Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by cbuttre835, Jun 21, 2005.

  1. cbuttre835

    cbuttre835 New Member

    OK, folks, relative newbie here...

    I have about a dozen and a half Bachmann "toy" HO cars; the kind with the couplers made into the trucks, and a pair of "toy" Bachmann locomotives.

    Bought me a few Model Power cars; these are a lot heavier made, but still have the horn and hook couplers made into the trucks. The trucks fit into the body (undercarriage? frame? :confused: ) a lot nicer than the Bachmann stuff. And they don't derail at all.

    Oh yea, I also have a "decent" Bachmann locomotive; at least it's heavy, runs quietly, and pulls very hard; and a handful of somewhat nicer Bachmann cars with the horn-hook couplers mounted on the body.

    Reason I bring that up, is that I read on a FAQ / sticky thread here that cars with couplers made to the body rather than the trucks are better. I can sort of agree with this, I guess -- rather than towing the truck that tows the "body" that tows the other truck, you're towing body-to-body. I won't question existing wisdom.

    I'd like to explore some of the automatic (magnetic type) couplers; I have spent a little time reading on the Kadee website on how they work and it seems pretty dang neat to me.

    Question is; is it worth or even possible to use the little "toy" cars that I have with nice Kadee or other mag couplers? I don't plan on upgrading the little locomotives I have; but like I said before I have a wad of Bachmann cars and now these 4 slightly nicer Model Power cars, that I don't wanna shelve or sell... (stranded investment)

    Seems like, locally and on eBay, that the decent cars (Walters / Athearn) with Kadees sell for $10+ each. I don't wanna experiment at that price level; the kids might lose interest and I don't wanna tie up that much cash.

    So are the toy and slightly above toy stuff I got worth at least experimenting with? Or will I bring mass frustration upon myself and all around me?

    Links to other threads appreciated; too, I haven't got the hang of searching here yet.

  2. stuart_canada

    stuart_canada Member

    Kadee makes a special coupler unit for those truck mounted couplers. they are costly to redo. I had a few coupler boxes left over from converting other cars. soI cut off the couplers off the trucks, mounted the box to the body like on the athearn kit cars, and did it that way. they worked fine so far.
    make sure you have a coupler guage to get the couplers to the right height
  3. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    If you're going to run toy equipment, it might be worth it to just stick with the toy couplers. Truck-mounted couplers have their advantages on sharp curves--the main reason why body-mounted couplers are considered superior is because couplers are body-mounted on the prototype.

    Changing out trucks and couplers will cost a few dollars per car. If you want to upgrade to better-quality models you will almost certainly have to switch to Kadees, but if you are more interested in keeping your existing toy-train equipment, sticking with horn-hooks might be the way to go.

    stuart_canada brings up a good point, though: you can get standard Kadee coupler kits with the pockets, shave off the truck-mounted coupler pockets and glue the Kadee pockets to the ends of cars. Even if it ends up a rough-looking job, the initial investment is low and your last conversion will almost certainly look better than your first!
  4. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    I have a number of old Tyco freight cars I bought in the 1970's as a kid and received as gifts. While a good part of my equipment has magnetic couplers I still run trains with the horn hooks. I've weathered the cars and I think they look fine. The problem with truck mounted couplers I've run into is their tendency to derail during switching moves, especially when the loco is pushing them backward into a siding or spur. So, in lieu of getting rid of these cars or putting body mounted couplers on them, I string them together as "through" trains and use the magnetic coupler equipment for locals that will be switched. I say keep yours! :)
  5. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    There are 2 contributing factors to the truck-mounted coupler cars derailing. the one is that the sideways spring that holds the couplers together also pushes the truck on a diagonal. This causes the flange on the wheel to scrape along the rail and pick at any unevenness at joints or switches. The second is that those trucks usually have deep flanges with sharp edges (called pizza-cutter wheels). These pick at the rough joints even more.
    I would say, go with the Kadee body mounted couplers. Buy a mass box of #5 and possibly the starter pack (#1030 ??) with samples of each plus a few tools.
    After you do a few cars, you'll be wanting to tackle the cheap locos as well.
  6. phoneguy

