Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Kato Unitrack

1060 views
15 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    June, 2017
  • 16 posts
Kato Unitrack
Posted by BraddW25 on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 2:16 PM

I mentioned in another thread I started about DCC that I am in the early phases currently of constructing a new layout in a 20 X 20 foot basement addition recently added to our home. I wanted to check on opinions about the usage of Kata unitrack (n scale) for a permanent layout. I have never built a permanent layout with it and was very turned off by it and other similar types of track from other companies when it first came out. However, a few years back I bought  a set just to experiment with. I really liked the look of the concrete tie doulbe track sections and in particular the super elevated curves. So I went ahead and bought a set. I have to say that I am thoroughly impressed with the stuff. I have found it to be completely bullet proof. I have assembled and dissassembled the loop of track MANY times and each time I put it back togehter it has worked absolutely flawlessly. For that reason I am seriously considering using it on my new layout. I know that it will limit some aspects of forming curves and such that are possible with flex track. The attraction for me is that ballasting track is not one of the more appealing parts of this hobby to me. In fact I would go as far as to say that I absolutley HATE it. I am also not a huge fan of cutting code 55 flex track as I have ruined more than one piece of that stuff trying to get it cut to the right size. I just wanted to get some others thoughts and experiences with the stuff before making my final decision. I am particularly interested in durability and long term electrical continuity with unitrack. I should mention that will be using a 12 gage bus to power the layout and am intersted in opinions on how close together should the leads be to take power from the bus to the track. I have heard everything from having terminal joiners between every section to as far away as 14 ft between terminals. Thanks very much for any info anyone is willing to share.


Bradd

  • Member since
    April, 2009
  • From: Staten Island NY
  • 1,256 posts
Posted by joe323 on Thursday, July 27, 2017 2:39 PM

Obviously you don't have to use Unitrack everywhere you could mix in flex or non roadbed sectional where needed and you might want to in areas like yards where roadbed might not be appropriate (thus no ballast).

I don't know about the spacing as I only have a small layout with a 14 ga bus and 3 feeders (two on the ends one in the middle but I can tell you I am not a fan of terminal joiners The break off too easily( At least the atlas ones do)).  Learn to solder the regular joiners and solder the feeders to the outside rails. 

 

Joe Staten Island West 

  • Member since
    January, 2014
  • 427 posts
Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Thursday, July 27, 2017 3:00 PM

I was involved with Unitrak quite a few years ago, and I still have several shoeboxes overflowing with track and accessories and whatnot. I agree 100% . . . that stuff is terrific. I will be using lots of it for the lower deck and staging areas of my current layout build.

Don't let the elites and naysayers talk you out of it if you want to do an entire layout with it. There are some serious Kato modellers around who have done just that. The Japan Rail Modellers of suburban Wash, DC come to mind. Here's a link to their website: JapanRailModellers

But a quick warning you might already be aware of: a 20 x 20 layout could get pricey in a hurry.

Regarding feeder spacing: the joiners of Unitrak are so well-made that you could easily go 10 or 15 feet with no worries whatsoever.

And don't worry about the curves. There are many options and possibilities in the Kato Universe.

Robert

EDIT:  Added link

LINK to SNSR Blog

  • Member since
    June, 2017
  • 16 posts
Posted by BraddW25 on Thursday, July 27, 2017 3:06 PM

Thank you very much for the reply, Joe. I can and have soldered track before so that won't be a problem if I need to do it again for this layout. I was hoping that maybe it could be avoided because like ballasting it's not part of the hobby that I am completely in love with. So far I've had absolutley zero problems with the Kato unijoiners. I just haven't ever built a layout as big as the one I am starting to build now so this is somewhat new territory for me. Either way, thank you for the feedback. I appreciate it.

  • Member since
    June, 2017
  • 16 posts
Posted by BraddW25 on Thursday, July 27, 2017 3:14 PM

Robert,

Thanks very much for taking the time to reply. I agree with what you said about the unijoiners. They seem to work very well and appear to be quite durable to me at this point at least.

As you said, it is a bit pricey. For that and other reasons I am building this layout in sections so I can pay for the track in smaller chunks and also so I can trouble shoot any problems a section at a time. The other nice thing I have is a program called anyrail which allows you to design a layout using track from a vartiey of manufacturers including unittrack. So I already have the sections designed and have materials lists for all of the track setions I will need. The section I'm working on now will cost me around $120 in track which to me is not that bad. I know it would be cheaper to do with Flex track, but I really do like unitrack. I especially like the concrete tie double track stuff that has the superelevated curves. I'm glad to hear that you can go 10 to 15 feet between feeders. I tend to go overkill when it comes to wiring so I will probably go for around 8ft, but good to know that your experience with the unitrack joiners is that good as well. Thanks again for the input.

