Improving and Zurichifying a Kato Tram ~ Sunday, August 24, 2008
The Kato single truck tram (if you can find one) is a nice little model, but like anything, can be improved on.
Its main deficiency is that it is very light, which makes for poor electrical pickup. It's small enough that adding weight is tricky--to give mine a little more heft, I added some square A-Line lead weights, and the best way I could find to fit them in was to attach them to the bottom of the roof and cut holes in the top of the main body piece for them to stick down into (this seemed better than glueing them to the mechanism itself!).
Even with extra weight, the car still annoyingly stalled over turnouts--and sometimes even just plain straight track. Helpful members of the NScaleTraction listgroup suggested complete disassembly and cleaning of crud from crucial areas such as the wheel tread, backs of the wheels, and brass pickups. I did so and this really helped. I also added just a smidgeon of goopy lubricant into the worm gear areas.
Another thing that would help is switching from two-rail pickup to live overhead. The pantograph that comes on the car has plastic shoes and limited range, but I discovered that an old Sommerfeldt pantograph that I've had on hand for about 20 years (I ordered a pair of them through this place) fit exactly. The car roof evan has two little pegs that fit into two little holes into the base of the pan. It's as though Kato planned to use Sommerfeldt pans and changed their mind.
I trimmed off the outside edges of the original Kato pantograph, and glued them to the roof alongside the Sommerfeldt one, to give the effect springs and electrical stuff and general "detail".
I haven't yet wired up the pantograph, but when I have a layout with working overhead, I will.
Inspired by our trip to Zürich last fall, I decided to repaint the tram's body in a snappy blue and white livery (my first attempt at masking), with a metallic roof.
Rather than leave the windows clear so that you can see the motor inside, I blackened them, by scribbling on the inside edges with a Sharpie pen.
The model does not exactly reproduce any class of tram that ever ran in Zürich, but is vaguely like a lot some of the single-truck cars that once ran there. The Tram association Aktion Pro Sächsitram (fans of the 6-line) has a picture gallery of vintage Zürich tramcars.
I just wish Kato would make these cars again, because if I could get ahold of a couple, it'd be fun to kitbash a modern articulated car.