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Author Topic: A Kadee Coupler Question - Am I Using the Right One in My Longer Engines?  (Read 3866 times)

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« on: March 12, 2010, 05:54:01 AM »

Hello again everyone:

I'd like to pick the minds of the group on this issue and get the benefit of your experience about the right Kadee coupler to use with my engines.  I know about the #5 and #14 whisker couplers for the freight and passenger cars (Athearn's passenger cars are shorter than those of other manufacturers).   

I am trying to settle on the right Kadee coupler to use with my engines, especially the longer Athearn particular the SD-45s, SD-45-2s and FP-45s.  Now that I think about it, this issue sometimes presents itself with some of my longer Atlas engines as well.

It seems to me that a coupler with a longer shank should be with an underset shank that raises the knuckle slightly.  I have noticed that if I try to use an ordinary #5 or a #14 whisker coupler on the rear of one of these engines, the coupler knuckle seems to sit a little low when it comes to coupling to freight cars in particular...and can sometimes result in the engine uncoupling from the cars. 

Likewise, when it comes to the length of the coupler, would using a coupler with a longer shank help to prevent the derailing of the second engine in a 2-engine consist?

I guess the questions that I am asking are as follows:

1.  While the #5 or #14 medium length center set shank couplers are fine for your average freight cars or Athearn passenger cars, should I be using a coupler on the engines that is longer than a medium shank coupler? 

2.  If the answer to Question 1 is yes, is that also true for couplers between engines?  Every once in a while, I notice that the front wheels of the second engine in a 2 engine consist can derail coming off of a curve (these are 22", 26" or 28" radius curves) and I am wondering if the coupler is too short and is pulling the front wheels of the second engine off the track?

3.  Should I be using couplers with under set shanks on on the rear of the second engine in a 2 engine consist?  After all, you can't use spacers to raise the height of the coupler knuckle on the rear of an engine so that it lines up with the coupler on the first freight car (or passenger car)...nor do I know of any way to lower the coupler knuckle on the first car being pulled by the engine.  I don't really want to use an overset shank on one end of some of my freight cars because that means that I would be limited to only certain freight cars I could use as the first car in a train only to those which have a overset shank. 

I have been looking at the longer Kadee #21 or #31 couplers with the underset shanks for the engines and have been asking myself is this the solution to this issue?  Or is this an issue at all?

Does anyone have any experience with this issue or am I barking up the wrong tree?   Any and all suggestions would be welcome.

I do have a Kadee coupler gauge, but it seems to me that I just might be using the wrong kind of coupler on these engines.

P.S. - And by the way, if I do need to be using a coupler other than the #5 or #14, does these couplers come pre-assembled?  I hate the idea of trying to put a spring in the knuckle of an unassembled coupler.

Thanks for your responses as always guys.  I have learned a lot from you before and I am sure that I will learn a lot more from you in the future.

« Last Edit: March 12, 2010, 06:05:58 AM by BradKT » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2010, 09:42:26 AM »

Kadee has an extensive web site ( with a section dedicated entirely to conversions.  For example, they recommend a #38 for your Athearn FP-45.  The #38 is a plastic coupler with a medium center-set shank.  The 30 series has a unique draft gear that is extremely versatile.

A word about Kadee couplers in general.  They do require a certain amount of precision to make them work properly.  They are designed first and formost to be installed in a Kadee draft gear box.  This is not to say that you can't use a box molded into the bottom of a car (like the Athearn cars for example), but the couplers work BEST in their own box.

Using an underset shank to fix a sagging coupler is not good practice.  Couplers sag because the draft gear box does not properly support the coupler.  The solution is to shim the coupler up inside its box.  Sagging is sometimes a problem with the "whisker" couplers because the centering spring is gone although the depth of the box is designed to accomodate it.

As far as your Athearn locos are concerned, I have NEVER (until Genesis arrived) seen an Athearn engine that you could just slap a Kadee #5 into using the Athearn box and have it work right.  Not only is the height wrong, but the chassis is live and the #5 is metal, so if you couple two powered Athearn engines together back to back, you'll have a short.

Older Atlas engines that came with the X2F coupler can be converted by pulling out the pin that holds the old coupler in place, assembling a #5 IN ITS OWN BOX, cutting the ears off the box, putting the box back into the X2F pocket, and replacing the pin. 

Longer coupler shanks will allow you to couple longer cars and keep them on the track on curves, but the better solution is to use locomotives and rolling stock appropriate to your track radius.  If you have 18" radius track and want reliable operation, you should limit yourself to small steam engines (up to, say, a 4-6-0), 4 axle diesels (GP-7's for example) and 40-50 foot freight cars. 

For installing Kadees, your best friends are your Kadee gauge, a #50 drill and a 2-56 tap.  Good luck.  Hope this helps.
Old Timer


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« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2010, 11:52:40 AM »

I wanted to say that I realize you have broader radius curves than I mentioned in my previous post...I didn't mean to direct that paragraph at you's just that big equipment on tiny curves can cause problems. 

Your derailment problems could be a bad track joint or two engines that are mismatched and pushing and pulling against each other.  Uncouple them, separate them by a couple of feet, and run them.  They should pretty much maintain their interval. 

Sorry for any confusion. 
The addlepated Old Timer   Undecided

Just workin' on the railroad.

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« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2010, 03:32:06 AM »

I did find and check the Athearn conversion chart which specifies the right couplers for various types of engines...including Athearn and Atlas. 

Between that chart and your post, my suspicions were right that I was using the wrong coupler on the Athearn SD-45s (which do require use of a medium length undershank coupler).  The FP-45s and the SD-45-2s were OK (they are Athearn Genesis). 

In addition, the Atlas locos did require a longer coupler, but they were center shank couplers. 

The coupler numbers were 37 and 38.

One last note: I have never had a problem with metal couplers causing a short circuit when I use a multi-engine consist.  I almost always run multi-engine consists.  Is this something that I should worry about?

If that is a problem that I should worry about, should I just use the  plastic McHenry couplers between the engines that came with them?

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« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2010, 11:50:40 AM »

The metal coupler problem was an Athearn issue a long time ago.  I was away from the hobby for a number of years and truthfully do not know if the chassis got redesigned prior to the introduction of the Genesis line, but I sort of doubt it. The  problem was that the chassis is hot.  If you take two locos, turn one around so they are back to back, and couple them with metal couplers directly connected to the chassis, you will create a short.  If the engines are facing the same way, both are connected to the same rail and there is no problem.  If you use a plastic coupler, or an insulated draft gear box there is no problem. 

This could have been a problem with other manufacturers as well, but since Athearn pretty much cornered the inexpensive diesel market, that's what I was most familiar with.  My personal best guess is that the hot chassis issue is why Athearn made so many dummy engines...the dummmies have plastic wheels so it doesn't matter which way they face.

My experience with Kadee over the years is that they are VERY helpful.  If you are having coupler problems that you can't resolve, you shouldn't hesitate to call them.  Happy Railroading.
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« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2010, 04:40:51 PM »

Thank you.  That explains why I am not having a problem with my Athearn engines.  The engines all face the same way in my multi-engine consists.  I'll remember that in the future.

You learn something new every day.
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