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Author Topic: Coupler compatibility  (Read 3857 times)
El Robbie

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« on: April 17, 2018, 01:40:20 AM »

Iíve searched for this topic on the board, and the issue doesnít seem to have been addressed in many years.

Iím new to n-scale. Iím finding that the couplers on new Atlas rolling stock I recently bought do not securely engage the couplers on my Bachmann Alco RS3 diesel. Both are knuckle-style couplers, but the Bachmann coupler seems bigger. I can sometimes get the couplers to engage for a little while, but they come uncoupled within a few minutes.

Iíve tried two different Atlas freight cars, both ends, and the front and rear couplers on the RS3. Same results, so itís not just one bad coupler.

So, I have the following questions:

1. I'm not sure whether the Bachmann diesel has EZ-Mate or EZ-Mate Mark II couplers. Would that make a difference?

2. In general, are there some brands of n-scale couplers that are compatible with the  standard Bachmann couplers, and some brands that arenít? If so, which?

3. How do I go about fixing my current problem? Can any of the couplers be modified (bent, adjusted, etc.) so the Bachmann and Atlas couplers will engage properly?

4. If answer to 3 is no, is the next step to replace one or both sets of couplers? If so, I see at least three possible options: (a) replace the Atlas couplers with EZ-Mate couplers; (b) replace the Bachmann couplers with Atlas couplers; or (c) replace both Atlas and Bachmann couplers with a third brand, such as Micro Trains. Any recommendations on which approach is best? And if I go with a third brand, am I better off with truck-mounted or body-mounted couplers?

5. Iíve heard about outfitting a car with, for example, an Atlas coupler at one end and a Bachmann coupler at the other end. Is that a practical solution? Seems like it would limit where the conversion car is positioned, and it will have to be used every time the two brands of couplers are involved.

6. The couplers are so small Iím not sure these aging eyes and not-the-steadiest of hands are up to the task. Is it difficult to swap out couplers? Are there services that will handle these swapouts for less than the cost of a different brand of rolling stock?

I know that's a lot of questions. If youíve read this far, thanks. And thanks in advance for any insight anyone can offer.
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spookshow


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« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2018, 05:41:38 AM »

In theory, all of the currently available knuckle-style couplers (Bachmann E-Z Mate, Atlas Accumate, Athearn McHenry, MTL, Kato, et al) should all be compatible with each other. That said, I too have had occasional problems with the Atlas couplers (my personal opinion is that they're too small compared to some of the others).

Before changing couplers, the first thing I would do is verify that the height of the coupler on the locomotive is correct (not too high or too low). That's usually the main culprit when there are coupling issues.

If problems persist, I would suggest swapping the Atlas couplers for MTL's. IMO, they are much more reliable.

-Mark
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Maletrain

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« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2018, 10:03:07 AM »

No matter what you choose to do about keeping or changing couplers, I suggest that you start with getting a gauge to measure the coupler knuckle center height and the trip pin clearance.  MicroTrains makes a good gauge for that.  Actually two gauges, one with a coupler that is mounted to a cast metal part that sits on the rails and holds the coupler at the NMRA standard height above the rails, and the other gauge is just a flat piece of metal 0.010" thick that sits on top of the rails and the trip pin should pass over it without touching.  Please note that the knuckle height gauge needs to rest on code 80 rail, because its bottom can reach the plastic tie "spikes" on some code 55 rail and raise the gauge up off the rail head, spoiling the proper measurement for coupler height.

It is also necessary to make sure that the couplers are not sticking to one side or the other, nor drooping.  If they are sticking, some dry lubricant squirted into the coupler box can sometimes fix the problem.  Microtrains "Grease-em" is designed for that, but do not be fooled by its name, because it is not actually grease.

Replacing couplers is both expensive and a PITA.  Part of the pain can be traded for expense by purchasing couplers already assembled in their boxes to mount on car bodies, or buying new trucks with the couplers you want already assembled in them.

But, before you go to all that trouble, it pays to take a close look at your track to see if that is really where your problem lies.  If all of your uncoupling issues happen at the same spot(s) on your track, look there for issues that can cause cars to uncouple, particularly if there are some minor issues between a pair of couplers that are otherwise compatible.  Such things as kinks in the rails due to misaligned rail joiners, track sections that are not connected straight, or sharp changes in vertical angle between sections. Most knuckle couplers today can successfully run together.  Atlas couplers are notorious for dropping their pins, which does not cause them to uncouple.  But, those loose pins on the track can cause other issues when they are struck by other cars with other couplers.

Good luck finding a solution that works for you.  Let us know how it is going.
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Fred Klein

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« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2018, 10:07:00 AM »

I totally agree with Mark on the Micro-Trains Line (MTL) couplers. In my experience, they tend to be the most reliable, overall, of the different brands of couplers that are out there (but it is possible to get a few duds here and there). All of my couplers are truck mounted because that is the way they come from most manufacturers and they tend to work better on tighter curves - mine are 11.25 and 12. 5 inches. As far as being tiny, yes, they are but I supplement my aging eyes (I'm 70) by using an Optivisor and the MTL coupler assembly jig. The jig alone, while being relatively simple, is worth its weight in gold (to me at least). To save money, I generally buy the couplers unassembled and then I will spend an evening assembling a bunch of them to have available. I tend to buy old new stock Bachmann freight cars (because the are generally cheaper), quite a few of which still have the old Rapido couplers which I then convert.  Also, I use the MTL N-scale coupler height gauge and it has solved a myriad of problems for me. Hope this helps.
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Fred Klein
Okeechobee, FL
Len

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« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2018, 11:02:54 AM »

"Please note that the knuckle height gauge needs to rest on code 80 rail, because its bottom can reach the plastic tie "spikes" on some code 55 rail and raise the gauge up off the rail head, spoiling the proper measurement for coupler height."

A couple of swipes on the 'guide rails' with a 10" flat mill file will take care of that problem, while still letting it work with larger rails.

Len
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If at first you don't succeed, throw it in the spare parts box.
Maletrain

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« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2018, 09:41:16 AM »

"Please note that the knuckle height gauge needs to rest on code 80 rail, because its bottom can reach the plastic tie "spikes" on some code 55 rail and raise the gauge up off the rail head, spoiling the proper measurement for coupler height."

A couple of swipes on the 'guide rails' with a 10" flat mill file will take care of that problem, while still letting it work with larger rails.

True enough.  But not really practical unless you always do your coupler work on a piece of track that you have taken the time to modify.  Easier for me to just use a separate piece of Code 80 track when doing coupler work, rather than modify a piece of Code 55 track and then make sure I don't grab an unmodified piece whenever I do coupler work.
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Len

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« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2018, 12:33:27 PM »

I'm talking about filing down the guides on the bottom of the gauge that hit the 'spikes' on code 55 track, not modifying the track.

Len
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If at first you don't succeed, throw it in the spare parts box.
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