KB117: Notes on Kato HO-Scale Unitrack Turnouts

This article was last updated on Oct. 17, 2010, 3:42 p.m. | Print Article | Leave Feedback

Kato recommends, and Digitrax concurs, that the best DCC performance with the Unitrack turnout requires that you set each turnout to "Non-power-routing".

Kato has offered a variety of turnouts in their H0 Unitrack line.

381-2840 - LH, 490mm Radius, selectable operating mode with power or non-power routing.
381-2841 - RH  490mm Radius, selectable operating mode with power or non-power routing.

381-2850 - LH, #4, power routing only.
381-2851 - RH, #4, power routing only.

381-2860 - LH, #6, live or insulated frogs, power or non-power routing.
381-2861 - RH, #6, live or insulated frogs, power or non-power routing.

These model numbers are current as of this writing, and may be subject to change.  In some cases, these turnouts were available with Code 100 rail but were later improved with Code 83 rail.

For control, we recommend the DS64, configured for solenoid turnout motors.  Kato also offers a self-contained DCC operated switch machine for the 2840 and 2841 turnouts; these are #'s 381-29098 and 381-29099 respectively.  Although the product numbers for these DCC devices are current, they are frequently hard to find.  They do offer a simplified approach to DCC control of turnouts since there is no external wiring and the machine takes both its DCC signal and operating power from the track.  

The settings of some of the turnouts may be altered by changing the position of a screw (or screws) that are located on the bottom of each turnout.  For the 2840 and 2841, there is one screw for making them power routing or non-power routing.  For the 2860 and 2861, there are two such screw adjustments, one for current routing and the other being for sellecting "live" or "insulated" frog; leave the frog as "insulated".

The reason for the availability of current route settings goes back to the beginnings of Unitrack in Japan.  Because Japanese housing is usually very small, few model railroaders have room for a permanent layout.  So, model railroaders often would set up their trains for a Saturday afternoon of operation.  They would sit cross-legged on the tatami mats with a model train layout spread across the room, and an analog model train transformer and a glass of O-Scotchu (スコットランドのウィスキー) near at hand.  To make train operation as versatile as possible yet to keep electrical wiring as simple as possible, the Unitrack turnouts were made "current routing".  This means that the position of the track switch determines which branch of the turnout has current flowing to it.  By doing so, it was possible to pull into sidings, throw the switch in the opposite direction and "park" a train.  With DCC, this is obviously not an issue.

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