    phoneguy member

    I had a large collection of cars with the horn hook couplers on them. It was going to take a lot of time and couplers to convert to Kadee so I have some cars with one of each. This way I can run all my cars with any of my engines; which were converted first. On the truck mounted couplers I cut off the coupler mount and turned the cut end in under the car. That way it didn't interfere with the new coupler and pocket mounted on the car. I still don't have all my cars convert but all new cars get Kadee couplers before they go on the layout. In case you're wondering why this is tacking so long. I started in MRR in the 60's and Kadee was expensive and not the norm of the day like now. With over 200 cars to convert it was taking quite some time. Also I got out of MRR in about 1986. I just started back in January of this year.
    Have Fun and lots of luck
  7. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    well i heard of a solution i have yet to ry out, bu ti am in a very similar problem. there are some nice boxcars my family as given me from a long time ago, so i searched for ways to put knuckles on my toy trains.

    according to the Mchenry site ( Mchenry also makes cheap affordavle knuckle couples with the copper springs, not those plastic "leafs", and are certainly cheap enough for you to expeirment with)

    you get a 1/8 plastic rod, slice it thin so that it fits flush inside the hole of the coupler. in some cases the plastic rod will already be hollow, and if it isn't, you can use a pinvise or a drill to make the appropriate sized hole to fit over the peg in the coupler pocket.

    it does seem liek a good idea to me though, that if you cut off the coupler pockets of the trucks, then attach a coupler box from kadee onto the body of the car, that it will looke and run better. if you've got a decrepid or broken piece of rolling stock, it might be a good idea to try these methods out on it before moveing onto your other models.
  8. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I've converted a bunch of toy train cars with talgo trucks to body mounted Kaddees using the Kaddee draft gear boxes. It is really easy to do. The most complicated part of the job is to shim the coupler box down if necessary to get the right height for the coupler. If the coupler is already too low, you can get shims from Kaddee to fit between the truck and the car frame to raise the car up a bit.
  9. cbuttre835

    cbuttre835 New Member

    whhokay... more ???s

    Thanks for the tips, folks. Been doing a little research. Of course, I end up more confused than when I started...

    1) I keep seeing "Talgo" truck mounting. What does that mean? Is it a generic type of truck mounting or a specific type?

    (i.e. the Model Power cars I have, have the shank long and flat, with a hole in it that is held to the car by the little split pin in the trucks. You sort of pin it to the car with the trucks, and it has two little tabs that fit loosely in the trucks, to allow a tad of movement between the two. The cheaper cars just have a upside-down piece of channel sticking off the back of the truck - all 1 piece -with the coupler screwed into it.)

    2) Are various mfrs. of automatic mag-type intercompatible with each other? The ones that come on the Atlas cars (Accumate), the McHenrys, and the Kadees (for instant) all look real similar... will a Kadee hook to a McHenry; etc....

    keep me pointed in the right direction...

    Also; sorta off topic -- saw some Proto 1000 cars at a local hobby shop tonite; these OK? (they had mag couplers of some type on them, -- they looked truck mounted) I didn't see them listed in the poll thread I didn't think.
  10. Roger Hensley

    Roger Hensley Member

    Now, all of the above said, the NMRA 'Introduction to Model Railroading' pages have a couple of articles on couplers and re-trucking train set cars that might be of interest to you.

    I have a few older train set cars running on my ECI either because I like them or they represent a prototype that no obne else has made.
  11. RailRon

    RailRon Active Member

    Hi cbuttre, and welcome to the gauge! You just jumped in with a quite hotly disputed item: Should I change the horn-hooks to Kadees or not?

    Here are my 2¢ to that theme:

    'Talgo truck' is just another expression for truck mounted couplers (as opposed to body-mounted couplers).
    As long as you PULL a train through curves, turnouts and whatnot, everything is ok. But if you BACK UP a train, pushing the cars over diverging turnouts, through S-curves etc, the derailing starts! :( I won't go into geometry here, but the long shanks of the couplers, combined with the position of the wheels in a reverse curve of a turnout, automatically tends to derail the trucks.
    So the answer is clear: When you want to do some realistic and trouble-free switching on your layout, body-mounted trucks are he way to go! :thumb:

