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Title: My Kato GS4 "Loco from Hell" is back


FloridaBoy - June 18, 2010 06:26 PM (GMT)
I have been all over all of the boards on this. Late April, I purchase a brand new Kato GS4, a steamer I have been drooling over for quite some time, from my LHS who offered me a juicy discount. Seeing I had a little disposable income in my burning pockets, I went for it.

The second I got it home, I took it out of its too-tightly-packed box and the tender comes apart, and a couple of parts go flying. This loco picks up electrical juice from the tender only, so it sat for a week until Kato sent me replacement parts n/c.

I put the parts in, loco back to manufacturer's instructions, and I take it a few times around my all Kato Unitrak regularly-maintained mainline. Oops, a traction tire splits, gets jammed up in the axle of its driver and wobbles around like a sick duck. I consult the Kato website which in essence says I am on my own, but what do I do to get traction tires and other parts now? While in the loco, the front pilot truck springs fly out into never-never land, and now I send the entire loco in its original box to KatoUSA with a letter.

I wait for 30+ days with no word or acknowledgement of receipt, and finally get an invoice for $45 from them to cover repairs. So much for warranty.....but after all this loco was old......almost 20 minutes. They even wanted $30 to "clean up" a brand new loco.....so what is that all about? It was NEW.

By now I am so beaten into the dirt, I send Kato a check, and again no word, no check cashed for 3 weeks, and I call them out of desperation and coincidentally, Customer Service has the unit in their hands that moment (right) and will send it out "right away". It takes 5 days to get here.

Now it just arrived, and I have already decided to sell the unit in a few months when some poor but knowledgeable Kato-nut will spring for it on eBay with my full explanation, but it has been overhauled by KatoUSA, and after the factory inspection, this loco should be in super inspected high performance shape. Meanwhile Victor Miranda advises me that GS4s spring traction tires all the time. Hasn't Kato realized that we Americans are in a real pickle financially, and selling an intricate and explosive $200 locomotive is just not in the program?

I will test it and box it then store it for a few months. Meanwhile, I am depending on a ConCor/Kato Hudson streamlined painted Daylight colors to pull my Daylight consist, or a Model Power Pacific in SP. God help a rivet counter when he sees what I have pulling my Daylight set.

Again, KatoUSA should be ashamed of themselves, as the issues I described are not necessarily unique to this loco, but to all of them in general, because they are design issues and not workmanship. To charge that amount retail and not stand behind them lends me to overlook any new Kato diesel and look toward alternative manufacturers. I have a lot of Kato diesels which are easily reparable, thank God. But the steamers are the problem and I have a whack of them.

I am not crying, as I do not make a good "victim' but if this GS4 doesn't cut in on the new break-in period, I will shout it from the rafters. Maybe I can charge a nickel per view on a website, take a sledge hammer to it just to break even........

Ken "FloridaBoy" Willaman


rschaffter - June 19, 2010 12:05 PM (GMT)
Mine ran poorly at first; turns out thetrailing truck wheelsets were askew, but perhaps that can be chalked up tp the USPS. It runs well, but I really haven't run it extensively.

Because of the issues I read about, I picked up a pack of extra traction tires the last time I ordered from Klein's, but Walthers doesn't handle them...

Walkercolt - June 22, 2010 04:10 AM (GMT)
Ken, I dunno. We ran three of the at the OKC train show in Dec for about 24 hours each with the full Daylight and add-on cars without a hitch. These were different members running them. Except for brute-force pulling power, I put the Daylight's up there with the Challengers and Big Boy's. We sent one back of about 20 sold, and that one we wondered if it was "operator error". Fortunately for me, I don't see a Madame Queen in plastic/hybrid in the foreseeable future. The '34 Hiawatha is on it's way, and I've had four vertibrea fused and a disc replaced, and I'm sooooo broke, I can't pay attention. If Key wants to see a middle aged man cry, they should announce the EF-5 Box-Cabs. Where on eBay do you offer kidneys?

