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American Flyer couplers do not totally release when uncoupled

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  • Member since
    December 2020
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American Flyer couplers do not totally release when uncoupled
Posted by Hud464 on Monday, May 22, 2023 9:39 PM

On my modern AF cars, The coupler uncouples, but does not open enough to release the car.  Is this a common problem, and is there a way to correct this?  thanks!

I recently moved from Lionel O Legacy to American Flyer S due to space considerations.   

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Posted by fifedog on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 6:21 AM

When you say "modern", do you mean the latest releases by Lionel under the AF banner? On my samples, I find the couplers not only release but give a little kick during the action. However, the cars a bit light, which may be the problem you're experiencing.

I would like to know more about your set-up, as I'm just a "runner", and you are more of an "operator". Sounds fun.

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Posted by Laurastom on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 10:51 AM

Your observation is accurate. Lionel AF cars made between approximately 2012 and 2019 in fact had two issues. I may be off a year on the dates, but the first issue is the couplers do not open wide enough to allow free uncoupling. The second issue is the wheel gauge is 1/10" too narrow. Check them with a dime between the wheels and reset the gauge, they will operate better. Both of these issues were corrected by 2020 production. I know of no simple fix for the coupler issue. new couplers or complete new trucks are needed.

The final issue with Lionel AF freight cars is the blunt end axles. They allow the wheels to shift side to side in the truck causing the coupler to be mispositioned on curves. Lionel made replacement trucks with needle point axles that solve this but they were expensive and a PITA to install because the old trucks are riveted to the chassis.

When I operate freights I use the Lionel AF cars in blocks within a train that I do not uncouple. I have a number of SHS, MTH and American Models cars which have wide opening couplers and needle point axles that are used for coupling and uncoupling operation. No matter where on a curve or straight the couplers line up perfectly and always couple and uncouple.

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Posted by Hud464 on Wednesday, May 24, 2023 12:12 PM

Thanks for the feedback.  I am finding the overall quality of the AF line by Lionel is not of the same quality of what I found in O Gauge.   I guess there is not as much time spent on the line.  The same thing has held true with the Fastrack switches.  I am experiencing failure of the moving frog on these switches.   I am beginning to wonder if I made the wrong decision moving to modern Lionel S Gauge.  Time will tell.

I recently moved from Lionel O Legacy to American Flyer S due to space considerations.   

  • Member since
    October 2006
  • 121 posts
Posted by Laurastom on Wednesday, May 24, 2023 1:41 PM

I am surprised to hear about the turnout frog failures. I do not have any FasTrack turnouts but I know operators whe use a lot of them and no one has had any failures so far. The movable frog is the same design as used on the SHS/MTH turnouts which I do have quite a few of. None of those have ever failed.

On the other had I have 40 Tortoise switch machines on my layout and in 8 years four of them have failed, all in the last 18 months.

I agree that Lionel invests a lot more money in the O gauge products, but they also sell a lot more of them. The one thing Lionel could do to greatly improve their S gauge rolling stock would be to use needle point axles like all the other S gauge manufacturers. I doubt that will happen, most S gauge high rail operators do not seem to care.

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Posted by Hud464 on Thursday, May 25, 2023 8:46 AM

Just to explain the frog issue, the frog pivot began to loosen On some of the switches.   On the bottom of the switch is a screw holding the frog, that has started working loose.  If this loosens too much, the frog will not trip.   This is just an added problem, because I need to remove it from the layout, remove the bottom plate, and tighten the screw, then a test it to be sure that it is not tightened too much.    I use them in the command function using track power.  i hope that I have tightened them this time enough so I will not need to do it again.   This is my first layout using Fastrack in any gauge.  I came from using Ross Custom Switches in O, so I guess that I am just venting frustrations from the continued maintenance.   Thanks again for your reply.x

I recently moved from Lionel O Legacy to American Flyer S due to space considerations.   

  • Member since
    October 2006
  • 121 posts
Posted by Laurastom on Thursday, May 25, 2023 11:54 AM

Turnouts are an issue in S high rail. The only ones curently manufactured are Lionel FasTrack and GarGraves. I would use Gilbert turnouts over GarGraves. Lionel uses .138 solid NS rail. Fox Valley Models is supposed to be making more of their #5 turnouts with this rail but they have not yet appeared for sale. I chose to have all my turnouts hand laid by a professional using the MTH .138 rail. Was not cheap but I have perfect #5, #6 & #8 turnouts. They were carefully made and tested so they work with either scale or high rail wheels.

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Posted by rrlineman on Thursday, June 1, 2023 8:28 AM

As a repairman of AF for over 40 yrs I can tell you this. Lionel changed the coupler dies and added a little bump on the open side of the body. It has remained like this today. Also the metal ones made have a smaller opening then the plastic ones. I have shaved off the bump for customers over the years who complained about this problem . I have on occasion replaced them with the Repro AF couplers. Can't do that anymore since Lionel went to riveting the coupler to the trucks. As for the axle issue, all car since 2015(?) have hade the pointed axles AND the black plastic delrin bushings in them which started with the pass cars before 2000. hope this helps you.

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Posted by Laurastom on Thursday, June 1, 2023 3:45 PM

The newer freight cars (looking at a 2021 catalog item in my hands) have bearing inserts in the trucks. Unfortunately the wheelsets still move side to side in the trucks by slightly more than 1/10".  I put one (after lubrication) on a 2% grade. With  a slight push the car starts rolling but comes to a stop on the downgrade. I can set an MTH car on a 1% grade and it starts rolling without a push plus there is zero side to side movement of the wheelsets.

  • Member since
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Posted by Hud464 on Saturday, June 3, 2023 12:36 PM

Thanks!  I found that bump on the coupler and filed it down a bit.  it seems to work much better.  Thanks!

I recently moved from Lionel O Legacy to American Flyer S due to space considerations.   

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