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Started by finkel, February 17, 2023, 11:14:43 AM

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i hate the bachmann ez-mate couplers. the wire that hangs down (to permit automatic decoupling which never works anyhow) has a habit of catching on the ez-track turnouts causing derailments or car separation. so i tried removing the wire and guess what - the entire coupler fell apart.


Please. any ideas other than replacing everything.

Terry Toenges

I snip them shorter with pliers or rail nippers.
Feel like a Mogul.



I just noticed. The link is for an N scale tool. Sorry.  An HO scale one is available. Don't use anything else but this kind of tool to bend your trip pins. Regular rule needle nose pliers will ruin the pin and maybe break your coupler in the process.

And.  Replace all plastic couplers with Kadees. When feasible. The gold standard. None other compare.  You don't have to replace them all at once. They will mate with any other knuckle coupler as you transition to the new ones over time.

Any way you slice the cheese, plastic knuckle couplers are cheesy.  They are not durable, as you have seen. Many do not even have a coil spring for the knuckle, just a little finger holding the knuckle closed that wears out in short order.  Metal knuckle couplers are the only real way to go in serious model railroading. They do get expensive, but, how valuable is reliable, smooth operation to you?  If you are into switching at all, no knuckle coupler couples up as smoothly as the metal Kadee coupler. 

And, don't bother with the magnetic uncoupling ramps. Anyone who is into extensive switching knows that you can't put a ramp at every possible location you want to set out a car. Learn to use one of the many uncoupling tools available, or more budget-consciously, wooden skewers of the kind they serve shish kebab on.


One last comment is related to the expense of metal knuckle couplers. It appears that they only are used as stock items on very expensive premium – quality ready to run cars with separately applied ladders and complete underbody brake rigging. These kind of cars can run up to $50 or $60 each, are very fragile, and generally purchased only by very experienced (and affluent) model railroaders.  I have a few. They are very beautiful, but I found them to be so fragile that I don't use them in day-to-day operation very much.

The plastic knuckle coupler market arose when Kadee's patents ran out years ago. The premium ready to run market did not exist yet, and plastic ready-to-run low- to mid- quality cars came with what were called X2F couplers, or erroneously "NMRA" couplers. They were terrible in every aspect, and the plastic knuckle couplers that eventually arose were a major improvement,, despite their lack of durability and lack of smooth operation characteristics.

I used to assiduously and immediately replace every non-Kadee coupler on new pieces I bought with Kadees. At this point in time, I'm a little slower doing it, but the less than spectacular operation of non-Kadee couplers makes me eventually get around to it.


I'm in the, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it.", camp. On ready-to-run equipment, plastic knuckle couplers with a plastic finger instead of a coil spring are considered 'broke' out of the box, and replaced with Kadee's. Plastic couplers with coil knuckle springs get a shot of graphite and left until failure, then replaced with Kadee's. Requiring too much force to couple is considered a failure. Kit cars that have to be assembled get Kadee's when assembled.

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


Ralph S

I have a different take on couplers, Bachmann and Kadee to me doesn't matter.  It's the maintenance that run my trains.  For instance, I load up a train that consists of say, 14 cars, it runs around the track and say a car becomes uncoupled (coupler breaks, or some other cause).  That's when I send out my maintenance cars (team).  They perform switching to move that car from the mainline, say push it to a siding, then I will repair that car and put it back on that siding track for pick up later, or have the maintenance (team) transport that broken car back to the shop (I have a shop siding where all the maintenance is performed.  I call it the "Outer limits" although part of my layout (a single track to it) but it's where I actually perform hands on work/repair/fix on the train cars. 

It's all in how you look at broken parts.  If that's not realistic maintenance of broken couplers then what is?  Broken couplers is part of the fun in running the me. 


If you do any switching at all, you will hate plastic couplers, or any couplers besides Kadee.  Kadee couplers will mate and close together at a feather touch of less than one scale mile per hour, as good as the prototype. Plastic couplers, you have to hit them really hard for them to open up and close on each other. And the plastic finger substitute for a knuckle Spring is going to give out in just a couple of months, guaranteed, if you're switching much.

The only plastic couplers I have left on my layout, that I'm going to keep in place, are on the pilots of Bachmann steam locomotives. For some unfathomable reason, Bachmann made the coupler pocket too shallow for Kadee couplers to fit properly. Supposedly you can file Kadees and jiggle with them to make them work there, but that one place, I'll leave the plastic ones there as they seem to work OK most of the time. They do have metal coil springs for the knuckle to which makes them moderately acceptable. But I still have to occasionally bang a car pretty hard with the pilot coupler to make them mate.

Desert Rose

I do a lot of large-scale switching, 100 cars+ using X2F couplers (horn hook) and have no problems with them. There is nothing wrong with the equipment, it's how you're using it. Couplers are specialized equipment. Find your type of operation and use the proper couplers for that Operation.

NOTE: One type of coupler cannot always meet all the different types of operational requirements.


If you say so. The rest of us including the industry itself have abandoned the horn hook long ago. Its flaws are many and well documented.
Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA


Agreed, Jeffrey. 100%.

And if "large scale switching" means coupling up of long cuts of cars to each other, then the weight of each cut of cars on either side of the coupling operation will guarantee a smooth couple-up with any coupler, even the horn hook.   I can personally attest that trying to couple only one single car to another single car car, both with horn hooks, will never, ever, ever smoothly couple up. The plastic springs manufactured on the side of those dogs are just too strong.  You'll push the car along forever and nothing will ever happen.

And, my opinion only, in my experience, Kadee knuckle couplers have satisfied every need on every operations layout I have ever had.  The appearance is much better than horn hooks, and with careful installation any kind of operation is flawless.  If they are pulling out or letting go under heavy use such as long cuts of cars, the problem is in the installation, not the coupler.


Just FYI, couplers fail on the prototype too.

One night I was at a party in a fourth floor condominium overlooking the New Orleans public belt railroad. A long transfer move was passing below at slow speed. I wasn't paying any attention until I heard the air line pop and the whole train going to emergency, slamming together all the slack in every coupler in the train.  When I went out on the porch to see what was going on, I could that see the train had parted somewhere in the middle, with each section about 40 feet apart or so.  It was very obvious that a coupler knuckle had broken.  The train sat there for about 15 minutes until a couple of trucks came down the right of way with a few guys that got out and worked on the coupler for a while, obviously installing a new knuckle. After they got done, the front part of the train backed up to pick up the rear part, pumped up the air and left. No one at the party but me knew what had actually happened.

Desert Rose

You are 100% correct, however kadee couplers have one flaw when operating large unit trains. Coupler creep. long trains at speed have a push pole effect, causing the couplers to ride up and down until They uncouple with a loud pop. Our consist consists of four DDA40X lashed together for a length of 5 ft±, the rolling stock is another 65ft±. When the lead engine running at speed hits some dirty track it momentarily slows down, causing a ripple effect throughout the train pushing the rolling stock up against the lead engine, lead engine picks back up stretching the consist back out, this whipping happens in milliseconds. The Kadees are not caged, they don't like it and the train eventually will come apart from Coupler creep. So, we are obliged to use the caged couplers that are on the market and still in production. If Kadee can come with a caged coupler, I would be happy to purchase a thousand of them. 


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

Desert Rose

No, I will purchase 12 sets and start testing them, Good idea.