Should you consider Kato Model Trains ?

Should you consider Kato Model Trains ?

There are just so many great manafactures out there..its a good idea to explore all the options.

Have you considered or considering Kato ?

For first world, high quality, mass production, there are few that can match the Japanese. Because of the high quality and excellent prices they offer, they have penetrated in several industries that require demanding processes, such as cars, computers, and of course, model railroading.

Kato Precision Railroad Models, better known as Kato Model Trains, are among the best Japanese manufactures of model trains. Although not as well known as other names, like Lionel trains and Bachmann trains, Kato model trains are sold in Japan and the United States, where they compete in quality, level of detail, and price.

Kato Model Trains was founded by Hiroshi Kato in 1957, in order to satisfy the needs of the Japanese market, which was booming thanks to the industrial revolution that was happening in Japan at the time and which was the result of the re-modernization of the country after World War II.

What set Kato Model Trains apart from the competition was the design and manufacture of local Japanese trains. Up to that time, model trains in Japan were representations of western trains. Kato Model Trains was the first company that manufactured trains that Japanese people actually rode.

The company had such a great success that they grew to dominate the Japanese market. In 1987, Kato Model Trains decided to penetrate the highly competitive and demanding market of the United States of America, opening its subsidiary, Kato Model Trains USA. Learning from their experience, Kato Model Trains USA decided to make its first entry to the American market with an American train: the diesel-electric hybrid EMD GP38-2 locomotive produced by General Motors Electro Motive Division.

That doesn’t mean that Japanese models aren’t sold in the United States, it’s just that they aren’t very common because most American modelers aren’t familiar with Japanese trains. Nevertheless, famous trains like the Shinkansen Japanese bullet train are in high demand.

In addition, Kato Model Trains is in charge of the design and distribution of the products in the United States, deciding which models have to be manufactured for that market. In this way, the company can adjust its processes to custom their production to the tastes of the American clients. However, all manufacturing and processing is handled in Japan.

One of the innovations that Kato Model Trains brought to the hobby is the UNITRACK system. This system allows integrating the track and the roadbed in a single piece, as well as a faster assembling process. This certainly is a lot of time and work saver for modelers, although it might not be appealing to the purists who want to do each part themselves.

Finally, some people confuse Kato Model Trains with the name Sekisui Kinzoku. In reality, Sekisui Kinzoku is the company’s name in Japan.

Leave A Reply (1 comment so far)


  1. Paul Ingraham
    3 years ago

    A few corrections of fine points, if I may:

    Kato was founded by Yuji Kato, the father of Hiroshi Kato who is the current president of the company.

    It is stretching things a bit to say that Kato dominates the Japanese market. While Kato is a major player, Tomix N scale is by far the volume leader in the Japanese model railway market.

    Kato’s first entry into the American market was as a supplier to Con-Cor in the late 1960s. Kato made a 4-6-4 steam locomotive, an Alco PA-1 Diesel and rolling stock for Con-Cor.

    As for competing with Lionel and Bachmann in quality, I think that most knowledgeable modelers would rank Kato’s quality consistently considerably higher than either of these.

    The GP38-2 is a Diesel electric locomotive, but it is NOT a hybrid. The Diesel engine in the locomotive powers a generator that feeds electric power to traction motors that drive the locomotive’s axles. A hybrid – e.g., a Toyota Prius automobile – would be a machine that runs on power produced in two or more ways. That’s not how a Diesel-electric locomotive works.

    In the opening paragraphs of your article use use the word “manufactures” (a verb) where you clearly mean “manufacturers” (a noun – note the final”r”).

    May I also suggest that you note that Kato is pronounced “KAH toe”, not “KAY toe”, as many modelers are wont to say it. If it was “KAY toe”, it would be Romanized as “Keito” – who is either female Manga character or a J-Pop singer.

    I hope these notes are helpful in making your article more accurate.

    Paul Ingraham, Coordinator, AsiaNRail N scale modular modeling group

model trains for beginners