magnetic uncouplers

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by Cactus, Oct 17, 2001.

  1. Cactus

    Cactus Member


    I bought several Micro-Trains magnets, the type one installs between the rails. I'm using Atlas code 80 flex track, for reasons of price and local availability.
    My idea was to:
    1. glue the ties to the cork roadbed, gluing only the part of the ties that lies outside the rails.
    2. slice away the ties between the rails, leaving in place the little plastic tabs that hold the rails in place, so the rails themselves would still be secured to the portion of each tie that's left behind on the roadbed.
    3. insert the magnet between the rails and glue everything down thoroughly.

    Problem: The magnet is slightly too wide to fit between those little plastic tabs that hold the rails to the ties. When I cut away the tabs enough to fit the magnet, the rails are no longer secure.

    Question: What's the recommended method to install those magnets? Is there something I'm missing here?

  2. upguy

    upguy Oregon Western Lines, CEO

    I think that this type of uncoupler is supposed to be placed between the rails ABOVE the ties. Disguise it to represent a grade crossing or something to make it less obvious.
  3. Cactus

    Cactus Member

    No, the magnet is too tall, the ties must be cut away to at least part of their depth. The Micro-trains instruction manual that comes with the ties also says this.

    My problem is, that to cut away the ties to any depth (even a shallow cut) removes those little plastic clips that secure the rail to the tie on its inner side. I'm looking for advice on how to make the necessary cut without destabilizing the rail.
  4. billk

    billk Active Member

    Hey Cactus - Here's some thoughts:

    Could you have possibly gotten uncoupling magnets for HO instead of N?

    Can you glue the rails to the ties before cutting away the ties?

    They're just magnets, right? Look for some that fit better, not necessarily model RR-specific. Maybe stronger ones that fit under the ties? Or electromagnets?

    Bill K
  5. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member


    If they won't fit unles you cat off the lugs holding the track on, they they also would not fit ON the ties, (directly touching them) because of the lugs as well? The Kadee uncouplers do the same. (Peco code 75 flextrack) I just cut the inside lugs off as well, with the ties still under the track to support it. It is only an inch or so, and does not affect the stability of the track. I laid the track, and fixed it down before putting the uncoupler in of course. I had to cut the ties out as well. Once ballasted, the track is just as fixed as if it had lugs.
  6. Cactus

    Cactus Member

    Billk -- thanks for the suggestion. No, they're the N-scale ones alright.

    Woodie -- Now that's what I want to hear, that cutting the ties (and the little clips) doesn't destabilize the rails to the point where I'll be looking for trouble down the road. So, do you glue down your track before cutting the ties?

  7. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member



    I'm running HO of course. Are you running N?

    I glued the cork roadbed down, laid the track (just using tacks) and tacked down the track either side of the uncoupler. The nature of uncouplers requires a straight piece of track, so having the rails bend or come out of place as they might on a curve is not a problem. One section on my track on a 15" radius (and on an incline) is just the rails for about 4 inches. It used to be a road crossing (filled in) until I lost the plot :mad: and hit it with the hammer because it was causing derailments. I ripped it up and just replaced the rails (no ties) which are supported by nothing for a a length of about 4 inches, and on a sharp radius. I don't have a problem with the track there anymore. However I do still have to fill in the crossing again.

    Provided you have a sharp hobby knife, and don't pull the rails together by the pressure on the ties when cutting, It think it should be fine.

    If you wanna glue the track down, then fine. Added strength, and maybe a drop or two of superglue on the outside lugs of the rails will help too.

    Any other opinions?
  8. Virginian

    Virginian Member

    How about thinning those magnets down? A belt sander, a fine file, a fine grinding wheel, hmmm....I'll likely be facing the same prob. soon...I use the same track and have bought some Atlas magnets...I have some ready mades, but plan to put in some short sections ahead of a few yard turnouts..I used pieces of standard snap trac I picked up cheep, then cut them to minimum size to take the magnets... leaving two ties at each end ...I nailed track down to ease the rebuild when I have the 'trainroom' ready go.. I haven't installed any haven't actually had to deal with the width ...but I don't see any reason yoiu couldn't take up to a 1/16th off them with out too much trouble...shouldn't be any difference to the uncouplling...I think I'd only take off the min. neccess. to correct the problem.
    Good luck
  9. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Why not just remove a section of the cork, & put the magnet under the track? I did that with HO magnets, & even ballasted over the top of them. Cutting the ties away CAN ruin the integrity of the track!
    I have a feeling that you have the under-the-track variety anyway, otherwise they shouldn't be higher than code 80 rail.
    The hidden magnets look better anyway. You can mark their position with a post, or a fence, etc...
    Good Luck!
  10. billk

    billk Active Member

    If anyone tries VGN's idea, let us know how it works. Based on my faint (and getting fainter every day) recall of grade school science,
    heating the magnet or rubbing it a lot in the same direction (both could happen during filing, grinding or sanding) could cause it to become demagnetized.
    Bill K
  11. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    unmagnetising magnets.


    I recall something similar. Banging them with a hammer can do the same thing. I'll find out for sure whether it'll be OK.
  12. Virginian

    Virginian Member

    Okeedoke...yep, you are I'll try some experiments and get back to y'all.
  13. Virginian

    Virginian Member

    magnet fit experiment results

    Hi Cactus and all you fellow 'newbe' and 'master' MR experimenters!
    Here's what I did and how it worked:
    I took my section of Atlas 'snap-trac', a small, sharp chisel( with a long, flat bevel), gently tapped out the ties, laying the flat side as tight against the 'tab/pin' as I could...the bevel needs to be very flat, or you will spread the rails apart. Then I used a small, very fine file to touch up each 'nib', getting each side as even as possible, being careful not to loose the'clip'.

