Want to buy first N scale set. Recommendations?

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I'd like to get started and find a used set. I'm not familiar with power output required. ,but would like to find something that I can "grow" into. More power, more track than I need. I have space so it's just a matter of building it out in the future. I am living in JApan and would like to find a used set. Will be back in USA and could pick up something there as well. Where is best place to buy used train sets? Craigslist? on forums like this? My goal is to buy track and equipment, and then perhaps purchase a train set that i like - ideally a Japanese Shinkansen and/or Japanese regional trains. Is there any issue with Kato train sets that are made in USA vs. Made for Japan market in terms of power output/locomotive, etc?

Any advice appreciated.
Well, especially since you're in Japan, I'd go with Kato. At least half of my locos and all of my track are Kato, as well as several accessories.

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Active Member
Do yourself a favor and buy something new to start with. Used stuff can be troublesome and N scale is tricky to work on especially for a beginner.

I'd recommend a starter set.

Before everybody jumps in and says "starter sets are crap" Just because you start with one does not have anything to do with where you will end up. Except that you may find the ease of using a starter set helps you get your feet wet and develops a love for model trains.

I agree with Beady about Kato

http://www.modeltrainstuff.com/N-Sc...rand=Kato&show=30&page=1&search= starter sets

But Bachmann makes starter sets as well.

http://www.modeltrainstuff.com/N-Sc...=3&brand=Bachmann&show=30&page=1&search= sets

Have fun!


Whiskey Merchant
I would suggest trying to stay away from a "set" and would look at buying a quality locomotive. Usually "sets" aren't of the best quality. If you are going to be back in the states, I would look into internet retailers such as MB Klein as Louis mentioned. - http://www.modeltrainstuff.com/ . I order from them and other internet retailers as I have no hobby shops at all in my area, and they do discount their items at a fairly good savings. Kato has probably some of the best locomotives available in N scale.


Active Member
I thought all of Kato's products are made in Japan, even the ones for the US market. Kato makes great stuff. I have their CZ, El Capitan, and Broadway Limited. Which Shinkansen are you looking for? ebay has a lot of stuff, new and used.


Well-Known Member
Staff member
All of my N Scale engines are Kato and they are excellent. I also agree with the others who have recommended staying away from a "Train Set" as the do tend to be a little cheap and, sometimes, nasty.

I'd also stay away from used equipment, especially track. You mentioned you wanted something that you could grow into, larger than what you need. If I were you I would look at Peco Sectional Track, easy to use with very little (if any) guess work, especially for a first layout.

In the US the best and only place to buy model train gear (in my opinion) is Kleins. Very large range, good prices and rarely out of stock.
I thought all of Kato's products are made in Japan, even the ones for the US market. Kato makes great stuff. I have their CZ, El Capitan, and Broadway Limited. Which Shinkansen are you looking for? ebay has a lot of stuff, new and used.
Otis--I love all of the JR trains here in Japan. The N700 Shinkansen is the iconic white and blue train with pointed nose. The world's standard in high speed rail. When I finally get my feet wet I'd like to dabble into the train I take every day to work - it's a purple regional train called Hankyu line. Finally, the Kyushuu Trains are amazing - standard seats are like the luxury "green car" seats on the other Shinkansens. This country is a train nerd's paradise!
Hey Everyone, thanks for all of your great replies. It helped me focus my research. I have a few follow on questions/comments.

1) For an inquiry like this, should I be posting this on the general forum? I'm new to the forum so I'm not sure if it's just those who have commented on this t
hread are getting updates? I'd like to post this to the broadest audience possible. In other words, I'm going to be posting follow on questions about track type, specific Japanese trains, power considerations (100 vs. 120 USA), and other related topics that may be more appropriate for another forum(s)?
Used Train Gear - Japan - various considerations

Hey everyone, thanks again for all the feedback. I'm still learning the ropes of the forum.

Re: Used gear in Japan, the quality of everything is amazing here. At second hand stores, even 15 year old items are in original packaging. Rarely are parts missing, and if they are, the item is deeply discounted. I've bought used stereo equipment here and it worked perfectly. I would not hesitate to buy due to reliability. However, what I am worried about is interoperability between manufacturers (Kato, Tomix, Bachmann, etc) and power supply.

Per my previous post, kindly advise if it makes sense to re-post this on the General forum... Right now it is 'nested' under my original post, titled "Want to buy first N scale set. Recommendations?". This title doesn't really capture the breadth of the discussion. If there were a way to "tag" posts that may solve the issue.



Well-Known Member
Staff member

If you re looking at building a layout then I might suggest you post in the Layout Construction Design forum. You'll probably get more replies in there if nothing else.
1) For an inquiry like this, should I be posting this on the general forum?
I would say this is the perfect category for the post. If you start it in multiple places the conversation can become disjoint.

power considerations (100 vs. 120 USA)
Are you saying that Japan uses a line voltage of 100? That would only be a consideration for the power supply used for the train. The trains themselves should all be pretty compatible at 12V-15V DC, or DCC.

However, what I am worried about is interoperability between manufacturers (Kato, Tomix, Bachmann, etc) and power supply.
Interoperability might be an issue with couplers. There is the predominance of the older equipment out there with the Rapido type as opposed to the newer Microtrains (McHenry) type, and another basket type. That is easy enough to deal with. As I implied above as far as I know the only time power is going to be an issue is when you move from Japan to USA or vice versa if the line voltage is different. I run "all" my N-scale Kato, Bachmann, Atlas, Microtrains, etc. locomotives with the same good old MRC 1400 I use for HO equipment.

*"all" that isn't DCC.
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Active Member
I've never seen or heard of a "nasty" train set. Considering most modelers began with a trainset I would say that I am not alone.



nastier (comparative adjective) · nastiest (superlative adjective)

  • highly unpleasant, especially to the senses; physically nauseating:
    "plastic bags burn with a nasty, acrid smell"

  • (of a person or animal) behaving in an unpleasant or spiteful way:
    "Harry was a nasty, foul-mouthed old devil" ·
    "when she confronted him, he turned nasty"

  • physically or mentally damaging or harmful:
    "a nasty, vicious-looking hatchet"


nasties (plural noun)

  • informal

    an unpleasant or harmful person or thing:
    "bacteria and other nasties"



Well-Known Member
Staff member
Nasty - used in the phrase "cheap and nasty".

An expression describing two similar products where one product is inferior to the other by comparison.



Active Member
No offense Tony, I respectfully disagree.

I own dozens of train sets, I have given away at least another dozen or more in HO, N and O scale. I have yet to come across even a single "nasty" set. Regardless of how broad a definition you use.

Furthermore I have yet to buy even a single one that could be considered cheap. In that they are all have been a good value considering what I paid versus what came in the sets.

Premium sets come with some of the best locomotives money can buy.



In retrospect before I go any further I should ask; What particular set are you referring to?
I would think that since you live in Japan the Kato stuff should be a tad cheaper at the source. Ebay would be the place to look imo they have a huge assortment of used and new gear. Kato stuff is pretty bullet proof so I don't think you could go wrong there and they make quite a few starter sets including track and a power pack. There is no difference in the power packs they sell in Japan vs. what they sell for N. America the voltage differences are just not enough to matter. I have their Hyper DX dual controller that I bought from a Japanese dealer years ago and it works just fine.
Best N-scale locomotive detail (in no particular order):

• Fox Valley Models
• InterMountain
• Broadway Limited Imports

ScaleTrains is a special case and is the premium brand (with premium pricing). Kato and Atlas are also very good, with newer models rivaling the premium brands' level of detail.

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