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Guest Bernard

KATO Decoders

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Darren Jeffries

If any of you need help with ordering from the UK I can help.... Usually saves on import duty.

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Martijn Meerts

Bernard, I don't have any directly available, but I'll take a few shots and post them when I get some time, should be around this weekend.

 

It's probably not very optimal, it's the first train I converted, but it works =)

 

 

If you want a fiddly decoder install though, try Kato's M250 super rail cargo ;)

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Martijn Meerts

With a bit of a delay, here are some (not so good) pictures of my Kato 800 shinkansen decoders.

 

Just a quick overview of the motorcar and one of the end cars (the end cars are pretty much the same)

01-kato800-decoders.jpg

 

 

Closeup of the motorcar. VERY easy to install here really. Red and black are power from the wheel pickups, grey and orange go to the motor. Kinda happy with the fairly clean install here. I might at some point paint the wires along with the interior (I have in mind painting the interior the actual colors of the prototype, but the question is, who's really gonna notice ;))

02-kato800-motor.jpg

 

 

Overview of one of the end cars. No decoder visible here, which is a major advantage of the Uhlenbrock function decode I use here. It's so small it can be hidden underneith the interior, makes the installation very fiddly however.

03-kato800-headlights.jpg

 

 

This one show the "fiddlyness" of the install pretty well. Not a lot of space to manouver in. Red and black are once again power from the wheel pickups, blue is common ground, white and yellow are direction dependant lights. Where you connect them depends on the direction of the train. If you look closely you can see that this was a trial & error type of install, both LED's have been unsoldered, re-soldered, cut and soldered again. In the end I found out I really only needed to rotate 1 of the LED's to make it work really ;)

04-kato800-headlights.jpg

 

 

Closeup of where the various wires connect. Blue is common ground (which usually connects to the anode of a LED), yellow connects to the red LED, white connects to the white LED.

05-kato800-headlights.jpg

 

 

 

Not sure how useful those pictures are. I'm still very much experimenting with installation of lights. The motor is very straightforward and usually only takes me like 5 minutes to install, but with the LED's I always seem to be fiddling for several hours at times. In fact, I fried my first decoder like that ;)

 

Decoders use are Lenz Gold Mini for the motorcar and Uhlenbrock 73900 mini function decoder for the end cars.

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CaptOblivious

Martijn,

 

To the contrary, those photos do a great job of illustrating how the lights get wired up. If only my wiring were as neat as yours...Do you tape down the Lenz decoder? With the wiring nice and flat, and the decoder also lying flat, is it horribly obvious through the windows with the shell assembled? The KIHA 110 I did looks pretty bad, even from a distance: A riot of colored wires visible through the windows, all just flying through the air, and I'm unsure how to tame that unruly mess.

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Martijn Meerts

Both decoders are taped down with the pads that are included with the decoders. I usually tape them down after testing them with only the power pickup and motor connected, I'll then desolder the wires from the decoder, cut to length, and resolder to the decoder. I found out that (if you have a good soldering iron/pen/station) this way makes the wiring a lot easier.

 

The decoder is not very visible even close up.. You wouldn't notice it unless you knew it was there actually. The thing with the 800 series as well is that it has a fairly closed off part on 1 end of each car, so that's a good place to hide the decoder. I think that was initially what I intended to do, but somehow it seems the decoder ended up on the other side ;) I think the problem was the lighting kits that I built in afterwards. But even if the wires are visible, it's quite doable to paint them in the same color as the interior, you could even paint (parts of) the decoder. Another thing you can do is darken the windows around the area where the decoder is visible.

 

But personally I don't mind if it's visible, I started with model trains when you could still see the motor and everything through the windows of locomotives and trainsets etc. And besides, I'm planning on running a lot of steamers, and MicroAce steamers (which generally run the best) all have the motor very visible in the cabin ;) I like realism, but there's a limit to what you can do in N-scale. For realism and super detailing I'm planning on getting some of the Lenz 0 gauge stuff.

