KATO 10-495


10/19/15- After the Emperor's first Imperial Train was destroyed by the Rebel Alliance, the royal foundries, under the direct supervision of Darth Popo, were tasked with creating a new one that was sleeker and shinier than the first. (Sorry, if you wanted the factual stuff, you should check out Wikipedia.)

There's not much to say about this that wasn't covered in the articles about the other Kato EMU passenger trains, Hakusan 489, Yokosuka-Sobu 217, and Yokosuka 115-300. The decoder installs are identical with no surprises (again, I used an ESU LokPilot for the motor).

Sound Decoder: After adding a sound decoder to my Showa-era Imperial train, I've decided that I like the electric locomotive sounds: Their wind-up and running sounds are interesting and a nice change from the chuff-chuff of steam locomotives. Of course, horns and the miscellaneous sounds are cool, and give any train an aural sense of motion. It's also a useful alert if the train has a problem in an unseen area of the track.

This train is a great candidate for a LokSound/Sugarcube speaker installation because of the fairly large areas without windows. That's not the case with my other Japanese trains (Hakusan, Yokosuka/Sobu, and Yokosuka), which have fully windowed passenger cars. My only question was which car to install the speaker in. The engine sounds probably should come from the center motor car (or several cars), and the horns sounds should probably come from the end cars... which would be a ridiculously expensive setup, so it isn't going to happen! (Damned EMUs...)

I chose car #2 for the speaker and sound decoder; the speaker would fit comfortably in the end without being visible, and the decoder would fit in the hollow space beneath the floorboard. (Because this train has low skirts, there's a hollow section underneath the floorboard, contact strips, and weight.) The sides of the area were grinded out to create openings to the hollow section. The sound decoder and load resistor slid in through the side and fit perfectly within the space. Power wires were shortened and soldered to the contact strips. The speaker wires were routed along the side and up into the cabin area at the end. (The end section had a few walls that were grinded out to fit the speaker; the Kato light diffuser had to be shortened slightly.) None of the wires or parts are visible through the windows, so this may be my best-concealed sound decoder install to date.

I put a dab of contact cement at the edge of the clear plastic window inserts to keep them from vibrating. The sugarcube speaker is loud enough to make them buzz, which sounds like a blown speaker.

Performance: Again, not much to say since it runs as well as the others, with no derailing problems running forwards or reverse. It can crawl at a snail's pace without stalling. The Scharfenberg/Shibata couplers can be finicky, but you don't have to worry about cars inadvertently decoupling.

My only gripe is the bright Xenon blue headlights. I don't think they look very good and they're blindingly bright. I searched for photos of the Nagomi train hoping to find one to indicate that it had yellow incandescent headlights found on most other trains. No joy, so I left them as is, subject to change.

Looks: The train itself is very purdy, done in brownish-purple color that seems to attract a lot of comments. To be honest, I'm a little blasé about the color since it's not as shiny and striking as the Dark Cherry Metallic finish on my Rickenbacker electric guitar (nyuk, nyuk). The finish doesn't quite capture the smooth reflective finish of highly-polished sheet metal that the 1:1 original sports. But that's just me being picky.

Lighting: I'd intended to install Streamlined Backshop's 6-LED light kits which give a nice even incandescent glow. However, the windows are tinted green so that nice warm glow wasn't going to happen. I changed my mind after seeing that this set's passenger cars (like most of Kato's recent designs) are fitted with a half-height clear window piece that reflects ceiling-mounted LEDs at the bottom edge of the window frame. Instead, I used Kato's single LED kits which use a diffuser; this design doesn't show obvious reflections of the light source on the window frame. The interior of the cars are designed so the diffuser snaps onto the tops of the compartment partitions, so the diffuser can be snugged against the LED source (harder to do with a ceiling-mounted diffuser). This helps distribute the light more evenly.

The set comes with five cars, which makes it the non-Imperial Nagomi "party-down train" for rental by anyone who's got the jangles (I assume). When used by the Emperor, a sixth car is added between cars three and four, and the Imperial Crest/flags decoration is added to the front.

Kato released the Imperial car a few years after the five-car set was released, and includes those decorations.

Versus... Since I have two versions-- this, and the Showa-era version-- a comparison is unavoidable. They're both stellar productions from Kato and both look good and run extremely well. One's preference is likely to be determined by how one feels about modern EMU-style trains versus vintage ones with a locomotive at the front. Also by stylistic preferences: Modern trains are streamlined and shiny whereas vintage trains appeal to those who are more likely to appreciate a "Steampunk" aesthetic.

I appreciate both styles, but don't like extremes in either direction like the old-timey steamers with huge smokestacks, or the super-sleek Shinkansens that look like Godzilla stepped on their noses. My personal tastes lean towards vintage: I think the Showa-era train is more interesting and has more character. However, it looks best running forward with the locomotive at the front; The EMU can run either direction and looks the same.

I think the Nagomi looks great as well, but since I have three other EMU passenger cars, it offers very little novelty. I've begun to feel that Kato's plug 'n play decoder trains are too easy and don't offer the gratification of a more challenging install.

As a tinkerer, I also appreciate the mix-and-match aspect of locomotive-driven trains. A steam or diesel locomotive hauling the train doesn't look out-of-place or odd, whereas EMU coaches are designed and liveried as a matched set, and look best that way. You can add or remove coaches to recreate prototypical configurations, but from a tinkerer's perspective, that's not as interesting as assembling a consist in a locomotive-driven train and getting it to work properly.


Video Clip: Same old, same old. The core sound set is ESU's 56830.NPZ-Domino, with some of my usual modifications (why change what you know you like?). As usual, I have no burned-into-my-brain idea of what it's supposed to sound like (even after seeing a few videos of the real thing)... which can be very liberating, because then you're blissfully ignorant and free to choose sounds that appeal to you!