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Couplers

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Couplers
Posted by Ringo58 on Friday, July 10, 2020 10:49 AM

Looking to switch all my rolling stock and locomotives to one style of coupler for easier opporation. What would you guys reccomend? 

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Posted by csxns on Friday, July 10, 2020 10:53 AM

Their is only one"Kadee.

Russell

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Posted by kasskaboose on Friday, July 10, 2020 10:55 AM

2nd vote (among many) for Kadee #5s.  

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Friday, July 10, 2020 11:01 AM

Kadee is the only option worth considering.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by pt714 on Friday, July 10, 2020 11:03 AM

Kadee is the gold standard and has been for decades. I'll add a caveat, though: how much rolling stock do you have? I've got a very small fleet for my rural shelf layout (1 locomotive and about 15 cars) and have considered switching them all at some point in the future to Sergent couplers, which look amazing. They're pricey, though, and require manual line-up, so I wouldn't recommend them if you're not into hands-on switching or have a lot of rolling stock to convert. 

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Posted by doctorwayne on Friday, July 10, 2020 11:09 AM

I've been using Kadees since 1955, and while there are several other brands compatible with Kadees, they don't offer as many options to fit almost any brand of locomotive or rolling stock.

Wayne

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Posted by peahrens on Friday, July 10, 2020 11:37 AM

I do HO and love the Kadees. 

The #5 coupler is the old standard (oversized) one that fits quite a few rolling stock items.  It has a separate centering spring that goes in the coupler box with the coupler.  Easier to handle is the newer #148 version that has built in whisker centering springs.  The whiskers are hardly noticeable.  I buy the #14 item, a 25-pair pack of #148s that runs about $1.44 per pair.  That #14 pack does not include coupler boxes so I also have some #5s small packs that come with the boxes.

https://www.modeltrainstuff.com/kadee-ho-14-standard-whisker-couplers-bulk-pack-148-25-pair/

For some cases you may need longer or shorter shank versions, so you may wind up buying a few of those when needed.   For unique situations, you can see what couplers are recommended for specific locos and cars here.  There are instructions as well for most couplers.

https://www.kadee.com/convpl.htm

As someone noted, they also offer the "scale" couplers, more realistic and smaller.

 

Paul

Modeling HO with a transition era UP bent

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Posted by Medina1128 on Friday, July 10, 2020 1:10 PM

My de facto standard for couplers was Kadee #5s for decades. That was until they came out with the #148 "whisker coupler". That's all I use, now. I've seen other couple manufacturers claim that theirs are "as good as Kadees". When you compare your products to another's, I'll stick with those until they can claim that they are better.

 

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Posted by snjroy on Friday, July 10, 2020 1:17 PM

There is "style" and there is "brand".  It's hard to argue against KD style and brand. But I have some cars that were bought with KD style couplers from another brand. They don't work as well as KDs. Some are junk, but some work OK. When they break or misbehave, I change them to KDs. Walthers sells a metal protomax coupler that looks a lot like the KDs - I don't know how well they perform... does anyone know? I tend to be a loyal customer myself, but I'd be curious to know how this clone performs.

Simon

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Posted by hornblower on Friday, July 10, 2020 1:31 PM

Don't mess with the OLD Kadee #5.  The new #148 with the built in "whisker" centering springs is SOOOoooo much easier to install that I no longer mess with #5's.  I also like to purchase the #14 pack as it includes enough #148 couplers to equip 25 cars.  If you need coupler boxes, buy the #242 Universal Black Box packet.

Hornblower

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Posted by RR_Mel on Friday, July 10, 2020 2:34 PM

I’m also a KD fan but I’m not a good operator and a jerky train movement on a grade will occasionally cause uncoupling so I went with Shelf Couplers on my passenger trains.  I have always thought that the #5 & #148 are a bit large for HO scale so I now use the KD #119 “SE” Scale Shelf Coupler on my passenger cars.

The shelf couplers work much better (no unwanted uncoupling) and to me the scale couplers look 100% better than the standard #5 or #148.

