Kato digital control system
main > modelling > control > Kato controls > Kato Digital
In the late 1980s Kato introduced a digital model train control
system. In those days there was no standardisaton of such systems and
Kato's system was propiatry like all others availlable in those days.
It is quite clear that Kato's system didn't made it. The receivers
would only fit in H0-scale locos, a serious drawback on a market where
the much smaller N-scale is dominant. Although now obsolete, Kato did a
clever job on the design. The control units plug-in on the side of a
main unit, which contains the 'command station' and two slider
controllers to control two trains simultaniously. Further
sub-controllers add two more train controls. Switches (points) could be
operated with a seperate switch controller (controls 16 switches) or by
computer (MS-DOS PC) via the RS-232 interface built-in in the main
controller. This digital control system was in the Kato catalogue until
about 1992. Later Kato co-operated with Digitrax and introduced the
'Zephyr' DCC controller. N-scale suitable DCC decoders became available
through Digitrax and other manufacturers. Kato now also supplies
decoder-fitted locos, trains and points via their 'Custom Shop'.
How Kato's Digital system works
For the time of introduction Kato's digital systems was quite advanced,
it had an adress capacity of 100 adresses (00 - 99), which was usual
those days. It also had more function built-in in one control unit
whereas the competion had 'one box for each function' or even bare
circuit boards for the components of the control system. The image
below gives an impression of the control unit.
The units in detail:
The main control unit, houses the circuitry to generate control
signals and manages data traffic on the control buses. Two loco
controls can be found on top of the unit. On the sides there are
connectors to plug-in additional sub-controllers and switch
This is the sub-controller. The unit adds two extra loco controls to the two already fitted on the main controller
This switch controller
unit can control up to 16 switches. More switches could be
controlled by adding an extra unit. Switches could also be controlled
by a computer connected to the main controller via a RS-232 interface.
Power to the system is supplied by this power supply
(larger box on the
left) and power to the tracks is supplied by the booster unit
box on the right). Total power output is unkown, but judging from
the case dimension I estimate that power output is about 5 Amps.
Locos need receivers to decode the commands and Kato had supplied at least two different versions.
Kato receiver A
, made to fit their H0-scale DD51 diesel locomotive.
Note the absence of surface-mounted electronic components and the bulbs
fitted to the printed circuit board.
Kato receiver C
, smaller than reciever A. This reciever would fit most H0-scale locos, but is still large to 2006 standards.
unit provides a primitive form of sound output.
Kato's switch receiver
. This unit is made to control Unitrack switches,
with have a 2-wire connection and feature a special point-motor wich
requires DC-pulses. The polarity of the DC-pulses determines the
direction of the point blades.
No system is complete without a guidebook. Kato's guidebook was only publised in Japanese.
The 2 different locos that Kato supplied with a factory-fitted
receiver. The electric loco at the top is an EF58 class 1500V DC
electric locomotive, the diesel is a DD51 class diesel-hydraulic
Modelling Layouts Modeller's
model news page. A quick overview of everything that is announced
by the various manufactures plus site updates etc.