coupler..why dont they stay coupled

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Gil Finn, May 6, 2007.

  1. Gil Finn

    Gil Finn Active Member

    I have a mixed bag of cars that have a kadee type of knuckel couple with a stiff curved wire. Yet while some are similar there seem to be variations in them but all have a stiff wire like an air hose.

    What is the wire for?

    Many or these open and will not shut and some seem to have been stuck in a closed postion.

    I have for, example engines with there couplers by Atlas Bachmn and Athearn also cars by round house, accurail, bachman, branchline to name a few.

    I am about ready to put a drop of super glue on them to hold them shut as I have done on O ga cars that refuse to funtion.

    I also have a number of used cars that need couplers or tructs but require differnt types of kadee like units yet all are differnt under the car frame some one type wont repair them all.

    The cheaper cars with the hook like couplers work the best for me.

    I am resigned to connecting all manualy as a rule.

    Any ideas on what I can do to make the hobby more fun and less frustrating?
  2. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    Hi Gil,
    I have all Kadee #5's on my rolling stock, and have yet to see ANY uncouple (this over a period of 20+ years...). I suspect that with the mixed bag of different couplers rolling stock now come with, there may be some incompatability among them. Go with Kadees...They offer all sorts of different types for all sorts of different installations.
    The "wire hose" is for magnetic uncoupling. I use it to open one of the couplers with a little hook when I want to uncouple. Works like a charm...
  3. Gil Finn

    Gil Finn Active Member

    OK. I am going grade them all with a magnifying glass today to see what all I have and add to lighting to the lay out.

  4. jeffrey-wimberl

    jeffrey-wimberl Active Member

    I'm betting that you have a bunch of Kadee wanna-be couplers in there too. McHenry makes a coupler that's almost a dead ringer for a Kadee whisker coupler. In response to your question about what the "air hose" is for, that uncouples the cars when the couplers are centered over a special magnet and slackened. The train can then pull forward and leave the car(s) behind. It sounds like some of your couplers are broken (McHenry's are notorious for this) because the spring is gone or if it has a plastic whisker on the side of the coupler head, that whisker is separated from the knuckle. As for the ones that seem to be jammed closed, you may be able to open them but I would just replace them.
  5. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    Sounds like the ones that won't stay closed are missing the springs.

    I have found that Kadee #5s and #47s work BEAUTIFULLY. I mean it, I am completely satisfied with them and the ability to use uncoupling magnets. You do have to take a few minutes to get them tuned up, correct height, maybe squirt a little of the Kadee graphite in the coupler boxes.

    Depending on the car type, it may require some modification - cut off the stock draft box and replace with the Kadee draft boxes. This may require a certain amount of ingenuity. For couplers that are too low, the Kadee #47 can correct that.

    Now why do BOTH of the LHSs in Houston always seem to be out of #47s? Well, I know I have used plenty of them and need more.
  6. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    When Kadee's patent expired years ago, McHenry and some others jumped in and made cheaper plastic versions. (Kadee's are metal). The early McHenrys were not a long life product. I believe the current ones are "improved". Kadee is the gold standard for couplers and worth the extra money. I guess you got your answer on the little wires.
  7. KCS

    KCS Member

    I'm still for Sergent's! =P
  8. jbaakko

    jbaakko Active Member

    *HIGH FIVE!*
  9. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    The little coil spring on the side of the knuckle is notorious for disappearing, especially when cars are in "storage". Kadee supplies a few extras in each package, and sells them separately.
    I've had a few that stick closed. It could be a small mechanical problem or, as in my case, someone got frustrated with the spring coming off and tried to glue it back on the prongs.
    When you're putting the spring back on, run a foot of fine thread through it before you try to pick it up with your Xacto blade. The thread will keep it from flying during your installation attempts, but can be pulled out (gently!) when you're done.
  10. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    I've been tempted to try a couple of sets of Sergent couplers just to see how they work. Only problem for me is that Kadee #5's are our club standard and I know nobody there wants to spend a bunch of money to change over.
  11. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member


    You will also want to get a Kadee coupler height gauge. Use it to ensure your couplers are all at the right height, and the trip pins (the wire that looks like an air hose) are set above rail height. If the coupler heights are mismatched, the couplers can over-ride or under-ride and come uncoupled. If the trip pins are too low, the trip pins can/will snag in turnouts and cause uncouplings and derailments.

    yours in coupling
    Fred W
  12. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Some of the couplers might not have been meant to work. The front couplers on some steam models are dummies - the knuckle doesn't move.
  13. jbaakko

    jbaakko Active Member

    Make a few of your own rolling stock into "conversion" cars. Thats what I'm doing.
  14. jeffrey-wimberl

    jeffrey-wimberl Active Member

    Otherwise known as transition cars. That's what I did when I switched from X2F couplers to Kadee's. I made two of them, they had a 'horn hook' on one end and a Kadee on the other. This allowed me to use both coupler types while I made the transition to Kadee's.
  15. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    The "maintenance list" for the Kadees and other "knuckle" type couplers is pretty short...