The #119 works with the #5 & #148 perfectly.  My E7s that are used for pulling my passenger cars have the SE #119.  I tow my Southern Pacific Heavyweight “Lark” passenger consist with Cab Forwards and those tenders have the SE coupler installed.  I also use the Cab Forwards in freight service and the SE couplers work great with the #148 couplers on my freight cars.


Mel



 
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Posted by Lastspikemike on Friday, July 10, 2020 2:41 PM

Kadee #148 whisker version of the old faithful #5.  There's a whisker version of all the Kadee couplers now, I believe. The whisker version is just better than the brass spring type although the old #5 still works reliably.  The steel whisker springs are just pretty much foolproof and given the type of load cycles they will last forever. The other brands use plastic springs that are trickier to install and are easy to kink or break as you do so. The Kadee whiskers do not break, they will stab you though. Just be careful not to trap the whisker in the gearbox and don't kink those wires.

The only Kadee to steer clear of is the restricted space gearbox with the goofy reverse spring assembly. The only dud Kadee in the range. They make a whisker version of this now which is a snap to assemble, literally. You get the snap together version of the gearbox and the regular whisker coupler you need. It's now a snap.

If you need a restricted space gearbox then don't use these:

https://www.kadee.com/ho-scale-couplers-c-272_230_231/38-30series-couplers-medium-centerset-ho-p-272.htm

Which are for the original coupler without an integral spring (the #5 for example)

Use these instead:

https://www.kadee.com/ho-scale-couplers-c-272_230_231/252-small-snaptogether-gearbox-ho-p-335.htm

With the appropriate whisker coupler  

Plus, if you price them out Kadee are cheaper. 

The next best is Walthers Proto followed closely by Bachmann's E Z II. Do not bother with the original EZ, it's not good enough. The E Z II has the thinner shank you need for some applications (oddly most of those are Bachmann products, what a coinkidink. ). You can file down a Kadee shank to fit but that is TEDIOUS. 

I really like the Walthers Proto but they are not better than Kadee and cost more so one does wonder why Walthers bothered to reinvent the coupler.

Unless you absolutely have to, do not fit McHenry couplers. Athearn is making a huge mistake persisting with this fundamentally inferior design. They remain sort of useful for old Rivarossi and IHC passenger cars but only because fitting the much superior Kadee conversion is quite a bit of work. These cars came with McHenry couplers originally, they clip fit which is fairly easy to do. However, they do without draft gearboxes and are not rigid enough for reversing a longish consist.  I have 8 - 10 car passenger consists and the McHenrys cause derailments in reverse over 24 inch radius curves the cars traverse fine forwards.

I assume nobody would voluntarily fit the couplers Rapido insists on using. These Rapido only couplers just aren't as good as Kadee, so, again why, why why? Whither goest though Rapido...and per que?

Although just resuming this hobby after a long interval I have already done my coupler research and field testing. My experience is with all these types of couplers. I have not tried any "scale" couplers and frankly do not intend to. 

One bonus is that these different couplers now all work together reasonably well. So well they show the same deficiencies when coupled to a Kadee as they do when coupled to same brand or even one of the other brands. Pretty funny really.

Kadee to Kadee work pretty much flawlessly so if you can choose stick with 100% Kadee. Still the best and now the most economical. 

Alyth Yard

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Posted by jjdamnit on Friday, July 10, 2020 4:43 PM

Hello All,

Any Kadee!

In any scale!!

My HO coupler toolbox begins with Kadee #5 and pretty much goes sequentially to part #637.

This range includes items from couplers to parts, tools, trucks and wheelsets.

If I were to prioritize my "go-to" coupler is would be the venerable #5, with or without the standard #242 Gearbox.

A solid runner with great performance. I buy these in bulk so I always have a few on hand.

The other coupler in my toolbox is the "Whisker Type" #148.

On these couplers the "springs" are fine wires as opposed to the more substantial brass "springs" on the #5s.

Neither coupler is "superior" to the other. Their reliability relies on the application.

The #148s are most efficient when paired with the #262 "Narrow Snap-together Gearboxes & Lids".