    But now that you already have a number of "toy-train" cars with truck-mounted horn-hook couplers: Why not keep using them as 'blocked trains', which are mainly pulled around the layout? With passenger trains there's almost no problem, because they are running in fixed consisists anyway, aren't they?
    On freight car blocks, you could install a body-mounted Kadee couplers on both ends of such a block. Then, as you buy new cars with Kadees (or other magnetic couplers - which should be compatible), you could attach them to the end of these blocks. Then, at first, when you want to do some switching, you uncouple only the dressed-up cars for this and leave the rest of these blocks undisturbed.
    Slowly, one by one, you could convert the older cars to body-mounted couplers - and believe me, railroading will become more and more interesting, when you have more and more of these cars which you can switch without problems. In the meantime, you still can run your (ever shrinking) blocks of horn-hook-talgo-trucked cars as 'through freights'!

    One word of caution: As others already have pointed out: It is VERY important that the coupler height is properly adjusted. Get yourself a coupler height gauge - this is one of the most important tools on any layout! When coupler heights between cars don't match, you're in for a lot of frustration! :(

    Take your time, make your conversions one by one, and you'll end up with a layout which really is fun to operate. I know - exactly this way I converted more than 120 freight cars on my earlier N scale layout from the original N scale couplers :eek: to Kadees :thumb: - and it made a world of a difference!

  12. cbuttre835

    cbuttre835 New Member

    10-4, thanks for clearing that up. I suspected it might be a generic term, just wanted to make sure.

    I stopped in a local art supply store that has a small hand-lettered sign in the window saying "electric trains bought sold and traded".

    Words cannot describe the vast amounts of stuff they have. Should be billed as a train store with a small hand lettered sign "a few art supplies for sale". I picked up an 86' hi-cube Athearn boxcar kit, and a really old Cliff Line depressed center flatcar with a power transformer for a load. Since I'm a utility engineer, that got me a lot of oohs and aahs here at the office.

    They had some awesome model power passenger cars with hand-done graffiti on them. Local art studend did 'em up. If I were into passenger stuff, that'd be it. We don't have any passenger trains through here though.

    I like the idea of blocking stuff together; I have a couple MOW type cars; now a wire-reel car that I can block with the transformer flatcar; and 3 varying boxcars, some gondolas.... thanks for the tip.

    Now to build a detached garage and convert the attached into the "bonus" room...
  13. stuart_canada

    stuart_canada Member

    when I started to convert my locomotive fleet and rolling stock over to kadee, mchenry, and bacmann spectrum couplers. I did it in the following manner.
    1) locomotives got the correct kadee coupler for front nad rear, which meant i had to order 2 sets for some locos
    2) all the kit cars cars got the new couplers and springs as required.
    3) all the pass cars got mchenrys, for the riverossi cars. did not want to cut and glue on them.
    4) all the toy cars as I call them, the bachmann, model power, and others they were set off in the yard in groups, I put a bachmann spectrum coupler set on a couple cars, one spectrum and the other kind on the other end, and they were run in sets.
    5) after a while i took all the cars I did not have a use for and gave them away or sold them , grain hoppers and a few others got converted to kadees , cut off the truck mounted couplers and put on a body mounted box and added the coupler. use of height guage is required, for 5 bucks or less, great tool to have .
    i mounted mine to a piece of 1x2 with 9 inche section of track on it. when i get everything back it will be remounted on at least 18 inche piece. need the more lenght for large locomotives and cars. I have some long cars and it hard to set the couplers right on a short track.

    another thing to do is leave one locomotive if you have more then 1 , leave it with the older coupler style till youc an afford to convert everything over to the style of your choice.

    I know the coupler change over costs money, i did not do it for many years, now I am glad I did. i could of left things alone and invested in a new loco or a few more cars with the same money but they look great, work great and i can run the stock on other layouts now.
    steel wheels coming next
  14. cbuttre835

    cbuttre835 New Member

    got started some...

    well, I bought a pack of Kadee #5s, some short and long shank Bachmann ez mates, and did a couple cars tonight.

    Observations are, I need a bunch of washers, some super glue, and small screws. I also need some shims, and over shank couplers.

