A Trainboard Challenge!! Let the braintrust design the perfect coupler!!

oldrk Feb 8, 2011

  1. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

  2. kermat13

    kermat13 TrainBoard Member

    My understanding of history--I'm sure someone can correct/add to my info.

    Rapido couplers were the standard for many years. The worked ok for most people but with N'trak modules they tended to lift over each other at the joints of the modules and break apart. Long trains really made this more difficult.

    Microtrains has there coupler pretty much as we know it today. Tend to stay together and allowed for longer trains.

    Unimates (now made by Red Caboose) came along at some point and were "very thick" knuckle coupler, but they stay together no matter what. I could derail a whole car and the train would stay together and still move along the track.

    Intermountain had there trucks. They were ok also, but for me didn't hold together in long trains.

    I think Kato was next with a knuckle style coupler on passenger cars and in my opinion where just ok. they were none operating.

    Then comes Accumate on Atlas and Mchenrys and that is about where we are today.
  3. SteamDonkey74

    SteamDonkey74 TrainBoard Supporter

    I guess I just don't see where having non-operating couplers is an advancement in coupler design. It seems kind of like someone trotting out plastic frame mechanisms for locomotives or three-pole motors and acting like it's some sort of improvement or something new.

    It's like a car advertisement claiming "The new 2011 Ford Whatchacallit, now with a carburetor and drum brakes." The response would be "so what."
  4. Tony Burzio

    Tony Burzio TrainBoard Supporter

    I just buy a pack of the wrong sized wheel sets for MT trucks, with a longer axle. This makes the car roll poorly, like it has brakes on. Much easier than getting those teeny springs to stay in place while you put the wheel set into the side frame!

    I'd be very happy if MT made a truck mounted coupler box that was underslung with the height made up at the coupler. They make them as separate couplers already for some diesels where the coupler box was too low, but they've never attached it to the truck as a low mount. This would allow much lower riding cars, like the Accumates do, but the pins would stay in!

    As for rough handling cabooses with slack action:

    http://trn.trains.com/en/Railroad Reference/Railroad History/2006/05/The colorful caboose.aspx

    Despite its charm, the caboose's location at the end of a train made it a dangerous place to work. The inevitable slack, incurred whenever a train started, stopped, or changed speed, rippled back to the caboose. The ensuing jolt could be so severe that it would send crew members falling to the floor, pitching into a wall, stove, or desk corner, or even tumbling from the cupola, any of which could cause serious injury.
  5. Metro Red Line

    Metro Red Line TrainBoard Member

    I totally agree, but then again this is Con-Cor we're talking about...not exactly a company that cares to do anything new or groundbreaking. I mean, MTL came out with the first N-scale knuckle coupler in the 1970s, and now this is the 2010s, and Con-Cor apparently just got the memo that all the young kids are into this new-fangled knuckle coupler business, lol.

    If you're looking for average to below-average quality models, Con-Cor is it!
  6. PF2488

    PF2488 E-Mail Bounces

    Forgive me if this was brought up already. I do not have a lot of time to read the thread but I ran across an old add for Kadee (in the NSC (NSE) magazine) and it shows a small dowel (plastic rod) that you put inside the spring. It would seem to me that this would solve the slink issue, or atleast minimize some of the travel
  7. Charlie Vlk

    Charlie Vlk TrainBoard Member

    mtntrainman wrote:
    "I still havent gotten a logical answer for the coupler moving in and out of the box...which is the cause of the 'slinky' effect."

    Here is my explanation:
    The centering and closure action of the M-T coupler is based on the action of the right and left hand edges of the face of the floating draft gear coil spring bearing against the right and left hand inside slotted surfaces of the Knuckle and Pawl Shanks. The opposite end of the spring compresses against the screw post and attempts to keep the end (or the front depending on the style) of the shank halves slots against the post. Slack pulling or pushing action on the coupler induces the "slinky" effect compressing the spring. The action of the coupler is dependent on the free-floating spring.... if the coupler pivot was fixed on the screw post you would lose the closure and centering action of the coupler.
    The Accumate has a fixed center pivot because the Knuckle Shank and Guard Arm Shank each have their own spring bearing against the coupler box side to center the shanks against each other and also provide closure of the knuckle. On the McHenry the pivot is also fixed and the shanks are not split and have a dual spring just for centering, the separately pivoted knuckle closure being provided by a coil spring like the original HO Kadee #5 coupler.
    IMHO Con-Cor is to be commended in coming up with a funcitonal lower cost alternative to installing M-T couplers on a car. Since M-T does not license their design, a manufacturer has to buy couplers (at a significant percentage of the retail price) from M-T to install them on their equipment. Con-Cor still offers this alternative, and since their "dummy" coupler now has the same draft gear dimensions as a MT-1015 they can make a much better installation in their own trucks if the customer want to have fully operating couplers on their cars (something that many do not feel is necessary, especially on passenger cars which are rarely switched).
    Charlie Vlk
    Railroad Model Resources
  8. GaryHinshaw

    GaryHinshaw TrainBoard Member


    Thank you for joining this conversation, it's very valuable to have your perspective shared here.

    That said, I'm not sure I get your point in your earlier post (#96). You rightly list a number of common complaints about the MT coupler, including:

    Then, in your discussion of the Kato semi-automatics, you note:

    Do you think there is a happy medium in there somewhere that is smaller than an MT but larger than a semi-auto, that is still reliable on the "typical horrible track standards"? I fear not, but I'm afraid I may have missed your point.