    1) Right height?

    Is the coupler installed at the right height? Too much variation, and you could end up with cars "uncoupling" at the bottom or tops of grades. I say "uncoupling" because it's really the couplers sliding up or down relative to each other - they aren't actually opening.

    If present, is the trip pin (air-hose thingy) at the right height so it functions properly with magnetic uncouplers, but does not snag on the trackwork (especially turnouts).

    2) Moving parts complete?

    For Kadees and other couplers that use the tiny spring - is the spring there? For other types (like Bachman EZ Mate (I think)) that rely on a platic whisker to keep the coupler closed - is it working or is it bent/fatigued? If it's tired, it will not work.

    Is the centering spring inside the coupler box working properly? Or if you have the "whiskers" that self centre - are they intact?

    3) Moving parts moving?

    Does the knuckle open and close easily? Does the coupler move from side to side (but not up and down)? A shot of graphite lube into the coupler box is a good idea. You may need to burnish the surface(s) to ensure that there are no rough spots on the coupler or inside the box that prevent movement.

    Also check that your painting/weathering job has not gummed up the coupler. For example, if you like to Dullcote your rolling stock, be sure to cover the couplers when you do it!

    A coupler gauge is a really handy tool and is only a few dollars. You don't need to get the trip pin pliers - regular pliers will work (or trim off the hose!).

    Hope that helps.

  16. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    One more thing you have to watch out for with the Kadee "knock offs is that most use a "plastic leaf spring" to hold the knuckle closed. In a very short time that leaf spring loses tension and the knuckle opens up. I have also used Accumate couplers from Acurail. They have the draft gear split in half horizontally with the knuckle cast on one part of the draft gear and the rest of the coupler on the other. I have found with them in backing moves with a heavy cut of cars that the knuckle will sometimes jam in the open position. The main problem with the Kadees is that they will occasionally lose the little brass knuckle spring. I save the spare knuckle springs with spare couplers and parts in a little plastic compartmentalized box with a clear hinged cover. The spare coupler box stays in the tool box I carry to meets in case I need to repair a coupler. Kadee also sells a tool called a "spring pic" that works better than anything else I've tried to pick up Kadee coupler knuckle springs, and it also helps tremendously in installing the "little buggers."
  17. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Another trick to installing replacement springs is to put some thread through the spring and tie it in a loop. Then you can use a needle (or the spring picker) to position the spring without worrying if it will fly away! Once the spring is in place, you can cut the loop and remove the thread.

    If you are really daring, you can secure one end of the spring with a tiny, tiny bit of CA to make sure it does not come off. Use gel/gap filling/"thick" CA, and apply the smallest drop you can with the pointy end of a pin. The gel CA will not wick into the coils of the spring as much as the regular stuff.

  18. Gil Finn

    Gil Finn Active Member

    Yes I have done that.

    Indeed some of the coupler are of differnt hights.

    Some are mising parts so I will box those up for later work and repair and move ahead with what works now.

    I have gone over the track also and adjusted the high and low spots and that helped.
  19. jeffrey-wimberl

    jeffrey-wimberl Active Member

    Yes, smooth track is something that is often overlooked by young and/or inexperienced modeler's and makes it's importance known when they have "mysterious" uncouplings, or that fancy steamer won't stay on the track. Most diesels are very tolerant of bad track work, but steamers will find the flaws every time. The same goes for couplers. X2F's have that lower shelf on them that prevents the couplers sliding over/under each other. Rises and dips in the track, especially at track joints will cause Kadee's (non-shelf types) to slide over/under each other. Don't ask how I know, suffice it to say that I had to go back and level my track.
  20. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I think that one of the biggest challenges when we set up a modular layout is to get the joining modules to the same level and eliminate any dips between modules. Often a small dip won't bother frieght cars which are relatively short with a few exceptions, but then someone will run a passenger train and start having cars uncouple all over the layout.

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