Uncoupling magnets

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by Gary S., Dec 24, 2005.

  1. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    Do most of you use them? Are they reliable or just a pain? Instead of purchasing the Kadee magnets, has anyone experimented with other magnets? Home Depot sells rectangular shaped magnets, four for less than $3 if I remember correctly. Have been playing around with them a bit, they seem to work just fine.

    I want to use them on my new layout, but want some feedback first.

  2. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    Gary i have used industrial refrigerator magnet strips worked fine for me .
  3. jwmurrayjr

    jwmurrayjr Member

    I use the McHenry under-track magnets. They work fine and cost only $1.58 each at my LTS.

    They also come with a yard-worker (brakeman?) figure for a position marker, but the figures can be used for other things. I use Evergreen square rod to make something like a mile-marker post to indicate where the uncouplers are located (since they are covered with ballast).
  4. douglasarcher

    douglasarcher New Member

    I am also interested in purchasing uncoupling magnets and changing all the standard black plastic couplers which come with the rolling stock on most starter sets. I am not aware of how the magnetic un-couplers on the market for HO scale work, but was hoping that someone could advise a good product similar to the one's which are found on the old three-track Lionel trains where you could run your rolling stock over and hold down a button to control which cars you wanted to un-couple. I have looked for a product like this on Bachmann's website as well as Kadee, but they don't seem to have very in depth information on their products. For example, the pictures of the Bachmann coupling magnet which comes with the brakeman figure doesn't seem to have any wires or controls running from it so how do you control which cars you want to uncouple? Even reading through this thread I am not sure how you all control when you want your cars to uncouple. Am I right to assume that anytime you run cars over the magnet it will automatically uncouple regardless? What if you run your train over that particular magnet and don't wish to have uncoupling take place?

    My second question is, which coupler products would you recommend if I would just like to simply remove the stock plastic couplers from my trucks and insert couplers which can be used with magnetic uncouplers?
  5. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Douglas - I would recommend Kadees. They are the standard "aftermarket" coupler for a reason. Tough, work well, and come in different configurations for almost every application. The "scale size" #58 are nice, but the standard #5 are great as well.

    ADDITIONAL info - about your first question. Most of the magnets are in a specific location, and are always "on" (only electromagnetics can be turned off and on). You park the connection you want to uncouple over the magnet, and after a little back and forth to introduce slack in the couplers, they come apart due to the magnetic force. Theoretically, if you do not have slack in the couplers, they do not uncouple. However - read on...

    Gary - I would not recommend the uncoupler magnets for any area you can reach with your hand. Get an uncoupling "pick" instead (bamboo skewer, small screwdriver, specialty Micro-mark tool, etc, etc). If you do want to use them, use the electromagnetic ones that can be turned off when you don't want uncoupling.

    We used the standard "between the tracks" type one one of the local club's modular display. The module is for use at shows and meets. After much debate, we decided to remove the magnets because:

    - they uncouple when you don't expect it - any slack in the train can lead to unwanted uncouling
    - they are only located at specific spots, but you may want to uncouple elsewhere
    - they don't uncouple when you DO want it if you aren't super smooth on the throttle, and aren't using a well running engine with excellent slow speed capability

    Besides, the prototype does it by hand, and if it's good enough for them... ;)

  6. ReefBlueCoupe

    ReefBlueCoupe Member

    I would go the electromagnet route.
  7. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    I saw a neat little doohickey that was shaped like a dentist's mirror, but instead of the mirror on the 'bent' end, it had a magnet. Same idea of hand-uncoupling as the old bamboo skewer, but worked very nicely. Unless the couplers had hard tension on them (e.g. sitting on a grade), you didn't need to worry about slack.

    The downside? I didn't buy the one I saw (at a local show) and don't know where to get one... Though it would be at all hard to make your own, I think. That's likely what I'll end up doing.
  8. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    I'm glad to see this thread revived. For some reason, I just have an aversion to using a pick to uncouple the cars. I suppose that "hands off" in my head means "picks off" too. Perhaps I am leading myself down a long painful road?

    I intend to research the electromagnets.... wonder if I can wind my own?

