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Discussion Starter #1
Pardon what is probably an often asked question but on my phone and headed to hobby store.
Do HO freight cars come with Kadee couplers? If not, what do they have and do they work like Kadees? Compatible with Kadee magnetic uncouplers?

what do Atlas Trainmaster series knuckle couplers us to uncouple?

Want reliable hands-off uncoupling such as I’ve seen demonstrated by SplitRock mining YouTube videos.

Better to buy with Kadees or convert?

thanks!

(Don’t forget to vote.)
 

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It all depends what manufacturers you’re talking about...Athearn cars come with plastic McHenry knuckle couplers.....Atlas cars come with Accumates.....Walthers Mainline and Proto cars come with metal, Kadee clone knuckle couplers....Bachmann cars come with EZmates plastic knuckle couplers.....Rapido cars come with what they call a McDonald Cartier metal knuckle coupler, which is a clone of a Kadee.....

All have the metal pin to allow for magnetic uncoupling....

In other words, it varies, and depends on the manufacturer.....

I convert all plastic knuckle couplers to Kadee....
 

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In general most makes of knuckle couplers are compatible with each other. However, Kadee
is the gold standard. I have had cars with most makes. I had few problems after proper
vertical alignment. That is important. Get the plastic version of the Kadee alignment
tool. Use graphite or other dry lubricants to keep the couplers operating
smoothly. Make sure the 'hose' is properly aligned. There are factors to keep in mind, Few will couple on a curve. Uneven track
can cause unwanted uncoupling. Learn to use the HOG method of uncoupling. You'll
find that there are places you 'wish' to uncouple but have no 'magnets'.

Don
 

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Might I add regarding loco's with dcc, there is a thought that its better to use plastic couplers due to the possible issue of electric conductivity between loco's which has been known to occur on older loco's resulting in letting out the magic smoke or losing control of the loco. This is not relevant to loco's which have a plastic box that the coupler goes in, but older ones where the coupler is in direct contact with the loco chassis.

As i have several older Athearn, as such I am using McHenry plastic couplers on all my loco's with exception of 3 as the McHenry's still have the metal pin for magnetic uncoupling.
 

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To me nothing beats original Kadee metal knuckle couplers... Near everything issued last 15-20 years have knuckle couplers of different makes but compatible with one another... Just keep a sharp eye out for older equipment you might be looking at on say, ebay..Allot of time if the price is really low they might have earlier 'horn hook' couplers which do not mate with knuckle couplers and do not look like real couplers...
 

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Only a few brands actually install "real" Kadee brand couplers; but they all basically install some sort of compatible knock-off. The old "horn-hook" one-piece plastic couplers that were the unofficial standard before Kadee are mostly only found in older kits and cars from years ago that you might have found at the bottom of a bargain bin or used consignment.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for all the inputs. Went by Discount Model Trains in Addison and they were very helpful. Got a couple of Kadee uncoupler magnets and some Walther's Proto freight cars to tinker with. Turns out the "DCC Starter Set" I got from Dibble's included some freight with knuckle couplers, so I'll try those out, too.

All of my 1970's stuff has horn-hook couplers, including a bunch of ore cars. Hopefully I can convert these as they are "like new" -- football and girls happened soon after the purchase and they've been packed away since.

Thanks again.
 

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Only a few brands actually install "real" Kadee brand couplers; but they all basically install some sort of compatible knock-off. The old "horn-hook" one-piece plastic couplers that were the unofficial standard before Kadee are mostly only found in older kits and cars from years ago that you might have found at the bottom of a bargain bin or used consignment.
Oh, for sure !! I still have quite a number of them from the late 50s I never had the heart to toss nor desire to convert..! Ever since "Alien" had come out I always thought the horn hooks look like it from the top view !! Dang !..I guess this is a little late for Halloween !! M
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Learn to use the HOG method of uncoupling. You'll find that there are places you 'wish' to uncouple but have no 'magnets'.

Don
Thanks... Just wish my hand was as steady as God's. And vision as sharp. I usually cause a minor derailment that I can't see. I'll just have to practice.
 

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If you are converting old cars, I've found it important to convert to body mounted couplers at the same time. Nothing causes derailments like a combination of body and truck-mounted couplers passing over a couple #4 switches...
 

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Remember in "The Graduate" where the guy takes Dustin Hoffman aside and says "I've got one word for you son... plastics" ??

When it comes to HO scale railroad couplers, I've got one word for you:
Kadee.

I've got Kadee couplers from Train Miniature boxcars/reefers that I put together from kits in the 1970's, that still work like new.

