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Discussion Starter #1
A tangled web
(vs alternative necessities).


McHenry, AccuMate, Bachmann E-Z Mate, etc...
One of these brands of couplers is generally supplied with most low & mid-priced models out-of-the-box. They may be okay for starters, (provided they even function) but they won't last very long at all.
They're plastic, and prone to bend, stretch and deform within a short time, and will soon tend to malfunction... often at the worst times, places and situations that Murphy has to offer.
I consider them all to be little more than junk. In some cases, the old '50's era 'dummy' couplers would be no less effective.
Many Athearn models I have wouldn't even couple with each other!

We have two options:
Either run them for a while, until they fail, or swap them out right away for something better. Whichever option you choose may depend on your budget, wherewithal, and circumstances.

Today, there are really only two alternative coupler choices for reliability:
1.) Kadee
2.) ProtoMax
(There are other, more expensive options, but their compatibility falls into question).

Kadees and ProtoMax are metal. They don't warp, bend, flex, twist, stretch, or break. They're reliable, and they last pretty much 'forever'.
Kadees are supplied on some premium brands of locomotives and rolling stock.
They're also sold separately in a myriad of types and configurations to match almost every application. Online charts will list a multitude of applications and matchups.
ProtoMax are supplied on all Walthers Proto and current Mainline models. They too are available separately.
I have never had to swap out a ProtoMax coupler.

Kadees are sold in 2-pair packs for about $3.50, (LHS price) or in fully assembled config for around a dollar more.
Buying them in bulk (10 to 100) is much more economical, but there may be applications where a single different type is needed.

I used to give the supplied junky couplers a chance to fail. But I soon found that to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Anyway it's too easy to forget... until a failure ocurrs. These days I swap them out 'first thing'.

[Note]: Although I haven't experienced them, Rapido's MacDonald Cartier couplers are supposedly similar to Kadees, but there are price & availability issues.
 

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Mostly the bad and the ugly.

I have been on a used engine buying rampage lately, I'm talking 50/60 engines here and the various types of replacement couplers is astounding.

Kaydee mostly but others too. You would think the people installing these replacements would take some pride in their work and install them correctly.

Not the case, I have seen things that are impossible to describe. Many I have to remove and either reinstall or replace completely.
 

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The thing about couplers is that if we intend to operate, we need to be able to couple and uncouple easily and it seems that Kaydees are the way everyone in that genre of model railroading does it.

I build my own uncoupling ramps using magnets and have had to experiment over the years to the point where I now have an uncoupling ramp that functions fairly reliably. But I'm using Kaydees and haven't found an alternative worth going to.
 

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At this point I'll usually leave then on if they're the ez mates with metal spring. Maybe it's because I rarely run trains longer than 15 cars but I've had pretty good luck with those.

If it's the first generation Ez Mates with the plastic pressure spring arm I'll replace them right away. I made a mistake buying a bunch of those early on and I won't be doing that again.

I use KD148s bought in bulk for almost everything, but my local shop has all the others if I need something special.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
For first-timers who aren't convinced, one of the easiest applications for Kadees is an Accurail kit.
Just 'drop in' a pair of #5's or 148's. All it takes is a small Phillips screwdriver.
 

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Re Kadees and Accurail:

I have a few Accurail wooden reefers that I picked up second-hand, and wanted to replace the factory couplers with Kadees, but...

When I tried Kadee #5's (with the bronze spring), they were "too thick" for the Accurail coupler box. Once the bottom plate was screwed on, things were "too tight" for the coupler to move from side-to-side. If I put the coupler in without the spring, it would move -- but then, no "centering".

So... tried with the Kadee #148 "whisker" couplers.
Guess what? The 148's are "thicker" by themselves than the #5 (without the spring). With the plate on, the 148 wouldn't move freely from side-to-side, either!

The Accurail coupler box is just a mite too "thin" to accomodate Kadees.
And more work than I want to cut them off and replace them with Kadee draft gear.
 

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That's weird....I have almost every kind of Accurail car, and I used Kadee #5's exclusively, with no issues whatsoever.....:confused:
 

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Discussion Starter #10
On Accurail kits I use #5's because I have so many of them. I've had that same issue with a few...
If the draft box is thin, screwing the draft cover down to make contact with the box 'crimps' the sides of the bronze assembly inwards, and causes bind.
Messing with the bronze assembly's height is not really possible.
I just don't screw the cover down past making contact with it, leaving a slight gap. It won't hurt functionality, and if you fear it loosening, add a drop of Loctite to the screw threads.
If it results in a floppy coupler shank, add a Kadee washer.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
There's a secondary cause of this issue...
The floors of some (very few) Accurail draft boxes can be messy... casting burrs & 'splatter', which keeps the bronze assembly from seating properly.
Scrape them out with an X-acto blade.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
At this point I'll usually leave then on if they're the ez mates with metal spring.
I have put metal spring E-Z Mates on cars that are rarely run... like some MW equipment, even the Tichy crane. Also on more-or-less static models like warehouse boxcars and such.
And I don't run ore trains, so the few ore cars that are in the steel mill yard have them. Anything's better than McHenry's!
 
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