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American N-gauge couplers


Casey Jones

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I am thinking of trying a layout in American N-gauge, has anyone any experience of the magnetic knuckle couplers used on these models with regard to such things as the reliability of the automatic uncoupling. I believe the situation is similar to that with HO with Micro-trains being the best ( as per Kadee ) and many of the manufacturers fitting their mown cheaper imitations which are not as good and therefore need changing. How easy is this replacement process?

 

Any and all info gratefully received.

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As with anything, the answer is 'it depends'. MicroTrains (MT) couplers are the standard, but even they are significantly more finicky than Kadees due to the small size. They seem to need more tweaking to get reliable operation compared to their HO brethren (not entirely unexpected). It is definitely better to standardize on a single coupler manufacturer - while the various types of magnetic knuckle (MT, Accumate, McHenry, Kato, Bachmann) will couple together, magnetic uncoupling between different brands is not necessarily reliable.

 

For most freight cars (including Rapido-equipped ones), the best way to get consistent couplers is to use the MT replacement trucks (bogies). If you want to go with body-mount couplings (there are both advantages and disadvantages to this), MT makes various types of mounting (1015/1016, 1025, 1027, and 2004 are the most useful).

 

Locomotives tend to be reasonably easy, since the Accumate mounting used on Atlas and older Athearn (among others) is usually the same form factor as a 1015/1016 (direct replacement) and there are MT conversions for a lot of older locos.

 

See http://www.micro-trains.com/Coupler%20diagrams.pdf

 

and

 

http://www.micro-trains.com/ConversionsN.php

 

I have pretty much standardized on MTs for my freight stock, particularly since older Accumates have a distressing tendency to lose their trip pins. Because of the design of the MT mountings, you can get a bit of a 'slinky' effect on longer trains (most MT mountings are sprung longitudinally), which doesn't show up with other makes of couplings.

 

Adrian

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The big difference between Micro Trains N and Kadee HO is that the MT are plastic, while most Kadees are metal. Plastic couplers are much more brittle overall. To me this has been an important factor in making me stay in HO with metal Kadees.

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I am thinking of trying a layout in American N-gauge, has anyone any experience of the magnetic knuckle couplers used on these models with regard to such things as the reliability of the automatic uncoupling. I believe the situation is similar to that with HO with Micro-trains being the best ( as per Kadee ) and many of the manufacturers fitting their mown cheaper imitations which are not as good and therefore need changing. How easy is this replacement process?

 

Any and all info gratefully received.

 

I've been fighting with N scale couplers for the last year or two. I wanted good reliable remote uncoupling and I still haven't achieved that.

 

I decided to standardise on MT couplers and decided to fit body mounts to all stock since I found that truck mounted couplers could sometimes be pulled down onto the magnets and derail the truck. I've tried all the MT magnets with varying degrees of success but with nowhere near 100% reliability on uncoupling. I've also tried my home brewed electro-magnet and have got better success, but only if the MT couplers are bought ready built, or the home built ones are built really carefully to get minimum friction.

 

I've also tried the Sergent coupler which is now fitted to Athearn N scale stock and it seems to work better that the MT coupler. I am seriously considering changing over to this type of coupler. It is a bit bulkier than the MT product but if it performs better I can probably put up with the (more) over-scale look. One problem with the Sergent is that the couplers are sold without mounting boxes so I shall have to use my existing MT mounting boxes to fit them. When I run out of existing MT boxes I will probably have to buy 10 x 1015 MT couplers just to get the mounting boxes. :rolleyes:

 

I haven't tried the MT Z scale coupler which is about the correct scale size for N scale. I might get a few pairs just to see if they might work better than their N scale counterparts.

 

I tried N scale couplers about forty years ago when they were first brought out by Kadee' and didn't get much joy then - I finished up using MBM ones instead. Getting back into N forty years on, I thought that things might have improved..... :(

 

Otherwise, the couplers do work very well when coupling and do uncouple manually with an appropriate tool. Some people use cocktail sticks, others use small screwdrivers but I have started using the RixPix tool which is a plastic tool with a flattened pointed end which does the job well. I got mine from Model Junction but I've just checked their web site and they don't seem to have any in stock at the moment.

 

Jim.

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I've been fighting with N scale couplers for the last year or two. I wanted good reliable remote uncoupling and I still haven't achieved that.

 

I decided to standardise on MT couplers and decided to fit body mounts to all stock since I found that truck mounted couplers could sometimes be pulled down onto the magnets and derail the truck. I've tried all the MT magnets with varying degrees of success but with nowhere near 100% reliability on uncoupling. I've also tried my home brewed electro-magnet and have got better success, but only if the MT couplers are bought ready built, or the home built ones are built really carefully to get minimum friction.

 

I've also tried the Sergent coupler which is now fitted to Athearn N scale stock and it seems to work better that the MT coupler. I am seriously considering changing over to this type of coupler. It is a bit bulkier than the MT product but if it performs better I can probably put up with the (more) over-scale look. One problem with the Sergent is that the couplers are sold without mounting boxes so I shall have to use my existing MT mounting boxes to fit them. When I run out of existing MT boxes I will probably have to buy 10 x 1015 MT couplers just to get the mounting boxes. :rolleyes:

 

Those would be McHenrys. AFAIK Sergents are only available in HO, providing a closer-to-scale size and appearance. The McHenrys look like shrunk Kadees - if they were available in the same range of mountings and lengths as the MTs, I might consider them an option (I do like the Kadee-style head over the MT one), but that appears to be a distant dream at the moment.

