New Kato Catenary Sets

Kato Shinkansen Catenary 23-239 4379

Kato recently introduced several new sets of model catenary poles for its N-scale Unitrack. Like the earlier ones, these are non-functional plastic castings that snap together, and clip to bases that align them with the track. Two of the new contributions stand out: one is a set of four-track catenary supports, and the other is a set of platform detail parts, including catenary, for a Shinkansen station. I’ve updated my Kato Catenary page with new photos and details, but I wanted to say more about the interesting ones here.

First a recap: Kato already had several types of catenary modeled, in styles suited for both high-voltage Shinkansen catenary, and low-voltage commuter wiring. The earliest models had poles close to the track, and the bases were sold separately (part 23-056). After they introduced the canted double-track a few years ago, they introduced double-track sets with the poles further from the track, to allow for tilting trains. But at the time, these were only available in the concrete-pole-and-truss style with small insulators suitable for commuter trains. You had to exercise a bit of imagination to use them with Shinkansen. Also, the bases weren’t sold separately but came in the package with the masts.

For all of these, assembly is trivial. A good set of modeler’s flush-cutting pliers (sprue-cutters) is very helpful for removing the parts from the casting sprue, but there is negligible flash, and they simply snap onto the bases (and the bases snap onto unitrack, mating with posts near each end of a track section). You can assemble a layout’s worth of these in next to no time if you’re happy with the shiny gray plastic. I’m painting mine, however, which will take longer.

Double-track wide-base tube-style A 23-062 4370
Kato 23-062 Wide-base, High-Voltage, Tube-style Double-track Catenary Mast

Last summer, they filled the gap, introducing a wide-base tube-style support with high-voltage insulators. At the same time, they also introduced a double-track set using an older style of lattice support, suitable for an earlier era, but probably still found in places today. This appears to be formed as a single casting (there are a couple of parts representing reinforcement plates that need to be added by hand where the structure needs to be closed, something you can’t do with a single casting). It’s cast in a more silver-colored plastic, rather than the usual gray, and the tensioner and pole bases are cast in a light beige plastic. Assembly is nearly as simple as the older sets of catenary.

Double-track wide-base truss-style B 23-063 4375
Kato 23-063 Wide-base, Low-voltage, Lattice-style, Double-track Catenary Mast

And, at the same time, they introduced a four-track structure, suitable for use with their new banked curved track V16 (R480/R447) set, designed to fit outside the older V11 (R414/R381) set.

Quad-track wide-base truss-style B 23-064 4377
Kato 23-064 Wide-base, Low-voltage, Pole-and-Truss-style, Quad-track Catenary Mast

This structure is representative of low-voltage catenary, of a kind often found where two commuter lines run parallel to one another. Because of the style of insulators, it’s not really suitable for a Shinkansen line next to a commuter line. I like the looks of this, but it’s not really appropriate for my four-track curve, since half of that is supposed to represent a Shinkansen line.

These all came out in Japan last summer, and then there was a long wait. But in March, something else showed up. This was a set of detailing parts for a Shinkansen passenger platform (Kato 23-239), which included catenary suitable for use with Kato’s passenger platforms; the first time they’ve had something that would work there. Because this is for Shinkansen, it models a large-insulator style suitable for high-voltage. At US$23 in Japan this is a bit pricy if all you want is the catenary, since all you get are five roof-mount structures and the end assembly.

Kato Shinkansen Catenary 23-239 End 4381
Kato 23-239 Platform End Catenary Structure

The set contains more than catenary, although that’s the aspect that caught my eye, as I plan to use this for the Shinkansen platforms on my urban station. However, as we’ll see there are going to be some challenges there.

First, what comes in the set are several things:
- Five roof-mounted double-track catenary supports
- One set of end-of-platform beams supporting two catenary supports (see photo above)
- Four sprues of platform-edge safety railings.
- Two sprues of platform seating and sign posts.
- One sheet of Kato’s stick-on signs
- Several castings you apply on top of the track to model signalling sensors and similar
- Several castings of poles that mount atop the platform roofs for high-voltage power lines
- and a four-page set of instructions (in Japanese, but you can figure out most from the pictures).

There are several things about this I found disappointing. First, the end of platform beams create a set of catenary supports that are just 55mm apart, which is far too close. While the roof-mount ones are designed to be mounted in the middle of each platform segment, or 248mm apart (a more reasonable distance). Also, the way the end-of-platform beams are built, they’re really only suitable for use on side platforms, and not on island platforms. In fact, the base has tabs that only fit into specific holes found only on the side platform ends. You’d need to cut those off to place it elsewhere. This is fine for a simple two-track Shinkansen station, but not very useful if you have some other track arrangement.

Another problem with these is that the cross-bars would not fit into the arches as supplied; they were just a fraction too large. And this wasn’t due to flash, as they were quite clean. I had to file each down slightly with a small modelers file before they’d go together.

The roof-mounted supports are better. These clip into holes in the new-style (tile floor) platform roofs, and can be used on both side platforms and island platforms. These snapped in without a problem.

Kato Shinkansen Catenary 23-239 underside 4382 Kato Shinkansen Catenary 23-239 mounted 4382
Detail of roof-mounted catenary

In fact, you could mount three of these on each side of a platform (although this would place the ones on the end very close to the next set) if you wanted to cut a little plastic. The mounting hole is there, but the cut-out in the roof-edge is missing. But I think one per platform section is the right spacing.

Yet another disappointing aspect of this is that, contrary to Kato’s usual practice, this set is not entirely snap-together. The high-voltage poles that mount atop the platform roofs require drilling mounting holes, and the platform doesn’t have those, so you have to make them. It also appears that you need to do something similar to mount one of these poles atop each side of the end-of-platform section, although I haven’t quite figured out that part of the instructions.

But despite these problems, this provides a very nice set of catenary structures. I’ll certainly use the roof-mount ones, and I’ll probably kitbash the arch structures so I can use those with my island platforms. The safety railings will also come in handy. All things considered, these will be a good enhancement to my Urban Station scene.