JMTN blog

(Japanese Model Train Newsletter)

Kato N700 Shinkansen model review

6 days after Tomix, Kato released their version of the N700 Shinkansen. Here is a review of the model …

The N700 is the latest Shinkansen set running in Japan on the Tokaido/San’yo lines, starting operation on July 2007, and is used on the premium ‘Nozomi’ services. JR Central has the ‘Z’ series, with 81 sets planned, and JR West has the ‘N’ series, with 16 sets planned. When the total 97 sets are constructed in 2011, the current 700 & 500 sets used on ‘Nozomi’ services will be downgraded to ‘Hikari’ & maybe even ‘Kodama’ services, and we will start to see the 300 series being retired 😦

To allow an increase in speed, and shave off a massive 5 minutes in the journey from Tokyo to Osaka, and 13 minutes to Hakata, the prototype has full width diaphragms and a tilt mechanism, both of these which are replicated on the model (the Tomix version has neither). Kato makes the model in the following configuration …

  • 10-547 – 4 car powered set – cars 1, 10 (powered), 12 & 16 (in cardboard box with 4 individual plastic cases)
  • 10-548 – 4 car add-on A – cars 3, 13, 14 & 15 (in 8 car case with 4 empty slots)
  • 10-549 – 8 car add-on B – cars 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 & 11 (in 8 car case)

If you buy all the sets, it can be stored in the 2 hard book cases supplied. Recommended minimum radius is 315mm, and a full 16 car set is 2532mm long, so make sure you have enough storage space for a train of this length 😆

The train is white with 2 dark blue stripes under the windows and light gray underbody details. In a first, Kato have not painted the roof anti-skid walkways dark gray !!! But they have put the yellow car numbers on the roof (Tomix usually supply these as a rub-on), red stripes along the ends, as well as some red squares on a couple of the cars. All cars have car numbers, set numbers, non-smoking signs (all cars are non-smoking, but 4 of them have a smoker’s ‘compartment’), destination signs & N700 logo finely printed on the sides, so there is nothing to add – it is truly RTR out of the box (Tomix will have you add all these details with rub-ons, however you usually get a choice of the set numbers – Kato’s set is numbered Z1). However the destination signs are just printed on the sides of the cars, and do not look like a display inside a panel like the prototype.

The inter-car full width diaphragm representation is an ingenious mechanism which stays narrow on straight tracks or inside corners, and expands on outside corners. All parts are ribbed like the prototype, however when they retract into the body, they are visible through any car doors that are close to the car ends. A small piece of black paper needs to be put behind the car doors to stop this.  Each car has 1/2 of the retracting diaphragm at each end, but only the visible part on one end, so you cannot just join any car to any other car. The extra parts face inward toward the powered car, which does not have the visible part on either end. You can just use the 4 car set + the 4 car add-on together though and they will join up OK. Of course the very visible shock absorber/dampeners that join the cars together are not modelled.

Because of the way the diaphragm and coupler mechanisms interact, it can be hard to join the cars together unless you have everything lining up straight. To join the cars, you just push them together, and to uncouple them, just pull them apart. They are joined together with just a small plastic clip, which I don’t think it is strong enough, as I have found that the car behind the powered car has a tendency to become uncoupled, particularly on corners. I can only get around this fault by running the train in the other direction. A similar problem happened with the Tomix 700 Shinkansen sets using the TS coupler mechanism, which they did not continue to use on the N700 model. There are special instructions showing how to join the cars correctly on the Kato web page (that are not on the instruction sheets provided), but it’s bad luck if you didn’t know about this important link 😦

PC226038 This is the part from the non-visible end of the cars. The gray rod slides inside the body and the lug in the middle sits in a ‘Y’ shaped channel, so that it can slide outwards on corners to lenghtenm the shaft. The gray rod can also slide right across the white part from one side to the other. The slot in the end of the gray rod is the coupler.

PC226039 This is the part from the visible end of the cars. The extra white section that you can see on the right, compared to the photo above, is all you see whne the car is running on straight track, or on an inside curve. Again, the end of the gray rod has the coupler section, that clicks into the slot in the rod above. The prongs in the end of the white part slot into a groove in the surface of the part above, so that they line up together when straight, or slide apart on corners.

PC226040 This is what happens to the parts when the cars go around a corner

PC226046 This is what it looks like underneath just before the cars are joined. You can see how the two gray coupler parts fit together (although I didn’t line up the white ‘prong’ correctly!)

PC226041 This is what the two different ends of the cars look like. The little hook near the top of the LH car is used to hold the middle diaphragm part in a central position.

PC226042 What the two cars look like coupled together on straight track.

PC226043 On an inside curve.

PC226044 On an outside curve.