    I did the Athearn 86' with Kadee #5s at both ends, worked well. I did a couple of my Bachmanns with the body mount couplers with the long shank EZ mates on one end only, that went well. The Model Power gondola, I had to cut off the guide that holds the Talgo truck on, so there's no going back on it - I glued one of the Kadee gearboxes to it and put in an EZ mate which looks good so far. Height was right on it. I tried a cheap boxcar, and the undershank couplers I have set the coupler up way too high.

    I had intended to buy a pack each of EZ mate short undershank and long overshank, so that with the Kadee #5s I could gauge length (cause I'd have all 3) and height (all 3 again), but I mistakenly got both EZmates in under shank. So the boxcar is sitting with the lid glued to the body, waiting on a $1 pack of overshanks so I can finish it...

    Also got me one of them NMRA height gauges; the coupler height gauge is a 1/8" oval hole. Is the coupler supposed to center on this or what? :confused:

    these are gonna be COOL.... :thumb:
  15. stuart_canada

    stuart_canada Member

    I use the guage kadee sells. here is a pic of it, works great and easy to set up. Iused the paper washers from kadee too, hate to sound like sales pitch for them but that is what i found worked the best and they did the job
    oupler Height and Multi-Purpose Gauge


    Coupler Height
    and Multi-Purpose Gauge [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Multi purpose gauge. Four tools in one.
    1. Provides instant visual reference of proper coupler height.
    2. Accurately measures proper trip pin height above rail.
    3. Built-in track gauge.
    4. Movable dowel tests Kadee® Magne-Matic® Uncoupler height and registers the needed adjustments.

  16. Pitchwife

    Pitchwife Dreamer

    This thread is screaming for an experianced someone to do an Academy-bound How To thread. How bout it? Any Takers? :wave: :wave:
  17. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    One feature that Kadee didn't put on the coupler gauge , but is on the MT N gauge is a floor height marker. This is a sharp pointy bit at the height for the top of the coupler box. Just bring the car up to it and compare the point to the floor. It tells you if you need to raise or lower the floor and you can mark the car end where you might have to remove material. It may require one for each configuration now.
    They've changed the gauge. Mine is so old that it has a #4 mounted on it.
    I think the NMRA gauge gives couler center; use a normal (mid-set) coupling in it. I've never tried...
  18. cbuttre835

    cbuttre835 New Member

    Well, not that y'all asked, but an update from the newbie...

    So far I've done only one end of the cars, except for the Cliff Line Depressed Center Flatcar for which I had no trucks or couplers when purchased.

    I did that one, filled in the supplied too-small gearboxes with cement, milled that flat with a Dremel tool, assembeled a Kadee and stuck it on. nice.

    Have done body mounts on a Model Power gondola, that worked well. Also did a body mount on a cheapo Bachmann; works very well - take a Dremel and chop off the tongue on the truck-mount horn hook.

    Have also mounted the Kadees in the draft boxes on the Athearn hi-cubes and flatcars I've assembeled. For some reason the Athearn box is too thin, have to mill a little of the Kadee spring off so that the Athearn box cover will snap on and not bind the spring. Simple enough though.

    Also did a Bachmann caboose that had a body mount horn hook; had to take that one off because I used a regular shank and it was too short. Long shank fixed that one up.

    I have a toy Bachmann loco that I'll do next; it has a boogered up horn hook on one end so I'll try and replace that one.

    These things look cool, work well, and are not very difficult to do (once I got a Dremel tool). I ended up re-doing a couple of the first ones I did before I got my Dremel; can do so much more with it than you can a pocketknife.

    Kudos to whoever suggested doing only one end; I can switch / shunt easy but don't have to invest twice the $$$ plus I get the practice for when I do the other end. I'd have never thought of it.

    BTW - I tried some "off brands" because they were cheap at the local hobby store. Stick with Kadees.
  19. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    On the Athearn cars, the old cars originally used spring steel for the clip on coupler box covers. At some point in time prior to 1980, they changed to regular steel. If you drill a hole in the center of the cast plastic pin on the Athearn car with a #45 drill, then tap it with a #2-56 tap, you take a Kaddee plastic screw and run it through the hole and cut off the protruding end with flush cutting rail nippers. Now you won't have the sheet metal coupler box cover fly off and cause a train to uncouple.

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