokkaido- which is based primarily on the northern island of Hokkaido (the nationalized Japan Railways were privatized in 1987 resulting in the establishment of several regional railway companies...sort of the reverse of the French nationalization of 1938 or the British nationalization after the Second World War).  Apparently, and not surprisingly, Hokkaido's isolation from the rest of the Japan railway network results in some unique Japanese trains, including these DMU's given the relative lack of electrification compared to the rest of Japan. 
The KiHa 261 (I still don't know what "KiHa" stands for) is apparently a more modern version of the KiHa 281 and 283 series (Kato makes a similar model in the 283 series).   There is also a very similar looking EMU used by the Hokkaido Railway in the 789 series which, with its contrasting green colors, would look cool next to the blue KiHa 261! 
In fact, it was this model's striking good looks and its excellent color scheme that caught my eye years ago and which fortunately arrived 'under the tree' this past Christmas! 
Printing and details look good, at least as far as I can tell not being very familar with the prototype.  I'm not sure if they are just as good or almost as good as a Kato model (or Kato's 283 specifically) but I'm satisfied. An extreme close up photo below shows pretty crisp lettering!
DCC Conversion:
I go into the DCC conversion process in the video, so I'm not inclined to repeat the same information if its unnecessary (let me know in the comments if you'd like to see the steps in a 'non video' format), but I followed a conversion process nearly identical as that which I did for the Kato Sunrise Express EMU which I followed from a post on the always useful JNSForum.

I have only added a decoder to the motor car, leaving the cabs in their default 'always on' mode for the time being.  The additional time/cost to add two additional decoders into the cabs for a barely noticeable change from white to red lights is something I don't prioritize too highly (yet, I usually save these projects for later retrofit type things).
Overall, I really like watching this little DMU set run around the layout.  The colors and shape have a nice appearance on the layout.   As this was my second MicroAce product (the Rap:t being my first) I knew that I could expect a good quality product at a decent price, so no disappointments.  The only problem I've experienced, and I'm not sure of the cause, was that one of the axles fell out of the bogies and disappeared somewhere on the floor!  I've spend a lot of time crawling around on my stomach trying to locate this lost axle, so until I do, this set will be operating a coach short! According to the Wikipedia article on this class, they often run as four car sets, so I'm okay with this! At some point, I will need to try and order a replacement axle, however.
And finally, I have to mention the 'family resemblence' of these units to the Dutch Koplopers.  I mention this in the video, but wanted to add a photo hear just because I think its sort of interesting!


  1. Hello,

    About the meaning of "KiHa".
    "Ki" means that it’s the "Kidousha( = DMU)".
    "Ha" means that it's the second class. (First class is "Ro")
    In general, these will be omitted in the case of EMU.

    From Japan

  2. Chihiro beat me to it :) Here is a good explanation of the different class numbers: http://sunny-life.net/train_symbol/trainsymbol.htm.

    Great review, looks like a wonderful model. Love the video. I travelled on the very similar Furico 281 (KiHa 281) a couple of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed the trip. There are a couple of photos on my blog of it in its natural habitat in beautiful Hokaido. http://www.michael.net.nz/Blog/Japan2011Day8SapporoToTokyo

    As for what you say about it looking like the Koplopers, I found this on Wikipedia: "the body design was a joint venture with the Danish State Railways (DSB)". Interesting! (Yet oddly the KiHa 281 was introduced before the 261, yet looks very similar?)

    Finally, the Japanese wikipedia page has a audio recording of what it sounds like to travel inside one. They're a little bit noisy with the diesel engine in each carriage, but it's kind of fun to listen to those big powerful engines, and the ride is silky smooth.

  3. Thanks for the explanation/clarification!

  4. have you ever had to find parts for any of your Japanese produced trains and if yes where and how did you get them?

  5. No, not yet. But I honestly haven't spent any time investigating what's available!