PC226045 On an S-curve or crossover

The one powered car (the Tomix set has 2 powered cars) runs smoothly, and has a rubber tyre on one wheel on each bogie, although it is a little noisier than I expected. The wheel sets are not blackened, but you can hardly see them behind the low car sides. Underneath the end cars and the powered car is a removable panel which will allow you to slip in Kato’s ‘DCC friendly’ decoders. The end cars have reversible head & tail lights, although Kato still insists on using those terrible blue LED’s 😦

As a comparison, here are the differences between the Tomix & Kato sets …

Kato – 1 power car, Tomix – 2 power cars with power connection through all 16 cars

Kato – full width ribbed diaphragm representation, Tomix – same old smooth inter-car mechanism

Kato – tilts (very slightly), Tomix – doesn’t tilt

Kato – all lettering applied, Tomix – rub-on lettering sheet supplied

Kato – less expensive, Tomix – more expensive

After running the train at several exhibitions, I have found that the cars randomly uncouple, and is not reliable. The Tomix would be a better buy, especially for the reliability of all-wheel pickup.

****** JAN 2009 UPDATE – see HERE for a review of the Tomix version ******


December 22, 2007 - Posted by | Kato, model review, Tomix


  1. A big difference from my vintage Ives, American Flyer & Lionel trains – I got the kAto N700 Shinkansen N-scale for Christmas – My son who was visiting Japan in November sent it Directly from the hobby shop in Tokyo to FL, USA. The 100volt power pack works just fine on the house current here, I did add a surge protector to the outlet, to plug the power pack into – the set runs smooth as silk with no issues, it is awesome. Although everything is printed in Japanese the pictures make it clear enough to figure things out; the transformer, direction / throttle levers are marked in Japanese of course but easy to use: I had no problems.

    Comment by Tim | January 8, 2017 | Reply

  2. Good review and Kato produce a super detailed model but running it is very frustrating. Even running on outside circuit on viaduct track it still derails as mentioned above, Am running out of ideas so likely to be selling on Ebay very soon.

    Any suggestions to track design welcome, problem seems worse on sections with reverse curves although Kato do not mention any restrictions on this radius of track.

    Comment by Steve | October 23, 2009 | Reply

    • Yep – best move I made was to sell my Kato set and get the Tomix version – it is consistently the best runner over a 2-3 day exhibition 🙂

      Comment by redracer | October 24, 2009 | Reply

  3. […] You can read about the prototype train and a review of the Kato model HERE. […]

    Pingback by Tomix N700 Shinkansen model review « JMTN blog | January 14, 2009 | Reply

  4. Great review. Could you do a similar synopsis for the JR 500; I’m considering getting one and I’m unsure as to whether Kato or Tomix is better. Also, do both brands supply the cars necessary to assemble a prototypical 16 or 8 car train? Thanks.

    Comment by David | June 12, 2008 | Reply

  5. yes –

    Comment by redracer | February 22, 2008 | Reply

  6. I mean… I guess please leave an info comment here so I can read it. Thank you!!!

    Comment by Reiko | February 22, 2008 | Reply

  7. I’m in Los Angeles, CA. Do you know any place or website that I can purchase N700 Shinkansen model? Please email me asap! Thanks so much for your help!

    Comment by Reiko | February 22, 2008 | Reply

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    Pingback by Shinkansen - Zealot Hobby Forum | December 22, 2007 | Reply

  9. Yes. There are two kinds of ‘click’ when the clips lock. A light one will result in a disconnection, but a little more practise results in a stronger ‘click’ which keeps things together. My Kato E3 has returned to Japan for investigation because of coupling problems which required each of the cars to be angled to achieve connection, and then the whole train could be placed on the track. Disconnecting each car required the usual angling up, but also a disproportionate amount of force and twisting. I still await a result.

    Comment by Angus McLean | December 22, 2007 | Reply

  10. I have only had the one pair of cars already mentioned uncoupling (so far ) !!! I think it is just because of the weight of the train behind the powered car (which is pushiong the rest of the train) is enough to unclip the coupling mechanism, especially with the extra drag on a curve or incline (or both). Maybe change the powered car to car 15 …

    You may find that the diaphragms are not seated correctly because the clip on one car has not locked into the diaphragm on the other to keep it sitting straight ???

    Comment by redracer | December 22, 2007 | Reply

  11. After a little more operating, I have modified the begining of cant on a reverse curve by 2cm and that has cured the derailing (operator error). However, as Doug notes, the car behind the motor car disconnects regularly, on a curve and in my case, combined with an incline.

    Comment by Angus McLean | December 22, 2007 | Reply

  12. Agree with the above points- uncoupling; noisy motor. Also difficult to rerail a wheelset after a derailment, as the connecting mechanism keeps the two bodies stiff, you find that once you have the errant bogie back on the rails, the adjoining coach bogie is subsequently now off. The diaphrams don’t always cover the gap on some cars (obviously and little binding). The leading bogie of either lead car come off on my reverse curves which have 1mm of cant. They would have been tested for Kato’s canted track, but probably not designed for reverses because the stiffness of the coupling system doesn’t allow enough of this kind of movement. A little bit of weight in the front may help. I have another recent stiff-connected train from Kato which causes a little problem in similar circumstances. Sharp curves don’t seem to be a problem. Both end cars will happily run 255mm curves! Kato’s E2 will derail at 290-300, but all other shinkansen can cope with 285mm. All that is needed is a little shaving of the axle boxes to increase swing, and the modification doesn’t show. Having all the above-mentioned quirks, the set looks very good, and you know you are happy with the purchase when the case is first opened, which allows a ‘blind eye’ approach when running the set.

    Comment by Angus McLean | December 22, 2007 | Reply

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