I have fitted all the locomotives and rolling stock on my pike with Kadees, even if they came equipped with "Kadee 'compatible'" OEM couplers.

The Kadee website is a treasure trove of information on not only coupler conversions but all things model train.

Good luck and...as always...

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Friday, July 10, 2020 4:49 PM

Surprise!  Another Kadee guy.  I started doing this years ago with a lot of old cars with plastic wheelsets and horn-hook couplers.  Slowly, I replaced those relics.  The cars basically work much better.

I typically use the closer-to-scale #58 Kadee couplers.  I like the way they look.  I found no problems with interoperability between #5 and #58.

I don't replace #5 couplers.  They work fine.  I will leave Walthers Proto-Max in place too.  But, when I buy rolling stock or locomotives with plastic couplers, they are gone before the equipment ever sees my track.  The fact is, I will end up replacing them anyway, because they will fail, so I just got 'er done right away.  Likewise, I keep a stock of the Kadees I use along with metal wheelsets so I can just build kits right the first time.

I've never had a Kadee fail.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by BRAKIE on Friday, July 10, 2020 4:56 PM

KaDee is the defacto standard coupler of choice. Walthers Protomax II works just as well which means should you buy a Walthers car or locomotive equpped with  their Proto Max II coupler there is no need to replace it unless you are using KaDee 158 scale couplers.

I favor KD #148 "Whisker" couplers.

Larry

Conductor.

Summerset Ry.


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Posted by BigDaddy on Friday, July 10, 2020 5:33 PM

I'm surprised no Sargeant fans have weighed in.

http://www.sergentengineering.com/

I have not seen one in person, so I have no opinion.

After my divorce in 99, all my trains were packed up.  Those "strong" box springs of the Kadee #5 weren't all that strong, when unpacked 15 years later.  Back then I didn't know any better and some of the coupler boxes were glued with CA.

I still have a lot of extra box springs, but I prefer the 148's

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

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Posted by doctorwayne on Friday, July 10, 2020 9:06 PM

BigDaddy
I'm surprised no Sargeant fans have weighed in.

pt714 (fifth post from the top) mentioned Sergent couplers, but also noted that they're not self-centering and are more expensive than Kadees.


If it were affordable and reasonably simple to convert my steam locomotives to Proto-87 standards, I'd definitely consider Sergent couplers, but it's too late in the game for me to change.  Kadee it is!

Wayne

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Posted by Medina1128 on Sunday, July 12, 2020 4:50 AM

RR_Mel
I’m also a KD fan but I’m not a good operator and a jerky train movement on a grade will occasionally cause uncoupling so I went with Shelf Couplers on my passenger trains.  I have always thought that the #5 & #148 are a bit large for HO scale so I now use the KD #119 “SE” Scale Shelf Coupler on my passenger cars.

Is the uncoupling occurring over Kadee magnetic uncoupler? I fixed this by inserting a Kadee coupler knuckle spring (the small spring that keeps the knuckler closed) in one of the wheel axle pockets. It creates enough drag to keep the slack out of the train.

 

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Posted by RR_Mel on Sunday, July 12, 2020 8:21 AM

Medina1128

 

 
RR_Mel
I’m also a KD fan but I’m not a good operator and a jerky train movement on a grade will occasionally cause uncoupling so I went with Shelf Couplers on my passenger trains.  I have always thought that the #5 & #148 are a bit large for HO scale so I now use the KD #119 “SE” Scale Shelf Coupler on my passenger cars.

 

Is the uncoupling occurring over Kadee magnetic uncoupler? I fixed this by inserting a Kadee coupler knuckle spring (the small spring that keeps the knuckler closed) in one of the wheel axle pockets. It creates enough drag to keep the slack out of the train.

 

 

No, I don’t have any uncouplers on my grades.  I had problems with the #148 on my grades when stopping and starting.  All of my passenger cars are a bit over weight so no need to add drag.

It might have been because of the weight of my passenger cars on my 3½% grades.  I never had problems with them on level track even going over uncouplers.  I haven’t had a freight uncoupling problem just my passenger cars.

