The Kato Single Crossover


It’s been a while since I last posted. I’m still out here, but the layout is on hiatus for now, and my attention is elsewhere. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up on model railroading in general, or Japanese passenger trains in particular. Just taking a break.

That includes not paying much attention to what’s new, or participating on online forums. I am still reachable via the address on my About page, and I’ve responded to a few questions over the last few months. One in particular has me thinking about DC power packs again. I still have one I never opened up and analyzed, and I now have the correct screwdriver for that thanks to a tip.

Another correspondent used my Arduino motor controller simple-throttle demo program to build a DC power-pack for his son. What a cool idea. I really need to get back to that project and finish up the sensor and control software for the One Point Five Meter Line (I also need to come up with a better name for it).

A while back I realized that there were a couple of pages about my model collection that I never moved over from the old iWeb site several years ago for some reason. I started to deal with that, then stalled. I’ve now brought some of that material over as the Freight Cars and Freight Locomotives pages, but I have more to do.

And Now For Some Actual Content…

This past weekend I went to a train show and saw that Kato had finally released the single crossovers that had been rumored for some time. Naturally I picked a pair up to investigate. Even if my next layout probably won’t be using Unitrack, I’m still interested in the stuff.

The crossovers, which come in left and right forms, are intended to match the look of modern track. The straight sections use concrete ties, while the switches and crossover are on brown ties, but not the same brown as Kato’s normal wood-tie track. This is a lighter red-brown, and from some descriptions I’ve encountered I think it’s supposed to represent a synthetic tie material. It’s common to not use concrete ties under switches, both because of the many custom lengths required under a switch, and because of the extra vibration that switches are subjected to, which would probably shorten the life of a concrete tie.

The switch is on a 248 mm section of double-track (at the usual 33 mm “train” spacing of Kato’s concrete tie track, not the 25 mm “tram” spacing of its street track). This makes it easier to fit into a layout than the 310 mm length of the double-crossover. It is in shape identical to a pair of back-to-back #4 switches. However a pair of those list for US$75, while the crossover lists for US$49, a considerable savings (it also looks better, in my opinion).

Like the #4 there are screws on the back, allowing the track to be set to “Power Routing” or “Non-Power Routing”, however the only difference is that in power routing the two inside straight rails are isolated from the rest of the turnout when the switch is thrown to the diverging route. The frogs are black-tinted metal similar to other recent Kato switches, and can be isolated by moving a second screw on the back (there’s one screw for each frog, should you want to isolate only one).

One of the two crossover rails is gapped, the other is not. I think this is to ensure that both wheels on an axle move from the A/B power to the C/D power at the same time, but since usually more than one axle is used for pickup, and often different axles are used for left and right pickups, this seems pretty pointless. With nearly any train, there will be a period where you short-circuit the two power supplies together, and it’s often several seconds in duration. I used to do this all the time using two Kato DC packs and a double-crossover. Power packs have to be designed to take that kind of abuse, so Kato seems to have done some unnecessary work here.


Also, there is only one set of electrical contacts to throw the switches, so both switches are either straight or diverging. There are manual levers at each switch, but these are interconnected: throwing one throws the other.

Finally, the switches use lightweight springs, and the point rails are always at the same voltage as the adjacent side rail. This means that if you isolate the frogs, the switches can be used as spring switches, allowing a train to run wrong-way through the switch without causing a short. That’s not prototypical for heavy-rail track, spring switches being something found on light-rail systems. But it will probably keep a number of modelers from tearing their hair out and is a nice touch. You do have to de-power the frogs though, but as long as the locomotive has multiple-axle pickup, that shouldn’t be a problem.