N Scale Track & Power Supplies

I'm strictly an O gauge person, but I happened to receive an N scale set
(engine and cars only) as a gift. It was still thoughtful so I'm not about
to return it. Plus it's just so damned cute.
The thing is I know nothing about N scale equipment. I've been searching
the net and it seems that the Kato brand is highly regarded. Can anyone
tell me if the "Kato 20-850-1 M1 Basic Oval Unitrack w/ Kato Power Pack (N
Scale)" is of decent quality?
I have no intention of expanding into N scale. Of course I like Chessie
stuff, so I figured I'd get a Chessie engine and a few cars since the set I
was given is Winter/Christmas themed. I found an Atlas Chessie SD50 on the
net, but again I have no idea if the brand is any good.
I just have to be careful. Trains are like heroin to me...
Oh, and I was confused by something else I stumbled across. I was looking
at an Amtrak Acela set, Bachman I think, and it seems that the engine isn't
powered; the Cafe car is powered. So a car is pushing the engine? Why would
they do that?
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Kato is generally considered the top of the line for N scale. That goes for rolling stock, locomotives and track.
Altas is right behind Kato. IIRC at least in the past, they used Kato drives.
Bachman is Bachman. The good stuff..Spectrum...is usually pretty good. The regular stuff is pretty bad, usually. But some items are exceptions, in both directions.
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I've been very satisfied with the operation and detailing of the four Kato locomotives and single late model Atlas locomotive I have. Except for one with a wire that tends to break I've been satisfied with the five late model Life-Likes too. The one with the wire problem ran well after resoldering the wire, but I'll probably need to replace that wire with a new section. The Life Likes are certainly superior in operation to the couple of regular Bachmanns I own, although I haven't purchased any of their Spectrum line locomotives.
Although a little more expensive and sometimes produced in limited quantities the Microtrains rolling stock is hard to beat for coupler action, free rolling AND detail. The two Kato cars I own are excelent as well. Regular Atlas rolling stock has good detailing and rolling function as well (I haven't tried the Trainman yet).
For N-Scale combined roadbed and track the Unitrack works great. Much superior to the competing Bachmann product. I haven't bought any of those expensive Unitrack turnouts though (note these require different remote operation wiring than other brands). Note that if the connectors on the EZ Track track break the section isn't repairable (probably true for Life Like's combined track/roadbed too, although probably less fragile). The joiners on Unitrack are replaceable.
As far as the Bachmann Acela power cars instead of end units: just speculating, maybe to avoid the need to include different powered and unpowered end units in the set (both are powered on the prototype) OR space in the power car allows for more weight (without tapered end or cutouts around a fake pantograph).
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It seems common practice for Bachmann to try and put the power unit at or near to the middle of a mutliple-unit train.I assume it's to equalise performance in either direction.
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Tomix (and I presume Kato) also do this with their bullet train models.
It seems common practice for Bachmann to try and put the power unit at or near to the middle of a mutliple-unit train.I assume it's to equalise performance in either direction.
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Others have already attested to the high quality of Kato's equipment. I echo those opinions. Their sectional track looks better and works better than the competition. Their engines run smoothly. They are the Cadillac (or should I say Lexus?) of N-scale equipment.
It is common practice for them (and others) to place the power unit in the middle of dual-direction train sets. This ensures that half the train is being pushed and half being pulled, whichever direction it's going.
-- Bill McC.
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Bill McCutcheon

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