  • Member since
    June, 2017
  • 16 posts
Posted by BraddW25 on Thursday, July 27, 2017 3:18 PM

Robert, I also agree with what you said about the curves. I don't have a lot of experience in setting up real curves, but I have done a ton of tinkering with the anyrail program I mentioned before. I might be weird in this regard, but I actually do enjoy trying to create different types of curves to fit my space by trial and error with the program. I'm sure my experience with the real stuff will be similar which leads me to another aspect of unitrack that I like. It is very easy to set it up in one configuration without gluing it down or tacking it down and still be able to run trains over it to test everything thoroughly. If something doesn't work out the way you inteded, taking it apart and replacing it with a slightly different configuration is not a problem. 

  • Member since
    December, 2012
  • From: Mesa, AZ
  • 1,177 posts
Posted by RideOnRoad on Thursday, July 27, 2017 3:26 PM

I started with a Unitrack layout--a smaller 4x8 layout. As you said, it is nearly bulletproof. When I decided to build a larger layout, I opted against Unitrack and went for Peco flex track. My reasons for the change:

  • I wanted greater control over my turn radii. I felt somewhat restricted with Unitrack.
  • Cost.
  • More options for turnouts and the entry and exit from the turnouts.

As for ballasting, it is relaxing, almost cathartic to me.

Richard

  • Member since
    June, 2007
  • From: Northern Virginia
  • 4,952 posts
Posted by riogrande5761 on Thursday, July 27, 2017 3:45 PM

While I've built 3 layouts, I only got to the point of ballasting on the most recent one.  Someone recommended spooning ballast on and then I use a brush to spread it around properly.  I've heard people complain about how they hate ballasting but actually I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't nearly as bad as what everyone makes it out to be.  Not bad at all, especially if you just do modest portions at a time, like maybe 6 feet or something.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road

Contrarian's contrarian
  • Member since
    January, 2014
  • 427 posts
Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Thursday, July 27, 2017 3:45 PM

BraddW25

Robert, I also agree with what you said about the curves. I don't have a lot of experience in setting up real curves, but I have done a ton of tinkering with the anyrail program I mentioned before. I might be weird in this regard, but I actually do enjoy trying to create different types of curves to fit my space by trial and error with the program. I'm sure my experience with the real stuff will be similar which leads me to another aspect of unitrack that I like. It is very easy to set it up in one configuration without gluing it down or tacking it down and still be able to run trains over it to test everything thoroughly. If something doesn't work out the way you inteded, taking it apart and replacing it with a slightly different configuration is not a problem. 

While you're tinkering with curve layouts, have you tried using curves of different radiuses (radii)? Curved pieces fit perfectly just like any other piece. They are measured as degrees of curvature; 15 degrees is 15 degrees, whether the radius is 9-3/4" or 28-1/4".

You can form very useful and realistic curve easements by using a large-radius piece as the first piece joining the straightaway. For instance, use a 28-1/4" radius for the first (and the last) piece and then use a 19" radius (or 15" or 12") for the next pieces, and so on.

When you get ready to glue stuff down, just use small little globs of rubber cement (not contact cement) under the track base here and there. Don't need to glue down at close intervals. Every few feet, or maybe just at the tail ends of the turnouts. I've seen large layouts that are not connected to the plywood deck at all. Been that way for years. There are also bosses molded into the underside of the base. Drill out a small hole and secure to deck using small (#2-56 by 5/8" long) screws. Or ordinary track nails.

Good luck.

Robert

 

LINK to SNSR Blog

  • Member since
    June, 2017
  • 16 posts
Posted by BraddW25 on Thursday, July 27, 2017 4:37 PM

riogrande5761

While I've built 3 layouts, I only got to the point of ballasting on the most recent one.  Someone recommended spooning ballast on and then I use a brush to spread it around properly.  I've heard people complain about how they hate ballasting but actually I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't nearly as bad as what everyone makes it out to be.  Not bad at all, especially if you just do modest portions at a time, like maybe 6 feet or something.

 

 

Yes, that is the method I have used too when I ballasted my other smaller layouts. I'm glad that you are finding that it's too your enjoyment, but for me it's more of a pain than anything else. I particularly don't like the part where you have to set the ballast using wet water and white glue. In my experience it gets everywhere especially where you don't want it to go like on the conductive surface of the rails and particularly on turnouts. I've done it, but I just don't like it that much. Thank you for the input and I hope you continue to enjoy what you are doing with your layout. That is what this is all about after all.