 

I haven't tried the MT Z scale coupler which is about the correct scale size for N scale. I might get a few pairs just to see if they might work better than their N scale counterparts.

 

Based on my experience, I'd say that you wouldn't find more reliable operation - just the opposite in fact.

 

 

I tried N scale couplers about forty years ago when they were first brought out by Kadee' and didn't get much joy then - I finished up using MBM ones instead. Getting back into N forty years on, I thought that things might have improved..... :(

 

Otherwise, the couplers do work very well when coupling and do uncouple manually with an appropriate tool. Some people use cocktail sticks, others use small screwdrivers but I have started using the RixPix tool which is a plastic tool with a flattened pointed end which does the job well. I got mine from Model Junction but I've just checked their web site and they don't seem to have any in stock at the moment.

 

Jim.

 

Yes, a shunting tool works quite well. It is my current uncoupler of choice, and has the advantage that it will deal with different types of coupler.

 

Adrian

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The big difference between Micro Trains N and Kadee HO is that the MT are plastic, while most Kadees are metal. Plastic couplers are much more brittle overall. To me this has been an important factor in making me stay in HO with metal Kadees.

 

This has not been an issue with the N-scale couplers in my experience. This includes using packets of couplings that have been on the shelf long enough that they still have the Kadee name on them (i.e. from before the Kadee/MT split). Delrin doesn't appear to get brittle anywhere near as quickly as other plastics.

 

Adrian

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Dear RM team,

 

Must admit my experience with MT couplers involved HOn30 aussie logging, where "unit trains" of log bogies/"disconnects" is the rule.

However, that said

 

- MT couplers are a "drop in" fit in the pilots of LifeLike SW7/9/1200 and GP20 mechs.

 

- I agree that replacing the trucks is posibly the easiest way to convert N scale car to MTs, but that does not ensure that all cars couplers are on height. I've used maybe 20 pair of MT archbars to make disconnects, and without exception, every single truck-mounted coupler was at least 0.010" below the level perscribed by the MT coupler height gauge.

 

- while you may wish to replace the trucks, you may also wish to substitute metal wheelsets for the MT plastic ones. Atlas N gauge wheelsets have worked for me, and made hyper-light log bogies actually possible.

(with plastic wheels, they are simply impossible to reliably run empty...

http://www.hon30.org/disconnects/discon.html )

 

As with anything in modelling,

- take your time to assemble/install them right the first time

- keep them on height

- and recognize that they will always be smaller than their HO brethern,

 

and N scale MT couplers should be able to handle hardcore switching operations with aplomb.

 

2 thoughts to round out

- MT supply "axle end retarding springs" to add just a touch of drag to each car.

Use them.

 

- given the comparative weight of N scale cars, the "metal couplers or nothing" argument common and valid IMHO for HO and above,

doesn't hold quite the same intrinsic "truth" in N scale...

 

Happy Modelling,

Aim to Improve,

Prof Klyzlr

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Those would be McHenrys. AFAIK Sergents are only available in HO, providing a closer-to-scale size and appearance. The McHenrys look like shrunk Kadees - if they were available in the same range of mountings and lengths as the MTs, I might consider them an option (I do like the Kadee-style head over the MT one), but that appears to be a distant dream at the moment.

 

Whoops - sorry, I had been reading other material on Sergent couplers and the name stuck. :D It is, of course, McHenry couplers.

 

Jim.

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Many thanks for all of the input to date. On the subject of manual uncoupling I have seen a device used with HO which looks like a plastic two prong fork with a magnet on each prong, you hold it over the couplers and the magnets pull the knuckles apart. Is such a thing available for N-gauge? Anyone tried it?

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I think it's made by Rix, and a somewhat similar product by Central Valley. The RIX is for HO, and having tried it, I've got to say I don't recommend it -- you've got to put it in exactly the right place to make it work at all. Your best bet in either scale is an under-the-track magnet.

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Many thanks for all of the input to date. On the subject of manual uncoupling I have seen a device used with HO which looks like a plastic two prong fork with a magnet on each prong, you hold it over the couplers and the magnets pull the knuckles apart. Is such a thing available for N-gauge? Anyone tried it?

 

 

Dear Casey,

 

Yep, used them in N thru O scale. They work OK if

 

1 - you can 'aim and shoot' perfectly vertically between the cars, from directly above,

accurately from where you are standing,

(speaks to reach-in distances on the layout, and layout VS armpit VS eyelevel altitude),

 

2 - and the cars don't have anything impeeding/intruding into the coupler gap/space,

particularly if there are things like uncoupling bars (US style) made of magnetic-attracting steel wire...

(I know, most use brass, but some RTR details are actually steel wire!)

 

 

Of course, Rix also offer a non-magnetic "pick and twist" option,

 

http://billstrainsandtrack.net/product.php?productid=16721

 

which can be easily "evaluated" without spending a whole lot of $$$,

by trying a sharply-pointed disposable wooden/bamboo kebab skewer...

 

http://www.gazlannathai.com/store/images/HomAroi/Kebab-Skewers-mixed-sizes.jpg

 

 

Happy Modelling,

Aim to Improve,

Prof Klyzlr

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