The shelf couplers fixed the problem and I like the looks of the SE couplers better too.


Mel


 
My Model Railroad  
http://melvineperry.blogspot.com/
 
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I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 

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Posted by rrebell on Sunday, July 12, 2020 11:25 AM

I would not replace all the couplers. I have always gone with, use the others till they break and replace with Kadee. Now I have had some that it was replace right away, but those have been few.

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Posted by joe323 on Sunday, July 12, 2020 3:45 PM

rrebell

I would not replace all the couplers. I have always gone with, use the others till they break and replace with Kadee. Now I have had some that it was replace right away, but those have been few.

 

Agreed except for recent M R & T boxcar kitwhich came with Accumate couplers so I installed Kadee 148's while assemblin.

Joe Staten Island West 

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Posted by jjdamnit on Sunday, July 12, 2020 8:09 PM

Hello All,

I just added two (2) HO scale RTR cars to a mixed freight consist on my pike today.

Before putting flanges to track I did the following prep work:

  • Removed & Replaced the "Kadee compatible" couplers with the appropriate ones:
  • One car was best served with #5s
  • One car was best served with #148s
  • R&R plastic wheels to metal:
  • Used Micro-Mark HO Truck Tuner to face bearing seats
  • One car required replacement of plastic wheels
  • One car was equipped with metal wheels
  • Checked coupler height with Kadee #206 Coupler Height Gauge

Even before letting any car on my pike I perform these steps and have been rewarded with smooth-running trains.

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by dstarr on Monday, July 13, 2020 10:39 PM

Kadee invented the first HO knuckle coupler, way back in the late 1950's.  Kadee's patents expired in the 1990's and other manufacturers started making clones of the Kadee coupler.  Now, the Kadee's or the Kadee clones are used by everybody and most (all?) new rolling stock comes from the factory with Kadee clone couplers installed.  You might as well go with the flow and convert to Kadee couplers.  I have seen the ocassional Kadee clone coupler for sale, but the price for the clones is as high as the price of genuine Kadee's.  Might as well buy the very best since it does not cost anymore. 

  Kadee makes couplers to fit every piece of rolling stock manufactured over the last 70 years.  The Kadee #5 coupler will fit just about all freight cars.  The Kadee #148 will do the same, and is a "whisker" coupler.  Whiskers of wire set into the coupler serve to center it.  The older #5 uses a separate centering spring.  I am still using the #5 coupler, it is a little cheaper and works just fine.  Kadee publishes a list of what-fits-what on their web site.  I always check it when getting couplers for locomotives and passenger cars.  Although it is possible to warp a #5 into anything, using the Kadee recommended coupler will save you a lot of hacking and filing and cussing.  If you have cars with truck mounted couplers, the Kadee what-fits-what list will direct you to a coupler that fits the truck mount.  If you want to convert to body mount couplers to get better performance when backing, just use #5s.  I stay with truck mount couplers on passenger cars and other long rolling stock because truck mount couplers help getting long cars around curves.

   You want to buy or make a coupler height gage, and check coupler height on every coupler installation.  You will find that all the Athearn blue box cars need a #6 flat washer under the trucks to boost the coupler up to the proper height.  If you have good eyesight and steady hands you can put a tiny (very tiny) drop of cellulose cement (Duco, Ambroid, whatever) on each end of the knuckle spring to keep said spring on the coupler knuckle. 

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Posted by dbduck on Wednesday, July 15, 2020 1:49 PM

I too recommend Kadees  They have so many options available i don't thing there is a car or loco that cant be "fitted" with Kadees. I second the suggestion regarding getting a Kadee  coupler height gauge in the very beginning so that every thing you do is "spot on"  compatible

I swear by the entire "whisker" series

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Wednesday, July 15, 2020 2:06 PM

Kadee doesn't list a conversion for BLI Paragon 3 Pacific pilot coupler, the stock coupler is dummy and there's no coupler box. Seems like a copy of Mehano's original design. 