  • Member since
    June, 2017
  • 16 posts
Posted by BraddW25 on Thursday, July 27, 2017 4:39 PM

ROBERT PETRICK

 

 
BraddW25

Robert, I also agree with what you said about the curves. I don't have a lot of experience in setting up real curves, but I have done a ton of tinkering with the anyrail program I mentioned before. I might be weird in this regard, but I actually do enjoy trying to create different types of curves to fit my space by trial and error with the program. I'm sure my experience with the real stuff will be similar which leads me to another aspect of unitrack that I like. It is very easy to set it up in one configuration without gluing it down or tacking it down and still be able to run trains over it to test everything thoroughly. If something doesn't work out the way you inteded, taking it apart and replacing it with a slightly different configuration is not a problem. 

 

 

While you're tinkering with curve layouts, have you tried using curves of different radiuses (radii)? Curved pieces fit perfectly just like any other piece. They are measured as degrees of curvature; 15 degrees is 15 degrees, whether the radius is 9-3/4" or 28-1/4".

You can form very useful and realistic curve easements by using a large-radius piece as the first piece joining the straightaway. For instance, use a 28-1/4" radius for the first (and the last) piece and then use a 19" radius (or 15" or 12") for the next pieces, and so on.

When you get ready to glue stuff down, just use small little globs of rubber cement (not contact cement) under the track base here and there. Don't need to glue down at close intervals. Every few feet, or maybe just at the tail ends of the turnouts. I've seen large layouts that are not connected to the plywood deck at all. Been that way for years. There are also bosses molded into the underside of the base. Drill out a small hole and secure to deck using small (#2-56 by 5/8" long) screws. Or ordinary track nails.

Good luck.

Robert

 

 

 

I absolutely agree, Robert, and that is exactly how one of the curves on the present section of my layout is going to be constructed. I really like the look of a long train stretched out over a wide angle curve. This particular curve is a complete 180 degree with 3 of the 28 1/4 in pieces on each end as easments and then 6 19inchers in the center. As I mentioned before it's only constructed digitally right now, but I can't wait to see trains sweeping around that sucker!!!Big Smile

  • Member since
    February, 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 10,166 posts
Posted by wjstix on Thursday, July 27, 2017 4:58 PM

As an HO Unitrack user, I'm a little jealous of the N-gaugers, as Kato offers so many more track options!

Kato joiners aren't like regular joiners, so there's no need to solder anything. Using either the powered connectors or the straight sections with wiring connections works fine. On my layout's mainline, I find having connections every 5-6 feet or so works fine.

You can blend ballast along the sides if you want, to give the track a less uniform appearance. Kato makes ballast meant to match their track, although other manufacturers 'gray mix ballast' comes pretty close.

Stix
  • Member since
    January, 2017
  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
  • 1,172 posts
Posted by SeeYou190 on Friday, July 28, 2017 6:30 PM

wjstix
As an HO Unitrack user, I'm a little jealous of the N-gaugers

.

Me too, especially the expanding piece that makes anything fit!

.

Kato track is amazing. I own enough to fill my whole house. Sometimes it is so much fun to set up a giant mess of track and just watch the trains run.

.

All my hidden track and staging yards will be Kato track. It will be easy to replace a failed piece if necassary, and much less work in the cramped area.

.

-Kevin

.

Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

  • Member since
    April, 2003
  • 298,789 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, July 29, 2017 2:38 AM

I can only but recommend Kato Unitrack. It´s really bullet - in my case, even fool-proof. It´s a reliable and efficient way to lay track, but, alas, a bit pricey.

The only negative issue is the rather plasticky look of it. However, with some effort, the look of the track can be improved.

I painted the track in a dark brown color, using  a rattle can and then added fine N scale ballast to the top and the sides. The work is a bit of a pain in the caboose, but with a flat, delta-shaped brush, it goes sufficently fast.

  • Member since
    January, 2005
  • From: New England
  • 6,130 posts
Posted by Jumijo on Saturday, July 29, 2017 6:02 PM

I love Kato's Unitrack. Painting the rails and the molded ballast does make a huge difference in its appearance.

Modeling the Baltimore waterfront in HO scale

  • Member since
    July, 2017
  • 3 posts
Posted by Metrolink on Sunday, July 30, 2017 6:57 AM

I'm all-Unitrack (and Unitram), and it works great; though, I plan to ballast my Unitrack. The nice thing about the concrete-tie Kato double-track is that the tie-spacing is much tighter than the wooden-tie Unitrack. Almost as tight as MicroEngineering code 55 (though, Unitrack is code 80).

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!
Popular on ModelRailroader.com
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Search the Community

Users Online

There are no community member online
ADVERTISEMENT
Find us on Facebook