Is the Kato U.P. FEF-3 the holy grail of N scale steamers?

tiffany nw-2 Feb 4, 2016

  1. tiffany nw-2

    tiffany nw-2 TrainBoard Member

    Hello Guys and Gals......

    Is the Kato U.P. FEF-3 the holy grail of "N" scale steamers ? I saw the pictures close up of the Kato
    FEF-3 4-8-4 steamers and i was impressed with the quality of how well its made, like for example
    it has fully connected mult-piece siderods, use of coreless motor and large dual flywheels and
    scale down flanges to use on code 55 rails. Today's steamers still uses one piece siderods and
    not fully connected to the drivers and has plenty of slop in it. So i oredered one from Mike &
    Robin Fifter. I was very impressed with the way the siderods are connected to the drivers see
    the photos on spookshow net. It really blew me away when seeing the photos of it. I used to
    work for the dept. of defnese as a Q.A. mech. inspector rank gs-9 until forced retired in 1986.
    I know quality when I see trains. I had N scale brass steamers and they are not even close in
    quality to the Kato FEF-3 locomotive !!!!!!!! The sad thing is that there are still a lot of junk trains
    out there !!! I cannot wait for mine to come in few days hee hee. My Kato NW-2 switcher is very
    well made as i spend a lot of time looking at the construction of it and wow !!!! I am Kato fan !!!!

    tiffany nw-2
    mtntrainman likes this.
  2. chinapig

    chinapig TrainBoard Member


    I hear a lot about how good this loco is. However, my own experience is varied.

    I think the tolerances are perhaps too fine. Are the flanges on the wheels finer than the NMRA standards? I've had all sorts of problems getting mine to stay on the rails whilst pulling a train up a 2.5% gradient on a 13.5" radius helix - it's advertised as 11" (282mm) minimum turning radius on ground level track so I would have thought it should manage it. In the end I removed the leading wheels off the trailing truck and it seems to have done the trick - visually it hardly notices...

    Mine came shipped with an extra traction wheel on one of the non-traction wheeled drivers. Yes, one set of axles had one traction wheel without the traction tyre and one normal wheel. It took me a while to realise why it kept nose diving at the turnouts. Kato sent me a new set of drivers to replace them with as I live in the England and didn't want he expense of sending it back.

    Also, I think I prefer the loco body detail as "added on" parts rather than the moulded on style Kato have adopted. I realise the way Kato have gone is more cost effective and durable.

    Apart from these points it's a fine loco.

    Cheers, Ted
    steamghost likes this.
  3. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

    I don't like threads like this because they make me want to pull out my wallet and order one. :)
    JoeTodd likes this.
  4. Carl Sowell

    Carl Sowell TrainBoard Supporter


    I'm not sure that I would tag it as the holy grail just yet. It is well engineered, I think, it runs smooth and very well in general. But I want to see what it is like after it is run for 3-4 years. It is, IMHO, the best N scale steamer available today. If you have not seen one running look at my attached video and check it out. Since this vid. was shot I have added an ESU Loksound Select Micro with a Knowles Dumbo speaker. Hope you enjoy.


    Last edited: Feb 4, 2016
    steamghost and BoxcabE50 like this.
  5. arbomambo

    arbomambo TrainBoard Member

  6. tiffany nw-2

    tiffany nw-2 TrainBoard Member


    Hello Carl..............
    thank you for the video, i sure see it running smooth.

    tiffany nw-2
  7. tiffany nw-2

    tiffany nw-2 TrainBoard Member

    Hello arbomambo...........

    I see the video that it sure looks running smooth, is this your layout ?

    tiffany nw-2
  8. arbomambo

    arbomambo TrainBoard Member

    the still photos are taken on a few of my T-Trak modules; the video is taken on one side of the Kingman Canyon layout...definitelt a work in progress- no real scenery done apart from some basic foam carvings painted a sand color.
  9. jdcolombo

    jdcolombo TrainBoard Member

    Is it the holy grail?

    Simple answer: No. "Holy grail" implies something that never can be improved upon. Even the FEF can get better - for example, it's not designed for a simple conversion to sound, so that's something Kato could work on (Bachmann's steamers, OTOH, either already have sound or are set up so that you can add it pretty simply in the tender). So "holy grail" it isn't, but it is the best-running and pulling steam loco currently available in N scale. If Kato produced a Berkshire similarly-engineered, I'd buy a dozen of them in a heartbeat.

