Couplers: Part 1

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  • Member since
    December, 2008
  • From: Florida, USA
  • 96 posts
Couplers: Part 1
Posted by Narrowgauge on Monday, January 15, 2018 9:16 PM

I thoroughly enjoyed Kevin Strong's article "Couplers: Part 1", but found it to be lacking in some basic information that a new Garden Railroader should be aware of. I appreciate that Kevin, like me, is primarily a 1:20.3 modeler but there are other scales available.

 

There are three other very prevelant couplers that were not even mentioned. The first is Aristo Craft. Although they are no longer in business, their product will be around for a good time in the future and is a prime product line on eBay. Their couplers are favored by some modelers and shunned by others, but none the less are still there. The couplers are scaled at 1:29 (ish) and are fairly reliable, especially when coupled in kind. Inter manufacturer coupling is a mixed bag.

 

The second is the Bachmann 'Big Hauler' line of couplers. These are both very prevelant and still available both on new rolling stock and as parts from the Bachmann store. The Big Hauler line is also a very prevelant product line on eBay. The couplers are scaled to 1:22/1:24 (ish) and are moderately reliable. They can be dis-assembled and made to work more reliably by removing any flash on the drop pin, and a dry lubricant added. They will mate with many of the other coupler manufacturers provided the centeline is the same and the droop is removed from the loose fitting coupler mounting.

 

The third brand is USA Trains. These are still availabe new, although unless the modeler runs entirely USA Trains couplers, they are not a favorite. They are scaled at 1:32 (ish) and don't play well with others.

 

I can speak from personal experience that the Kadee 'G' scale couplers will couple reliabley with Bachmann Spectrum coupler, Bachmann 'Big Hauler' couplers, and AMS 1:20.3 couplers. I can also attest that the Kadee 'G' scale couplers and Bachmann Spectrum couplers are interchangeable in the coupler boxes.

 

I would like to see this information included in the next part of the article, or as an addendum to this first part as I feel it is a significant omission.

 

Bob C.

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • From: Centennial, CO
  • 1,191 posts
Posted by kstrong on Tuesday, January 23, 2018 11:34 PM

Bob, I touch on USA and Bachmann couplers in part 2, though not to the point of showing how to disassemble them to make them operate better. (I remember such an article back in the mid 90s written by Art Mitchell up in Fort Collins on improving Bachmann couplers and operating them prototypically if anyone is interested.) I shied away from Aristo couplers mostly because they are now out of production, so it's difficult to get them off the store shelf as replacements for converting your entire fleet. 

 

Bachmann's couplers do work well, and have the advantage of having Kadee-style draft gear which make adding them to existing rolling stock fairly simple. That, and they have two coupler heights and adaptor shafts so you can go from one to the other. USA's couplers don't come with any kind of draft gear, being designed for truck-mounted applications. You can retrofit USA couplers onto other manufacturers' trucks with minimal effort. You can also body-mount a USA Trains coupler, but there is no draft gear associated with the USA coupler. Using them in a body-mounted situation would require the same mechanics as using a Kadee straight-shank coupler. It works, but after years of using the Kadee straight shank couplers on my dad's railroad, I've found the couplers with draft gear to be worth the extra money in terms of ease of installation and long-term reliability. 

 

Later,

 

K

  • Member since
    December, 2008
  • From: Florida, USA
  • 96 posts
Posted by Narrowgauge on Saturday, January 27, 2018 9:07 PM

Kevin,

 

I did not mean to include my commentary on improvements in your article. I did wish to see the couplers mentioned as many new comers that shop 'the Bay' will likely find these couplers in abundance. It took me several years to make the committment to change over to all Kadee after working this coupler with that coupler to find what worked well together. And another brand I forgot was the LGB knuckle couplers. Although in even shorter supply than Aristo, I think they should get a mention as well. Photos of each, as you have done with the ones in your article for purposes of identification, would be helpful as well.

 

FWIW, Bob C.

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • From: Centennial, CO
  • 1,191 posts
Posted by kstrong on Tuesday, January 30, 2018 11:24 AM

Here's a link to a paper written for the NMRA as part of an attempt to take a stab at large scale couplers.

 

NMRA Coupler Survey 2010

 

Some of the info is a little dated (LGB, for example, is back in business) but the coupler compatibility chart and measurements of the couplers are still relevant as none of that has changed. Note that the "Kuppler" mentioned in the article refers to a coupler that was designed by Aristo-Craft as an alternative for their existing coupler, but never put into production. The upshot of that working group was that we pretty much decided it was a fool's errand to even begin to think about standardizing a single coupler for large scale. Manufacturer support was nonexistant (to put it mildly) anyway. We left things as they were, with recommendations for standard heights but nothing else. 

 

From my own perspective, I adopted Kadees as my standard at a time when you had hook-and-loop, Delton (nearly identical what Bachmann would later produce), and Kadee as your only choices. If you wanted a body-mounted coupler set at a prototypical height, it was pretty clear-cut. That, and the acorns that dropped on the railroad would easily trip the uncoupling levers on the hook-and-loop or Delton couplers. 

 

I now run a mix of Kadee (#1 scale) and Accucraft 1:32 couplers. They're fully compatible, and the Accucraft couplers operate prototypically, allowing me to use funcitoning cut levers on my rolling stock to uncouple my cars when operating. (It's worth noting that my groundcovers do occasionally snag on the cut levers, causing the cars to uncouple. Can't get away from nature's intervention, I guess.)

 

Later,

 

K

 

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