 

This was actually a fairly easy install. I'll see if I can post some pictures of the decoder install in Kato's M250 super rail cargo or one of my Kiha01 railbusses ;)

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Bernard

I second it, those are great photos. Anything that shows you how to install decoders in any Japanese prototype is a find! I can't tell you how many times I've asked this question at other forums with little feedback. CaptO & Martijn both your posts will answer a lot of future questions about decoder installs. I have the 800 train (not with me sorry to say) and I feel confident doing a head & tail light install with these photos. Thanks!

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CaptOblivious

Keeping watch on Kato USA's webpage: They finally have prices on some of the accessory decoders that Kato Japan makes:

 

http://www.katousa.com/N/accessories.html

 

I've contacted a few dealers about the EM13, and they said they expect Kato USA to resume shipments of those to dealers just as soon as they solve the GS-4 debacle (their new GS-4 steam loco takes the EM13 decoder...and fries it under certain common cirumstances. Oops!)

 

Looks like street price for the EM13 will be $18-$22.

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alpineaustralia

Couldnt agree more. Many thank Bernard and Martijn. Great photos.

I have just acquired an E1 "Max" and an older TGV PSE. These do not seem to have the spots for me to plug in a Kato decoder and so I was wondering whether I could still use it albeit soldering it. I must admit Martijn's photos have given me the courage to think about actually buying some other decoders and giving them a go.

Does anyone have any suggestions for good decoders. I'll need headlights and motor decoders.

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CaptOblivious

Martjin likes the Lenz stuff; I usually go with Digitrax. Lenz are smaller, generally, although the new Digitrax DZ125 is smaller yet. The feature sets are slightly different, but probably not enough of a difference for most people. I think the two most important factors are size and cost, and they're all pretty small and cheap these days...

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Martijn Meerts

I initially wanted to go for Selectrix, as that is still one of the best systems you can have for N-scale (it was designed for it.) However, Trix switched from Selectrix to DCC mostly (their decoders do both), and with that change the quality seems to have gone down. Also, the old selectrix controllers are much nicer than the new mobile station stuff.

 

So, pure DCC was the best option in my case, and the reason I went for Lenz is quite frankly because I can easily order that stuff in Norway, so that I don't have to deal with rediculous Norwegian import taxes and the likes. I went for the Gold Mini's due to the functionality on them, and the optional Power1 modules you can connect to them (even though they don't actually fit in anything that would really have a benefit of them ;))

 

For headlights and such, I found the Lenz function decoder to be too big. In Kato's 800 series shinkansen for example, I wouldn't be able to hide it under the interior without cutting away pieces of plastic there. Considering there were smaller function decoders available (such as the Uhlenbrock I use), I decided to opt for those rather than modify the trains. I don't mind modifying trains, but only if there's no other option.

 

A disadvantage of the Gold mini's is actually that they have an AWFUL lot of CV's you can program, and most of them have descriptions that Bernd Lenz himself probably doesn't understand ;)

 

 

In the end, I would go for the decoder that has the features you feel you need/want, and which is easily accessible, quality wise they're all very similar.

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. I hope to have some images soon of a rather interesting decoder install that will likely include milling, drilling and tapping ...

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alpineaustralia

Well done.

As they say in Oz "cheap as chips".

Still tossing up between Dz125 and Lenz Standard decoder myself.

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CaptOblivious

Well, I got my EM13s and FL12s in.

 

First complaint: Only 2-digit addressing. If you try to write a 4-digit address, you have to reset the decoder, because it makes it go all wonky.

 

Second complain: these are amazingly damned fiddly to install. I have four FL12s, and four end-cars to put them in. You have to fiddle with them a lot to get them to light both headlights and taillights (not simultanesouly, of course!). Even then, while spending something like an hour trying to convince one of my E4 end unit's taillights to come on, I fried one. It would work fine with the shell off, but the shell on was putting pressure on something that it shouldn't, causing only the taillight not to work...jeez, give me wires and solder any day over this.

 

Anyway, so now I have one FL12 in need of repair or replacement. Digitrax has already said "no", and I await word from Kato USA; in the meantime, anyone got any other ideas of who I might should contact? I'd rather not have to buy another one if I don't have to...

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Bernard

CaptO,

Did you wind up buying the FL12 form Toy train Heaven? Why not also contact them as to where you can return it. (or who their distributer is) Digitrax from the experience I've had has great customer service, I'm not so sure about Kato. Hope this works out for you. Keep us posted.