Any ideas?  Somebody posted somewhere that McHenry makes a clip in replacement. I can't find the detail on that possibility. 

Alyth Yard

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Posted by Eilif on Thursday, July 16, 2020 9:33 AM

One more vote for KD's specifically the #148 (or other KD whisker variants for specific uses) and buy a coupler height gauge.  

I originally bought a bunch of the first generation Bachmann EZ mates ( they have plastic pressure arm instead of spring to keep the coupler closed) and went without a height gauge and I wish I hadn't.  My only consolation is that I didn't spend much $ as I bought a big batch of them used. Now it's all KD's for me.

If cars arrive with other models of spring-operated knuckle coupler I'll use them until they fail (EZ Mate Mk 2, Scale trains, Protomax, etc) but the first Gen EZ mate and similar McHenry couplers with plastic pressure arm get swapped out ASAP.  The only possible use I see for them might be gluing them shut to use as dummy couplers.

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Posted by doctorwayne on Thursday, July 16, 2020 1:18 PM

Adding working couplers in steam locomotive pilots can sometimes require a little ingenuity, but if there's adequate room, Kadee's #8 or #36 couplers have fairly short draught gear boxes.  On some locomotives, you can install a regular #5, with the draught gear box protruding somewhat from the opening in the pilot.

If there's room for any style of draught gear box, you can also substitute the coupler using one having a longer shank.

For some brass locomotives or others with little room for a box of any type, pick a coupler with a shank long enough (between the mounting hole and the back end of the coupler's head), then cut-off the portion with the mounting hole and drill the remaining shank at a point suitable for mounting with either a screw or a short piece of piano wire.
The coupler will not be self-centering, but the couplers on real cars and locomotives aren't self-centering either.  Use your finger or an uncoupling tool to centre the coupler when needed. 
I run mostly steam and have working couplers on all pilots because most trains need to be doubleheaded just to get a train over the many grades on my layout.  When a locomotive is coupled to the front of another, fitted with such a coupler, the coupler on the lead locomotive's tender has enough rotational movement to compensate for the second loco's restricted coupler movement.

I've put working Kadees, for a friend, on the front of brass locos equipped with dummy drop- and swing-type couplers, too, and while the Kadees will not drop or swing back into the pilot, they work just fine when doubleheading is required.

I can't recall if this BLI Mikado came with a working front coupler or not, but when I detailed and painted it for a friend, it had a working front coupler when she got it back...

This brass 0-6-0 had lots of room behind the pilot for a Kadee #5 draught gear box, but I opted instead to cut-off the shank of a scale-headed Kadee, and mount it in the pilot using the same screw that had held the brass dummy coupler in place...

Both this brass Mogul...

...and its plastic companion from IHC...

...got scale-head pilot couplers in their own draught gear boxes.

I've done literally dozens of brass steam locos for friends, usually using a Kadee of some type, with it's shank cut short and mounted with a screw or metal pin...

Wayne

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Thursday, July 16, 2020 2:29 PM

Thanks for all that detail. Very helpful. Most helpful is confirming I was looking for that which does not exist. I have already collected a surprising variety of Kadee coupler boxes and couplers. I have gained an understanding of how they all combine to solve just about any coupler conundrum. Kadee 252 snap box might fit. The only reason to use an EZ Mate II is the thinner shank. Saves filing a Kadee down. I shall break out the selection and get creative.

And, oops, the BLI already has an EZ Mate snuck into the thin slot in the pilot, retained by the washer and screw that originally held in the dummy. The plastic whiskers on the EZ Mate work, sort of. 

The loco I need to change the pilot coupler for is an IHC (Mehano) Santa Fe decked out in CPR road number (5812) and lettering. The three axle truck tender isn't prototypical (but then neither is the whole locomotive!) but only because it carries coal. Before being wrecked 5812 got the tender from the Selkirk 8000 experimental, oil tank not coal but huge 12 wheel tender unlike the standard 8 wheel attached to all the other Santa Fe's. According to the internet, which is always historically correct of course. 

Alyth Yard

Canada

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