Blazeman - June 22, 2010 01:22 PM (GMT)
On a business trip to Baltimore back in April, I detoured to MB Klein's. While there, a customer came in with with a Daylight he had purchased there complaining "it don't work."

Putting on the test track oval, the clerk fired it up. Loco would move two or three wheel revolutions then freeze. Push a foot or so, give it power and again and again, only a few inches of movement.

One has to remember these machines are assembled by human hands, people who had a rough night, are mad at their spouse, worried about the kids, have a sick parent.....all those things we take to work with us and are expected to overcome while performing our jobs at a high level of efficiency and expertise.

To save a buck, even in China, it is conceivable the QC person has been laid off.

Remember how it was decades ago when buying a car? You didn't want one assembled on a Monday or Friday because the crews were hung over or not focused on their work due to looking ahead to the weekend.

My HO friend has related stories of models so and so purchased that ran like champs while his had to go back to the store.

Really, it's a crap shoot. Only protection is to do a run on on the test track at the store or deal with a reputable internet outfit who will accept the return.

FloridaBoy - June 23, 2010 12:49 AM (GMT)
Blaze,
It ain't workmanship by any means. Unfortunately I have been inside this loco, which I really shouldn't have, and see that they are design issues and not assembly or workmanship.

The tender has way too many little parts picking up power. Since the tender is the only source for picking up juice (makes it easier to isolate for dcc'ers) they are packed in their boxes way too tight. I tried to extract the loco carefully, and the tender just came apart, parts flying.

The second issue is the type of traction tire. I am hearing on another forum that these models are throwing them off all over the place. I have Kato units from the eighties with traction tires intact, so why does a more modern model have flimsy tires?

I have had this running home since it was shipped back, because I know if I put it away, it won't be taken out for a long long time.

Ken "FloridaBoy" Willaman

Calzephyr - June 25, 2010 05:51 PM (GMT)
:blink: I didn't know the GS4 engine didn't pick-up power from its drivers... or... am I mis-reading your post???? :blink:

While I know you're venting about Kato' faux-pas on the GS4 construction... there are some folks who claim to have created traction tires using the Bull Frog Snot product by putting several layers of the stuff in the grooved wheels. I haven't tried it... so I not sure if it actually works.

It doesn't seem as EVEN KATO... can avoid mistakes in there efforts to make a good N Scale steamer... yet... 30 yrs ago they made some reasonably good steamer models with ConCor. What's up with that?

FloridaBoy - June 25, 2010 07:41 PM (GMT)
QUOTE (Calzephyr @ Jun 25 2010, 05:51 PM)
:blink: I didn't know the GS4 engine didn't pick-up power from its drivers... or... am I mis-reading your post???? :blink:

While I know you're venting about Kato' faux-pas on the GS4 construction... there are some folks who claim to have created traction tires using the Bull Frog Snot product by putting several layers of the stuff in the grooved wheels. I haven't tried it... so I not sure if it actually works.

It doesn't seem as EVEN KATO... can avoid mistakes in there efforts to make a good N Scale steamer... yet... 30 yrs ago they made some reasonably good steamer models with ConCor. What's up with that?

I should not have stated it as fact, as I usually state it as fact when I see everything concerned; I didn't. I was told by Kato when I was obtaining the extra parts for the pickup hardware in the tender. It is NOT like the Kato Mike which ran if the tender was picking up juice or not. My unit without the key two needle size parts in the tender which were contact strips from the tender trucks to the drawbar, did not run. Evidently there was no provision in the loco drivers to pick up power.

Second, which is even more startling, Kato states this loco will be able to pull the 16 cars the Daylight usually ran. This is accomplished by One Geared Driver which drives the valve gear hooked to the other drive wheels. To me this taxes the power from the motor to the drivers, as a lot of energy seems to be displaced by the action of one drivers pushing the others. I saw this to be true. All drivers are not geared, but all drivers are connected by valve rods to the others which power each other. I always believed N scale steam compensated for weight by gearing all wheels, but if Kato believes this as shown in their new GS4, they are taking a stand.