    John C.
    rogergperkins and gcav17 like this.
  10. steamghost

    steamghost TrainBoard Member

  11. silentargus

    silentargus TrainBoard Member

    I love mine; it's a fantastic engine (11" minimum is generous- mine gets around 9-3/4" without any problems at all, even if it looks silly as heck doing it) and it makes me really, really hope that Kato will do east-coast steam at some point in the future. Apply all the excellent design choices in the FEF-3 to, say, a Pennsy T1 or NYC Niagara? Gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
  12. gcav17

    gcav17 TrainBoard Member

    Wasn't the kato / Con Cor Hudson considered the holy grail at one time and still considered a grade A locomotive? Its simple easy design and excellent pulling power makes it top notch in my book. I have only seen the FEF in the hobby shop, and in videos, And it looks awesome! I would give it time before considering it the holy grail. Its a first run with hopefully more coming.
  13. tiffany nw-2

    tiffany nw-2 TrainBoard Member

    hello guys............

    Well i got mine last friday and today i was running it for first time on a 36 by 80 door using Kato 15 inch radius curves and long straights track.
    For first time i placed it on the track the 844 took off very smoothly using the MRC railpower 1370 pack at setting od 35 to 45, the engine was very
    smooth which i was much surprised as all of the past steamers i had (1970's to late 1980's) never ran well so i lost faith in steamers but there was one steamer con-cor early hudson with plastic siderods and that one was very good runner for its time. Its too bad they stopped making it but Kato could take over the tooling and add coreless motor, metal siderods etc. At least the Kato FEF-3 is a holy grail engine to me !! after all those years ( i started in N scale in 1970 with my first bachmann 4-8-4 that came in green box)

    tiffany nw-2
  14. oldrk

    oldrk TrainBoard Supporter

    That Kato is just a tiny bit better than the Bachmann 4-8-4 from 1970. LMAO. Had one. What a memory.
  15. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

    The FEF is not the 'Holy Grail'. First of all it is UP engine. That alone is enough to disqualify it from any consideration. Second, the Holy Grail was supposedly the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper and also used by Nicodemus to collect Jesus' blood at the crucifixion. I doubt if the FEF will hold a liquid. Third, SPF's get a bad rap but are nothing compared to SUPF's. :ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO:
    pastoolio and gcav17 like this.
  16. tiffany nw-2

    tiffany nw-2 TrainBoard Member

    hello oldrk................

    How can the old bachmann 4-8-4 be even close to the kato 4-8-4 ? When i got little older, i starting to tinker with them in trying to make it
    quieter and smoother. This old model has low grade 3 pole motor, no fly wheel, square sloted frame for the round axles as the axles sit in the frame,it is very sloppy fitted as there was not much i could do at the time. The drivers was not squared on its axles thus wobbles when running
    it made a lot of gear noises even when it has grease in it. The siderods was only connected to second, third and fourth driver axle, the first axle
    didnt have a siderod and the rods are black plastic ( the siderods were pretty good for its time). The wheel sets on the tender is rather crude. I bought a few to try to improve up on it as years go by. I gave up on it but as least i got it to run( better than nothing) and just accepted it as it is. 46 years later i took a another chance and purchased the kato FEF-3 as i did a lot of seaching for close up photos of its construction from youtube and spookshow and was very surprised in what i saw in the photos. The first time i put it on the track as i turned the throttle of the power
    pack ( MRC railpower 1370) the 844 moved very smoothly i was even more surprised !!! oldrk how can this kato engine be a "bit" better than that
    old 1970's bachmann as you stated ? I see the kato engine is light years ahead of this old bachmann in terms of quality, fit and finish and wieght. The price is not bad for what it is compared to H.O. and O scale models of the same type of engine goes for. I paid 206. dollars for it from Mike Fifer, could have shopped around for lesser price but i wanted to help support Mike and Robin as they are the only N scale dealer i believe in west coast as i am tired of ordering from east coast for more than 40 years ( my goodness has it been that long !!! LOL)

    tiffany nw-2
  17. tonkphilip

    tonkphilip TrainBoard Member

    The Kato 844 is a game changer. The electrical pick-up with equalized driver suspension and the low voltage coreless motor is extraordinary. My dirty garage prevents my trio of Kato F3s from operating except at 60 mph, without weekly wheel cleaning. However, I have not cleaned the wheels or track under my 844 for three months. But, it still sets off at a smooth 10 miles per hour, with an 11 Car UP COLA train. That is amazing and it looks good too. - tonkphilip
  18. rrjim1

    rrjim1 TrainBoard Member

    Still could be a lot better, sets off at 10 mph is far from ground breaking.
  19. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    With the right decoder and settings, it is fully capable of a nice slow creep
  20. rrjim1

    rrjim1 TrainBoard Member

    Yes, but you shouldn't have to try different DCC decoders and adjust for two days just to get it to run Good. It should run Good right out of the box, and Great with some work.

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