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Bernard

Is it true that Digitrax makes these decoders for Kato?

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CaptOblivious

No; the Manufacturer ID is the same that Digitrax uses (decimal 129), and they do incorporate Digitrax's proprietary transponding feature, which leads me to believe that Digitrax designed them, but they are clearly labeled as "assembled in Japan"—Digitrax is located just outside Atlanta, for those who don't know. Nevertheless, they were unequivocal that they did not repair this line of decoders.

 

I have yet to hear back from Kato USA, still. I hadn't contacted Toy Train Heaven yet, mostly because their website said to contact the manufacturer, but I think I will anyway.

 

I'm still experimenting with the decoders, and hope to have a full report on them soon. I am generally pleased with them, limited as they are.

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Martijn Meerts

Digitrax makes the drop-in boards for Kato's American trains, and it's been confirmed quite a while ago that Kato and Digitrax have made some sort of agreement about decoders. While Digitrax may not make them at their main location, I do believe everything about those Kato decoders is in fact Digitrax, except the decoders are finalized in Japan.

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Bernard

CaptO,

I was surprised to see what Toy Train Heaven was charging for the Kato decoders, great price. I've been seeing them for twice that price elsewhere. I checked Toy Train Heaven's website today and the Kato decoders aren't listed anymore. (I don't know if they are sold out or what...) I'm really curious after you get it working, if you would recommend the Kato decoders over other decoders, like the DZ125. (since their prices are similar) You are one of the few people that I know that is using this decoder. Can't wait for your final analysis.

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CaptOblivious

So, here's a feature list of the EM13, that I've arrived at via trial-and-error. I'll fill this in as I find out more...

 

O 14/28/128 speed step throttle control

O Ops mode programming and CV readback (via Transponding)

? Operation on DC

O 2-digit addressing

O 4-digit addressing

O Linear momentum

X Non-linear momentum (currently, no Digitrax decoder supports this)

X Constant braking distance (currently, no Digitrax decoder supports this)

O 3-step speed table

O Advanced Consist Addressing

? Advanced Consist Functions

O Static and dynamic scaleable speed stabilization (BEMF)

? Silent operation (via high- or low-frequency pulsed power)

O 128-step speed table

? Low-gear/shunting mode

O Transponding

X NMRA Bi-Directional Feedback (aka RailCom) (currently, no Digitrax decoder supports this)

? Asymmetrical DCC (stop on DC) (probably does, but I have no way to test)

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CaptOblivious

Update: Kato USA doesn't repair them either. They "do not have a policy for the decoders at this time." Grumble.

 

So here's one really good reason to go with a DZ125 over the EM13: A solid warranty/repair service.

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Guest bill937ca

Info from another list.  Plaza Japan says Kato Japan is out of stock and the  EM13 29-351, FL12 29-352 and FR11 29-353 are not on the current production sheet.  Generally production sheets run 3 months.  I believe things are starting to slow down because of economic conditions too.

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CaptOblivious

I emailed Kato USA, and they replied. Here is what they have to say about the availability of these decoders:

 

The decoders are only being sold through our Dealers shown on our list.

We have out list of Dealers. On the top of the web page, point on the

"Purchase" button, and then click on the bottom drop down button, "Find a

Hobby Store".

 

Click on your state (if you are in the corner, then also click on the

surrounding states), and this will list the Hobby Shops that are our

Dealers.  You may place your order with the shop, and let them know that you

have contacted us.  We have these in stock at this time.

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CaptOblivious

Update: Kato USA doesn't repair them either. They "do not have a policy for the decoders at this time." Grumble.

 

So here's one really good reason to go with a DZ125 over the EM13: A solid warranty/repair service.

 

I just got an email from Kato USA, rather out of the blue, the contents of which are reproduced below, and speak for themselves.

 

We have the decoders in stock (29-352).

 

Return yours and then we can see what can be done.

 

:o w00t!

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alpineaustralia

I just got 2 shipmments of 29-353s. One from the UK and one from Japan. Looks like they are producing them for the moment so I have grabbed as many as I can get my hands on while they have them.

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Bernard

CaptO - I hope Kato replaces your decoder. Keep us informed on what they do, I'm curious of their customer support.

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