Since I have received my unit back, I have ran it a little as now I have a fatalistic attitude toward it. Once the rubber tires break again, I will try Bullfrog Snot, and when that doesn't work, just display what is left. My opinion since running both, is the ConCor unit is vastly superior. I have always supported ConCor as a trusted supplier even through the bad Hudson, bad Northern, and bad E unit period, thinking it will improve, and to me they have.

Kato is experimenting at our expense, and totally at our expense, for I feel I just paid an extra $45 for repairs due to bad engineering on top of the slightly discounted MSRP I paid for the unit. I rationalize this by telling myself it all comes out in the wash, as I have been way ahead on trades and purchase good deals all of my N scale life.

It sort of reminds me of a girl I used to date......very pretty, poor inner character and integrity, superficial, and a total pain in the #@$#@$#. I got rid of the girl, I am stuck with the loco.

Ken "FloridaBoy" Willaman



jackwade - July 24, 2010 11:12 AM (GMT)
For what it is worth the GS-4 doesn't really need the traction tires. I am running the 18 car sunset train without traction tires and I really don't see any difference in power. Now I will admit this is on level track as the only grade I have is a helix that is off limits to long wheelbase locos.

Steam Rules!

Jack

FloridaBoy - July 27, 2010 11:43 PM (GMT)
From this point on, I will shut up regarding my displeasure with the Kato GS4. I replied to a question in the form of a rant on Trainboard, which drew a letter to me from Kato Customer Service and the entire thread was removed from Trainboard. No problemo, Kato, I am stopping the train right here. When I get my ConCor GS4, the Kato one will be sold to a Kato-worshiper when supplies are down and prices are up. After all right this minute it is in perfect condition as certified by Kato on the repair bill.

Talk about a can of worms.

Basically I will advise you that Kato doesn't appreciate your negative opinions and instead want to encourage you to treat this locomotive as "tempermental". All together now, "tem-per-men-tal". So when your chasing what is left of the traction tires on your floor, don't lose your temper, and if you lose those little pickup stirrups on the tender, don't get mental.

Don't say anything but nicey nice things about Kato.

Ken "FloridaBoy" Willaman

rschaffter - July 28, 2010 03:44 AM (GMT)
QUOTE (FloridaBoy @ Jul 27 2010, 06:43 PM)
.  So when your chasing what is left of the traction tires on your floor, don't lose your temper, and if you lose those little pickup stirrups on the tender, don't get mental. 

:lol:

I have been pleased with my first-run unit thus far, but I ordered the kit to fix the issues with DCC well over a year ago, they were on back-order, and I've never received it. Fortunately River Eagle had an extra set of insulating spacers he was willing to share, B) or I'd still be waiting.

Hopefully no one turns me in to the Kato Kops. :ph43r:

absnut - July 28, 2010 04:35 PM (GMT)
Ken, if it's any consolation to you, I can't keep traction tires on my GG1... and, they are a pain to re-install! :angry: Otherwise... runs nice.

Dick

Pete Nolan - July 28, 2010 11:34 PM (GMT)
QUOTE (FloridaBoy @ Jul 27 2010, 04:43 PM)
From this point on, I will shut up regarding my displeasure with the Kato GS4. I replied to a question in the form of a rant on Trainboard, which drew a letter to me from Kato Customer Service and the entire thread was removed from Trainboard. . .

It was removed to a staff forum for discussion, and later returned to the forum.

FloridaBoy - July 30, 2010 10:13 PM (GMT)
Pete,

I see you have and thank you. I intend to behave on Trainboard.