IF a car comes with another make of coupler, I'd try using it "as it comes out of the box" first. It may work well enough.
But if you start having problems, replace 'em with Kadees.

The #148 "whisker" coupler (standard length shank, standard head) is a good place to start...
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I set out a piece of Atlas 36" (non-flex) and put my two new Walthers Proto cars on it. The track is very old and the ties looked more brown than black to me. So I put the Kadee code 83 uncoupler magnet on it and tried it out. No luck. Turns out the track was code 100, (doh) so I swapped the magnets to the code 100 magnets. Uncoupling worked. Not 100% reliably, but the more I exercised the couplers the better they worked. I call it a win. Just wonder if stronger magnets would be more reliable.

The big winner to me was the Walthers Proto -- immaculate.
The big loser was the Athearn cars I got with my "DCC starter set" from Dibbles. Coupler height was way off. Axles were stiff, very stiff. Couplers appear to be all plastic and so the magnet uncoupling was n/a.
 

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Athearn couplers are McHenry, which Athearn bought out a while back.....the metal pins on them should work for uncoupling, but yeah, I replace all my Athearn couplers with Kadee #5’s......
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Athearn couplers are McHenry, which Athearn bought out a while back.....the metal pins on them should work for uncoupling, but yeah, I replace all my Athearn couplers with Kadee #5’s......
I'll try some of the others then. They all need some graphite. They've been in the original boxes, never opened, in hot/cold storage for a few years. Maybe a little maintenance will bring them back to life.

Will be a good test of my skill in replacing them with Kadee #5s. Thanks for the tip.
 

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I'll try some of the others then. They all need some graphite. They've been in the original boxes, never opened, in hot/cold storage for a few years. Maybe a little maintenance will bring them back to life.

Will be a good test of my skill in replacing them with Kadee #5s. Thanks for the tip.
jackpresley;

Your Kadee coupler gauge should have come with a little .005" thick metal plate that is used for setting the magnetic trip pin (aka "air hose" or "glad hand") height. The trip pins should each be adjusted with needle nosed pliers until the bottom of the pin just touches the top of the plate. This will put the trip pin .005" above the rail top, regardless of rail code. The trip pin also needs to be checked for horizontal position. It's supposed to be in line with the larger, right-hand, part of the coupler knuckle,. when viewed from the top of the car looking over the end of the boxcar roof, & down at the coupler.
The Kadee couplers come with a little printed instruction sheet that has diagrams for both adjustments.

By the way the other end of the Kadee coupler gauge (the one without the coupler) is an anvil shaped tab to measure car floor height above the rails. This end is very handy when you body-mount couplers. Before mounting the coupler, check the car floor height first. You may need to shim it up higher with washers around the truck kingpins, or shim the coupler box down, to get the right height. Flat cars, and some tank cars, can be "coupler height challenged." (aka a pita) Kadee makes special couplers with underslung and over slung coupler shanks for these situations.
One critical thing about keeping cars coupled is having an exact height match between couplers. "Close enough" is not good enough.
The Kadee coupler gauge itself has some problems in this regard. First its coupler is free to move up and down a bit, it's not rigidly fixed.
Second, the whole measurement is dependent on "eyeball calibration." Many of us are old enough that our eyeballs went out of calibration years ago. I modified an NMRA track gauge to make a more accurate, "go or no go", gauge for coupler knuckles and trip pins. (see photos) I can just hold the NMRA gauge on the track and roll the car up to it. The knuckle needs to fit through the top hole, and the trip pin through the bottom hole just touching the top of that hole.

The other critical factor in keeping cars coupled is good trackwork. If your cars can move up and down as they roll along, they're likely to uncouple sooner or later. The track needs to be free of bumps and sharp changes in elevation. Grades need "vertical easements" (sections of milder grade) at the top and bottom, to prevent couplers from getting out of vertical alignment.
Turnouts can be another trouble spot, not only for derailments, but also for unwanted uncouplings. The file "Improving Atlas Turnouts" (attached) covers both issues. Gluing styrene shims in the frog and guardrail flangeways, helps prevent derailments, and also keeps cars from bouncing or swaying as they pass through the turnout. The bounce/sway movement can tend to lead to uncoupling on the turnout. The pertinent part of the file starts on page eight. The first seven deal with other potential problems in the Atlas "Snap Switch" turnout. The shims and the bounce effect apply to all brands of commercial turnouts except Micro Engineering, not juts to tha Atlas Snap Switches. The file "A lot about couplers" contains more information on the subject.

Good Luck & Have Fun;

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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