    Now, to the issue..narrowing the magnets... I'm using Micro-trains "1310 delayed action magne-matic uncouplers", the ones sold in pairs in little paper envelopes.
    I used 120 grit aluminum oxide sand paper, layed flat on the work bench. Ran each edge flat a few times each,slowly, turning it over several times to keep the bevels on the top of the magnet even, then cleaned up the burrs with the same grit paper. A few adjustments for fit, and it worked, without any decernable de-magnetizing.
    I will have to place a very thin shim under the magnet when I install on the layout, as the magnet sits about a 32nd below the top of the rails...MT instructs top of mag. must be flush with top of rails.
    I think it would work easier to prepare the
    track before laying it to the roadbed, but with a small enough file, and patience, I don't see why it can't be done with track in place.
    I hope this is of some was to me..I've had those magnets for about hmm...4 I can add the uncouplers I 'marked out' about 6 months ago!!!
    Bye y'all
  14. Cactus

    Cactus Member

    Yes, Virginian. I have the Micro-trains 1310 uncouplers, just as you describe. Looks like there's hope for me here.

    I have some track laid already, to be retrofitted with magnets, and I wanted just to cut away the ties and insert the things. Perhaps I'll end up purchasing some straight pieces of Atlas snap track to modify as you instruct. It may be easier just to cut out a length of my flex track and insert the snap track that way.

    Thanks all.
  15. Cactus

    Cactus Member

    OK, here's the deal.

    I posted my initial question hoping that someone was an old hand at this magnetic coupler installation and could magically remove all my fears -- the ones about irrevocably damaging my layout.

    Finally, Virginian came along and spurred me to action. If he could try something, why couldn't I? I did and it worked. So..... here's the Cactus tried and true method to install a Micro-trains # 1310 magnetic uncoupler in Atlas flex track with cork roadbed.

    1. make sure you have at least a 3 1/2 inch section of STRAIGHT track, I used a straight edge to be sure when I laid it.

    2. spike the track down, do some gluing. I used a 50:50 mixture of Elmer's white glue and water.

    a. For several inches on either side of where I wanted the uncoupler, I filled the spaces between ties with the mix. Capillary action carries the glue down under the ties.
    b. in the section where I wanted the uncoupler, I added glue between ties only the OUTSIDE of the rails. This way, the ties between rails are not nailed down.

    3. let the glue dry thoroughly

    4. I took a Dremel tool with a cutting disc and cut each tie in half where I wanted the magnet. The Dremel removed enough of the length of each tie that no undue pressure was exerted on rails in the next step. I wanted to be sure not to drive the rails apart from each other.

    5. I used a Xuron rail nipper to cut away the center of each tie, as close as possible to the rail clips as I could. I didn't cut the rail clips, which still firmly hold the rail to the remaining pieces of tie beneath it and outside it.

    6. I used a hobby knife to smooth up the cuts and shave away just the tiniest bit of the rail clips (not enough to lose them, just to thin them a bit).

    7. I fitted the magnet between the rails, being sure that the top of the magnet is flush with the top of the rails. A piece of steel (I used a ruler) laid across the rails holds the magnet at just the right height, preventing it from dropping down too deeply between the rails.

    8. A bit of glue around the the magnet, some drying time and voila! A working uncouping magnet.

    Thanks, guys, for all the advice. You helped me think through the problem and gave me the stimulus to solve it.

    7. I fitted the magnet down between
  16. Tyson Rayles

    Tyson Rayles Active Member

    Well now that you got the magnet problem solved on to the next problem, pin height! You will have to adjust the pins on both ends of every peice of rolling stock you have ( and readjust from time to time). Too low and they hang on switch frogs causing derailments and gives you the always thrilling flying uncouple everytime you pass over the magnet. Too high and they won't uncouple. I admire all your effort to correctly install the magnets but I wonder how long you will keep them. About every body I know (me included) has ripped them out and use Rix pix or something like it instead. Whatever you end up doing I hope the model railroad Gods are with you. T.R.:) :)
  17. billk

    billk Active Member


    ...and that sound you hear is the air leaking out of all our balloons!:p
  18. Tyson Rayles

    Tyson Rayles Active Member

    Sorry,didn't mean to be a downer. I'm the first to admit it's neat when they work right, on the other hand in real life cars don't magically uncouple themselves so doing it manually is prototypical. Course we get to keep all our fingers unlike a lot of real life brakemen!:D
  19. Cactus

    Cactus Member

    Sure, Tyson.

    You may be quite right. I use a toothpick for uncoupling in my yard, which is right up front next to me.

    But, I have a bad back. This prevents me from leaning way over very much to uncouple cars at the rear of my layout -- where the coal mine is, for example. The layout is only 30 inches deep, but that still makes an uncomfortable reach for me. Also, my 55-year-old eyes don't see N-scale couplers well enough near the back of the layout for accurate placement of the toothpick.

    Soooo...... I'll be using magnets on selected sidings for as long as I can.
  20. Tyson Rayles

    Tyson Rayles Active Member

    Cactus I know where you are coming from but don't sell yourself short. I'm 54,need glasses to do this stuff and have problems with my lower back. The first thing I did was raise the height of my layout so I can work on scenery and operate it without having to bend over. My layout is 32 inches deep and try as I might I ended up with one place I have to uncouple near the back edge. I solved the problem of not being able to see well enough to manually uncouple by moving one of my overhead lights.The other thing I did was have a pair of glasses made where the whole lens area is the bi-focal part, in other words when I look thru the glasses in any direction everything 4 ft away or further is fuzzy but everything closer is razor sharp and being as my layout is only 3 1/2 ft deep at the deepest part it all stays in focus.Darn that was a long sentence, wore me out, gotta go take a nap. Good luck, hope some of this helps.:D

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