Ken

pennsyguy - August 1, 2010 06:26 PM (GMT)
I don't own a GS4 and I don't model SP so I'll never have any problems with mine! About the flipping traction tires, though: has anyone tried applying a thin layer of Bullfrog Snot in the grove and then attaching the traction tire? Seems like it might help hold the thing in place as well as increasing the stretch fit a tiny bit. You'd probably have to let the Snot dry a bit before experimenting.

FloridaBoy - August 7, 2010 03:39 AM (GMT)
UPDATE

I have my sights on a new ConCor GS4 and intend to purchase it next week when I get paid. In the meantime, I have boxed and packed carefully my Kato unit, but still running a Daylight schemed passenger consist and an old SP passenger consist on my layout. My Daylight consist is powered by either my fantasy Hudson or a Kato E8, while my other consist is powered by a Model Power Pacific and four heavyweights. Thanks to passing sidings, I can run two-store two trains at all time on my layout.

When I receive my ConCor Daylight, my plan is to compare the two and since I had a small windfall, I just might keep the Kato unit, as now it does run nicely, and plan to treat it with Bullfrog Snot. But I am also going to do a "comparo" between the two just to answer some questions about both units.

I probably was a little rash by comparing a unit I had on hand versus a unit I sold a few months earlier basing my opinion on memory. So this time I will do an eyeball to eyeball comparison, and if the two are drastically different, I will report it here.

After reviewing every post regarding this subject, I am thinking if I handle the Kato unit with excessive care and diligence and treat it with Bullfrog Snot, it will be OK, and selling it would not be necessary at least for a while. I don't ever plan to sell the ConCor unit if it runs OK like the last one.

When I had a slight financial downswing, I sold my Big Boy and my GS4 for very nice money, and have regretted it since. But since I stated I was going to sell my Kato GS4, I have purchased another 3 or 4 Kato diesels and they are magnificent, so I am giving my Kato steamer another chance to perform.

However, if it turns out to be greatly inferior to the ConCor unit, I will go ahead with its sale. Now that I have throroughly confused you, just look for the comparo in the next few weeks. Mostly to be compared are the aesthetics and drawbar pull. I am not going to go inside the ConCor unit, that is left for the experts on this forum.

Ken "FloridaBoy" Willaman

FloridaBoy - August 14, 2010 05:14 PM (GMT)
UPDATE[FONT=Arial][SIZE=14][COLOR=red]

Last week, I decided to keep my Kato steamer and treat the defective traction tires with either paint or Bullfrog Snot, and run it only on occasions. I just received my "new" Con Cor GS4 via mail from an eBay seller, and test ran it. It runs great!!!!!! Maybe my standards were lowered as my Kato unit barely made it once around my layout before blowing out a tire.

For kicks, I put them "nose to nose" like that old historical Transcontinental moment.

For being models of the same locomotive, they are strikingly different. The ConCor units seems larger, but that is because the streamlined smoke deflector on top of the boiler is about 6-8 scale inches higher than the Kato counterpart. The colors are both almost identical. The tenders are pretty much identical in both size, detail and location of details. The other difference noted on the side by side is the curved "flair" streamlined siding from the pilot to above the driver wheels are different, but both on their own look like the prototype.

The other aesthetic difference is the ConCor unit has whitewalls, making it a "very handsome" locomotive. But I have seen photos of the real GS4 with and without whitewalls so that is no big deal. I think the original had them and the rebuild did not. Plus all those tire changes...........

As far as running goes, both run quietly and smoothly, but the Kato runs slightly smoother, but not by much. Of course the simulated Mars light on the Kato unit and the side boiler lights make it a little more snazzy on the mainline, but nothing is to be taken from the Con Cor unit.

Last but not least, I plan to run my ConCor unit, and my "fantasy" Hudson, and my new Kato SD90ACe in UP/SP Heritage (Daylight) colors when running my Daylight passenger consist. These units will hold up just fine.

My buy mode over the past three months was more prolific than I ever planned, and now with this last acquisition, my buying will end for a few months. But it has been fun!!!!!!

Ken "FloridaBoy" Willaman




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