    Personally, I like the idea of having a range of choices to satisfy a range of tastes (as with flange depth and rail size). I like experimenting with the Full Throttle Z's, but I don't mind the tighter tolerances required, and I'll be the first to admit that they're not for everyone. Indeed, I suspect the vast legions are perfectly happy with their MT's - and are skipping this thread. ;)

  9. Charlie Vlk

    Charlie Vlk TrainBoard Member

    No, there doesn't have to be any compromises on any of the issues raised.
    Stay tuned!!!
    Charlie Vlk
    Railroad Model Resources
  10. skipgear

    skipgear TrainBoard Member

    A simpler answer than Charlies, maybe......

    The early MT couplers are T shank, intended to go in place of a Rapido coupler. The Rapido coupler has the same spring that the MT does but it is much stronger because the Rapido just had to move up and down to couple. The MT coupler needs to be able to split left and right to be able to couple so the spring needs to be soft enough to allow the cars to kiss couple. When you soften the spring, it allows the coupler to float front to back in the coupler box and cause the slinky. Rapido's had the same basic design but the much stronger spring held the coupler taught against the face of the coupler box, making them more or less rigid and eliminating the slink. If you put a stronger spring in the MT coupler, it wouldn't opperate properly.
  11. Westfalen

    Westfalen TrainBoard Member

    Are you guys talking about different things or is something afoot that us lesser mortals aren't in on yet.:tb-cool:
  12. Jim Reising

    Jim Reising In Memoriam


    Ever hear of the Dash 2 project?

    But seriously folks, we have the demand and the desire. DO SOMETHING! Quit rehashing the same things - Geez, you'd think this was a N Scale forum or something. DO SOMETHING!
    I'm getting older here...
  13. Charlie Vlk

    Charlie Vlk TrainBoard Member

    The earliest Kadee Micro-Train couplers were not T-Shank... they were the 1023/25 style.
    One of the earliest products was the 40FT cast metal underframe with 1023s installed. This was even before they came out with the truck mounted couplers and started the locomotive conversion program, which included the T-Shank versions of the M-T couplers.
    The T-Shanks were apparently intended to be a "normal" coupler as they didn't develop it much beyond the finicky cast metal insert style which is not easy to install. "Back in the Day" a good T-Shank version would have sold like HotCakes.... but then M-T wouldn't have sold so many trucks with couplers.
    How many of you guys know that Kadee had a magnetic Rapido Style coupler and sold cars (with different roadnumbers) with Rapidos????
    Charlie Vlk
    Railroad Model Resources
  14. reinhardtjh

    reinhardtjh TrainBoard Member



    I remember those magnetic Rapidos. They had a small magnet or hunk of metal stuck on one side. Even uglier than the original! lol I also bought a few of the "-1" cars (cars with Rapido couplers) to make converters between locos with Rapidos and the cars with Kadee's. I also remember buying new cars from online for about $4 each. I was in college (1979-80) and even that seemed expensive! Oh, for those prices again.

    John H. Reinhardt
  15. Doug A.

    Doug A. TrainBoard Supporter

    Well, it sounds like we are going to have some good news soon, which is great to hear.

    Outside of that, I have the Full Throttle couplers and in theory they are the best thing I've seen size-wise and overall looks-wise. I do suspect that--since they are basically shrunken Accumates--that once you build a train with them it will be a disaster. Problem is, I'm gonna have to convert my 30 cars to find out....and still won't really know for sure until we get a train of 100 cars cruising around an N-trak layout.

    I'd say, if McHenry had made their coupler 10% smaller than MTL's versus 10% larger, we might not be having this conversation....dunno. I'd say, if you showed me an n-scale 120-car unit coal train with Full Throttle couplers run all-day long without excessive uncoupling or exploding-coupler-syndrome, the conversation would definitely be over for me. Seems a lot of folks are seeking the PERFECT coupler instead of just taking another step in the evolution. I'd say if we could get a RELIABLE coupler that is in the neighborhood of Z-size...I'm in.

    My personal criteria wouldn't even require fully auto-uncoupling. The semi-auto suits my needs. Operating sessions I've been a part of typically use picks, and I think they represent a better approach through simplicity. Although I admit if a good system could be developed and still maintain other goals I'd consider it a definite plus. (and for the record I do think MTL's uncoupling system is good, but the clones don't play well and that breaks the whole system) I could also live with a coupler that isn't even compatible with current designs, although I certainly realize I'm in the heavy minority on that. A lot of my cars are unit trains so it would be easier for me to segment those off.
  16. Charlie Vlk

    Charlie Vlk TrainBoard Member

    Also, not to just ignore the poster that was suggesting drawbars for unit train use, duly noted.... I agree that there is a need for them as well. Perhaps with both 1015 and T-Shank mounts with simulated coupled couplers????
    Charlie Vlk
  17. ram53

    ram53 TrainBoard Member

    Does anyone have a story of FT couplers exploding? From their construction, they seem very strong. I doubt that would happen. One problem I see with them is there is no easy way to use a screw to strengthen the mounting to the car body, except in certain specific situations like tank cars, where you can use the truck bolster loop. I don't know how a glue-only bond would hold up in a long train situation.
  18. Westfalen

    Westfalen TrainBoard Member

    Just do three or four cars and run them at the front of the train, if there are going to be any failures that's were they'll be.
  19. GaryHinshaw

    GaryHinshaw TrainBoard Member

    I think the FT's are more akin to shrunken McHenrys than Accumates: single piece shank and a sprung knuckle. So I don't see them being prone to "exploding". (I love the term "exploding Accumates" BTW, it always make me think of Gomez Addams.) So far I have run FTs at the head of a 20-car train (no grade) with no issues, but that is hardly a serious stress test. More testing is needed for sure.

    I also agree with Richard that other mounting options are needed. My default method for now is to glue and pin the draft gear lid to the car under-fame, using a short length of styrene rod as a pin, and Goo as the glue, as shown below. I'd love it if a more versatile draft gear box could be made available (and without trucks...).



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