DCC for a Kato Ginza Series 01

One of Kato’s newest trains, and their first model of a subway train, is the Tōkyō Metro Ginza Line Series 01 (Kato 10-864). This is an excellent model in many respects, with one serious flaw: it’s not actually “DCC Friendly” (i.e., isn’t compatible with Kato’s standard DCC decoder). The problem appears to be size, and it’s possible that a reworked decoder that is just slightly smaller would fit. However, there’s no indication from Kato that they’re doing this, and the instruction sheet does not mention DCC at all.

One note of caution: I’m used to Kato’s commuter cars, which uncouple by bending them up until there’s about a 90-degree vertical bend, a which point the couplers unsnap. Don’t do that with these. As the instruction sheet makes clear, these uncouple by being pulled straight apart (you could do it without ever taking them off the track, if your hands were steady). Doing the vertical bend is likely to cause one or both of the body-mount couplers to unsnap, and once you lose the little spring that goes inside, it’s not going to work. I speak from experience here; fortunately the replacement part was actually in-stock at Hobby Search or I’d be short one train until I found a small spring, ‘cause the original headed for parts unknown at speed.

Note: larger and additional photos can be found in the Ginza Series 01 Photo Album.

E231 and Ginza I 3549 E231 and Ginza II 3556
Ginza Series 01 (orange stripe) and Yamanote E231 (green) for size comparison

Oddly, the train features receptacles for the cab headlight decoders (FL12). And the new “narrow” interior lighting kit required if you add lighting (Kato 11-211 for one, or 11-212 for a set of six) is described as compatible with the FR11 interior light decoder (which I never use anyway; I don’t need to turn the lights off). And the motor is the flywheel-equipped three-pole design featured on all of Kato’s “DCC Friendly” models. It just lacks a properly-sized receptacle for the EM13 motor decoder.

Ginza Cab - decoder partial 3582
Cab car with headlight decoder partially installed

The FL12 installed fairly easily in both cab cars. The clips were a bit stiff, and heavy tweezers are needed to push the decoder sideways into them, but otherwise it was as easy an install as any I’ve done. And it worked perfectly. Alas, the same could not be said of the motor car.

Ginza Motor Car - apart 3579
Motor Car undercarriage disassembled - no cavity for decoder?

Where you’d expect to find a recess in the metal frame, to the right of the motor, there’s a bump of metal. This didn’t bode well.

Ginza motor - decoder 3585
Decoder inserted - view from below

Note how the decoder in the photo above overlaps the hole for the truck slightly. Also, the two tabs on the side of it are resting atop the gray plastic sideframes, which isn’t good.

Ginza Motor - side view 3586
Decoder side view - Oops, that’s not right

As you can see above, the decoder isn’t laying flat. In fact, it’s up so high the drive shaft is going to have to go through it to get to the truck assembly.

One thing interesting about this model is the revised design of the clips connecting the motor pickups to the brass strips that run the length of the car. Normally the motor simply presses the two brass disks (one of which is seen in the above photo) down on the strip, which flexes a bit to make firm contact. That’s not what they did here. Instead, as seen below, there is a loop of brass strip over the top of the disk that comes down into a tab next to the flywheel (you can just see both features above). A decoder would slide in between the tab and the strips, and that can be done.

Ginza Motor - Clips 3580
Close-up showing “tab” of brass looping over motor contact and down into a “U”-shaped tab next to the flywheel.

So, if I want to run these on DCC, and I do since my subway line is wired for DCC only, then I’m going to have to use a wire-in decoder (unless Kato suddenly announces a new EM13 replacement; and honestly I don’t see how it could fit in the space available). I’ll update this page if/when I get around to that, but it’s not a priority.