Suppliers of Japanese Trains and Other Things
The following online model shops carry the products I’ve used. I haven’t necessarily bought from all of these (although I have from most), so mere presence on this list shouldn’t be read as an endorsement. I've also included more general model railroad suppliers down at the bottom of the page. For links to the home pages of manufacturers who don't sell direct (and that's most of them) see the Links of Interest page.
North American stores
If you don’t want to go to the bother of ordering from Japan (which is still cheaper, although perhaps not by much after shipping) there are a few options.
MB Klein (modeltrainstuff.com) stocks a significant amount of Kato’s Japanese Prototype trains, at a discount from list.
Other North American stores
Newhall Station - Generally very overpriced, but sometimes useful for finding older import items.
Foreign Stores that ship International
(caution, postage may be high and badly documented)
Hobby Search (1999.co.jp) - One of several Japanese stores that will ship overseas (easiest to use)
Plaza Japan (Ebay store) - Not as good as HS, but a good second place to look.
M.G. Sharp - U.K. Store that will ship to the U.S. (I haven’t used them)
Scalelink.co - U.K. Store that carries Shinohara code 70 track (I haven’t used them)
Note: HW Japan used to ship overseas, but is no longer doing business with overseas customers.
There are also a couple of European stores, some of which handle overseas customers, but I have no experience of them, so I’ve not included them here.
Japanese shippers have three options, but not every store provides all three:
- EMS, which is postal express delivered in the U.S. by the Post Office, is the fastest, often delivering packages in under a week even with Customs delays. Packages shipped EMS have tracking numbers and must be signed for (which can be a problem, as they’ll be shipped back after a couple of missed deliveries). It's also quite expensive: a fairly small box can easily cost US$50 to ship.
- SAL (Standby Air) is a relatively slow but generally reliable delivery method (often taking weeks), with no tracking and no insurance. There is a weight limit, however.
- There’s also “Sea Mail”, although how much this differs from SAL in practice isn’t really clear to me (I normally use EMS).
For other English-language Japanese stores, see the JNS Forum List of Japanese Retailers
Manufacturers who sell direct
RR-CirKits - DCC and other specialty circuits
TAM Valley Depot - DCC and servo-control specialty circuits
DCC Decoder Suppliers
DCC Roundhouse - Carries Lenz (incl. LF101XF), ESU - Online inventory
DCC Train Automation UK - Carries ESU, Lenz, TCS, Uhlenbrock - Online inventory
DCC Train - Carries Digitrax, ESU, Lenz, TCS, Uhlenbrock - Online availability
EuroLokShop.com (Trans Europe Model Importers) - Carries ESU, Lenz incl. LF101XF - No online inventory
HobbySearch (1999.co.jp/eng/rail) - Carries Digitrax, Kato - Online availability (ships from Japan)
ModelTrainStuff.com (MB Klein) - Carries Digitrax, ESU, Kato, TCS - Online Inventory
SBS4DCC.com - Carries Digitrax, ESU, Lenz (some), TCS - Online inventory (not yet used)
Steve’s Depot (see note) - Carries Digitrax, ESU, Lenz - no online inventory
Tony’s Train Exchange - Carries Digitrax, ESU, Lenz (also the RRampMeter) - No online inventory
TopHobbyTrains.com - Carries Digitrax, ESU, Lenz (and Kato EM13, well hidden) - Online availability (not yet used)
TrainTek, LLC - Carries Digitrax, ESU, Lenz (some), TCS - No online inventory
Note: I have bought from many (not all) of these vendors, but don’t necessarily have enough experience to recommend them. Most of my current Digitrax systems were bought from TrainTek or ModelTrainStuff (some from others). Most of my first layout’s Digitrax (which I’m still using) was bought from an earlier incarnation of Steve’s Depot, but they stopped doing business for a number of years, and I haven’t yet had an opportunity to buy from the new incarnation. Some of my other electronics, and my CMX track cleaner, came from Tony’s Train Exchange.
I’ve bought a LOT of stuff from both ModelTrainStuff and HobbySearch, and am quite satisfied with both. TrainTek has also been quite good, although the lack of an inventory system tends to push me away from them.
Stores that don’t list inventory are, alas, all too common. Ordering from them can result in unpredictable delays, although often orders will be filled in a week or so. Sites that list inventory as yes/no, rather than a count are shown as “online availability” rather than “online inventory”. Price matters, but stores that demonstrate reliable online inventory tend to get my repeat business even if they aren’t the cheapest, unless I’m spending a lot of money, then price usually wins over speed.
Kato Brand Decoder Suppliers
HobbySearch (1999.co.jp/eng/rail) - EM13, FR11, FL12 - Online availability (ships from Japan)
ModelTrainStuff.com (MB Klein) - EM13, FL12 - Online Inventory
NewhallStation.com - EM13, FR11, FL12 - Online inventory; very high-priced but often available
TopHobbyTrains.com - EM13, FR11, FL12 (listed under Kato, not DCC) - Online availability (not yet used)
Kato’s internal decoders (see my Kato Decoders page) are hard to find in the U.S. at times, and often backorder items even in Japan.
Other Manufacturers and Specialty Stores
AdaFruit - A U.S. distributor of Arduino and related electronics supplies
Bare Conductive, a UK store (that ships internationally) selling conductive paint and related supplies
Bergs Hobbies - An Australian store selling Shinohara code 70 track, unclear if they ship internationally.
DCC Concepts - An Australian manufacturer of DCC-related devices, and other useful things.
Fast Tracks - Supplier of jigs and parts for hand-made switches (uses Micro Engineering rail by default). Supplier for Frog Juicer.
Logic Rail Technologies (DCC accessories, including Loconet Fast Clock)
MicroMark - THE store for small tools and other modeling supplies.
ModelTrainSoftware - The source for a 12V power supply for Lighting that is recommended by Jerry.
Ngineering - an online store for lighting and other electronics for N-scale model railroads
RR-CirKits - Makers of the LocoBuffer family of LocoNet to computer interfaces.
Sparkfun Electronics - U.S. distributors of Arduino and other electronics supplies and kits.
Tony’s Trains - Home of the RRampMeter and other useful DCC equipment (and information).
TrainAidsA - Specialty electronics components for model railroaders.
3D Printing Sources
Note: these are 3D printing companies that have model-railroad designs contributed by users for sale. Quality will depend on the creator. These will be unpainted and likely require cleaning and flash removal similar to a kit or detail part.
Use with caution. I don’t presently have any experience with any of these companies.
Shapeways Model Trains - They have a lot of stuff, mostly European and North American, but some could be useful on a Japanese layout.
Kabuto Models - A Shapeways store featuring Japanese (and other) parts.
There aren’t a lot of LCC products on the market yet, but there are a few:
RR-CirKits - makes a power supply for bus-powered devices, the LCC Power-Point. They also sell termination resistors on RJ45 plugs.