    I did play around a bit with some cars and a magnet under some flex track. It seemed to work great for uncoupling, but when pulling a string of cars across it, it would sometimes uncouple the cars when I didn't want them to.

    Hmmmmm..... a mechanical apparatus contrilled by coat hanger wire that will raise and lower the magnet?
  9. kadidle

    kadidle Member

    Winding your own is easy, just grab some magnetic wire (I believe radio shack still carries this). I'm building my own for in the layout, and a handheld job, so I slide it around the joint in the cars and push a button to uncouple...
  10. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    The electromagnet option works quite well, in my experience. The only limitation is a bit of extra wiring (no big deal) and you're still in a fixed location. The latter is the main reason I tend to "pick" ...
  11. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    Is there anyone here who has actually wound their own uncoupling magnets? From my experimentation with permanant magnets, the flux lines have to be oriented a certain way to make the couplers work. Would it be best to use a round core? A rectangular core? What orientation to the track would be needed?

    I guess some experimentation is in order.
  12. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    I've never done it for uncouplers. I have, however, wound my own motor armatures in the past, and the experience was such that... I buy the ready-made uncouplers.
  13. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    I hear that! I was just thinking I could save some money by winding them... I haven't even checked to see how much the electromagnetic uncouplers cost.
  14. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    I think they're about $6-7 at trainworld, standardhobby and the like, maybe $10-ish at the LHS...
  15. kadidle

    kadidle Member

    I've considered makeing my handheld EM uncouplers available. If I do, I need to make them a little more finished... Is there actually any interest? If so I could figure out what they would cost and maybe whip some up for folks.
  16. Fusion

    Fusion New Member

    I little off track here (get it? :)), but where is a good place to position uncoupling magnets? What I mean is do you place it just before a turnoff into a main yard or something like that? Does anyone have a picture they can show?
  17. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    If you put it before the turnout, then you have the option of setting out the uncoupled car on either siding. If you put it in the siding, then the magnet is only useful for the one siding.

  18. kadidle

    kadidle Member

    I also like them before the turnout, and try to always make them the same distance before the frog, so that even if there is no marker at least *I* know where they are...
  19. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    Bear in mind that (at least with Kadee), the uncouplers come in delayed and non-delayed versions. This bears notably on placement.

    With a delayed uncoupler, you stop over the magnet, slack the tension, then can push the car onward as far as you like without recoupling. When you reverse and pull away, the uncoupled car stays put - whether that's 1 inch or 10 feet past the uncoupler.

    With a non-delayed uncoupler, the decoupling process is the same, but if you push the car off the uncoupler, it re-engages and you're coupled up again. This obviously doesn't work for the "before the turnout" scenarios above which assume you can push the car on into the spur then pull away.

    Even more relevant: It's been a while since I used the electromag uncoupler (two layouts ago), and I don't recall if it's delayed or not. The Kadee site doesn't say and it's not offered in two versions. My best recollection is that it's NOT delayed-action... but like I said, we're talking about 10 years ago and it's a bit foggy back that far...
  20. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    I am willing to be shown wrong, but I believe Kadee stopped producing non-delay couplers many years ago. The width of the uncoupling ramp and the magnetic force control of the uncoupling magnet determine whether the delay feature will work.

    For the electromagnetic uncoupler to enable delayed action, it must be able to remain energized for prolonged periods. It has to stay on while you uncouple and pull apart just enough to allow the couplers to get into the delayed position, and then re-engage in the delayed position. It takes many more turns of wire to get enough resistance in the wire coil to keep the current from burning up the wire, and yet have enough magnetic force at the reduced current level. Makes for a more expensive and bulkier electromagnet.

    Making the delay feature work consistently is not easy according to reports I have seen. Coupler centering forces have to be just right, as does the location of the magnet. While I too deplore reaching into my scenery and layout with "the hand of God" to uncouple cars, I also see that making remote uncoupling work reliably every place I want it is not a trivial task. IMO, the most workable way to achieve remote uncoupling (with no unwanted uncoupling) is with hinged or sliding magnets activated from the fascia.

    my 2 cents

    yours in uncoupling

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