Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Guest Blog: Train Trax

Ian Miller


My name is Ian Miller. Phil has kindly allowed me to tell you a bit of a story about me, KATO and Train Trax.


At the end of 2021 I was fed up with my old IT systems job and decided it was time for a change. The prospect of an approaching 40th birthday made me think that life would be more fun if it could involve more trains, and more independence.


I have been a dabbling modeller in OO gauge for quite a while, with a quite conventional, unfinished, British outline freelance loft layout. In addition I'd been buying, cleaning up and selling models online to help fund the hobby. I found this almost as rewarding as running trains.


I had some ideas about how I could make this a full-time occupation, but in the end an accidental discovery led me along the journey to acquire the Train Trax website ( in January. Train Trax exclusively sells KATO products in Ngauge. Keith, the previous owner who had run it for 14 years, had decided to take a long overdue retirement.


So I collected a very full van load of N gauge stock from Surrey. Included was a mass of Kato Unitrack, Japanese trains of all types, North American locos, wagons, buildings and all the accessories. On arrival at my brand new HQ in York I had to make sense of it all - I had dealt with very little N gauge or KATO stock previously!


I was first drawn to the trains which I was familiar with in real life: the Class 800 in LNER and GWR liveries, the Eurostar and TGV. My first impression was how intricate and good value they were. Once I'd had a good play with those I then explored the rest of the range of trains. They always find that they work straight out of the box - pop them on some Unitrack and off they go with no fuss.


Unitrack was probably the biggest revelation to me. It just clicks together and is ready to go. Fantastic Japanese precision engineering. There's no need for fettling of joints or soldering, and it can be re-configured repeatedly. The aesthetics of it might not suit the finescale purist, but for me reliable running beats that, and it's still perfectly possible to ballast and weather it to blend it into a scenic layout. I wish I'd known about it before I'd laid my own track, as I could have avoided a lot of hard work and frustration!


The previous owner of Train Trax recommended that I join the N Gauge Society, and I'm glad that I did. I found the local area group a friendly bunch, and by co-incidence found that they were experimenting with T-TRAK - a modular layout standard that relies on Kato Unitrack. One thing led to another, and now I'm retailing the laser-cut module kits that the group has designed.


Seeing the variety of stock that the group runs - UK, European, Japanese and North American has reminded me that one of the best things about the world of railways is the variety of different ways of doing things around the world. From very little previous interest, I now find myself researching the history of different North American loco liveries on behalf of my customers!


It's been a fun journey with Train Trax so far, but not without its challenges. Along the way I've learnt about global logistics and search engine optimisation. I now find myself running a small business in an incredibly difficult economic climate, so support from all the loyal customers that have continued to buy while the business was transferred is particularly valued. What next for Train Trax? KATO continue to have an interest in the UK market, via partners Gaugemaster and PECO, and are releasing new products every month, so there's plenty of excitement still to come.


If you want to follow the latest updates from Train Trax, follow me on Facebook and/or sign up for fortnightly emails.

Ian Miller

Train Trax

Phil: I've not been paid for this blog post, but I'm happy to host it as a way of helping out people in the hobby. It appearing here in no way counts as an edorsement of the company. For all I know he's operating a Victorian sweatshop with small children being forced to do all the work. I doubt it, but I'll admit I haven't checked. I do like Unitrack though - used it in the past and it's great stuff.


IanM said...

I must admit that during school holidays I sometimes get help from my 9 year old son to do the packing, but I pay him in apple juice and chocolate biscuits, so that's not slavery is it?

Phil Parker said...

Apple juice and chocolate biscuits? They don't know they are born. In my day we had to make do with gravel and a leathering. Grumble. Grumble. :-)