N scale close coupling alternatives

NorsemanJack Jul 6, 2018

  1. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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    Close coupling is a topic that comes up periodically on the forum, and we've seen a lot of great approaches over the years. I took the following photo for my own reference and thought it might be useful to a few others. Enjoy!

    Truck mounts left to right: Kato short shank #923500 / Fox Valley med shank #51010 / Fox Valley short shank 51000 / Kato Close Coupling #923090

    Body mounts left to right: Micro-trains Z scale #905 / Micro-trains True-Scale #1300 / Fox Valley body mount #51060

    (note: the Fox Valley couplers were previously sold also under the names Red Caboose and Unimate)


    For truck mount comparison purposes, once installed the Kato short shank and Fox Valley med shank both provide approximately the same spacing between locos/cars. Similarly, the Fox Valley short shank and Kato close coupling also provide virtually identical spacing.

    For body mounts, all three pictured couplers provide essentially the same coupling distance (assuming the Fox Valley is mounted with the hole closest to the coupler).
     
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  2. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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  3. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

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    Thank you for this post,but there are also the unimate short couplers

    Here is the coupling between IM F3A and F3B using the short shank unitmates (ten fold magnification)

    IMG_0525.JPG
     
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  4. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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    Yes. Those are the 51060's, which are on the far right in my original photo.
     
  5. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

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    Sorry, I guess I missed the news that Fox Valley took over production of the unimates.
     
  6. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks for the photo of the IMR units. I performed a similar modification of some IMR F3s a few years back. I used the same coupler, but I mounted them inside of a MT 1015 draft gear box (cutting off the inner "post" and front tabs from the draft gear box).

    Here's a set of Kato F3's that have had the Kato 923090 couplers installed:



     
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  7. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

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    Looks very tight, do the ends ever hit each other? The IM units are a little farther apart, but on the diverging route of a #4 turnout, they bump each other. On all the others they are fine.
     
  8. SF Chief

    SF Chief TrainBoard Member

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    Nice shots all around.

    Some years ago I first stumbled onto Trainboard when I googled for info on how to get Kato F units to close couple--stock Kato Fs couple ridiculously far apart. Google directed me to a TB exchange in which John Sing explained how to do the trick a la Norseman Jack with the Unimate/Red Caboose/Fox Valley couplers. Never had any derailment problems using that method with Katos, though the fact that I normally run on NTRAK with ~24" radius curves doubtlessly helps.

    IM F units are beautiful but even DCESharkman's fix doesn't couple closely enough for my taste. I've never figured out how to get IM Fs close enough (except for the FTs with the drawbar between the A&B units and Unimates between the B units).

    Same problem with Rapido passenger cars I bought several years back. Just can't get them prototypically close.

    The photos suggest that Unimate/RC/FV short shank body mounts are about as close as you can get. Be curious if anyone else has been successful in closer body-mount coupling that is simple to create and reliable.

    Rick
     
  9. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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    I've never had a problem with them hitting each other, but I don't run around any tight radii. The smallest radius on my Unitrack layout is 17 5/8" (the inner radius on the largest concrete tie double track curves). I really don't like tight radius curves and will never have them on a layout. I'm surprised your IMR units bump each other. It might have something to do with the fact that they are body mounted.
     
  10. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks Rick. John's method is very similar to using the Kato coupler, and produces almost identical results. I like using the "factory" Kato coupler, but I really am not aware of any meaningful differences. John recommended leaving some of the sprue attached to the rear of the coupler to aid with retention of the spring. I've just glued the springs onto the back of the Kato couplers. Not sure if either approach is any easier. If you think the Kato Fs couple ridiculously far apart, just park them next to some IMR units and they'll look much better!

    I sent a PM to John alerting him to this thread and inviting him to join in. Hopefully he'll weigh in and provide us with his latest thoughts/discoveries. John has published some great "how to's" on several topics, including this one.

    I don't think there is any way to get the IMR F units closer than the method(s) you've already mentioned. The body mount configuration, coupled with the truck geometry, just prevents much else. I think they should have used a truck mount for the F units, but apparently the vast majority "demand" body mounts; so that's what we have. I do plan to put some Z scale 905's on the backs of my IMR FT A/B units. I'll post photos when complete.
     
  11. SF Chief

    SF Chief TrainBoard Member

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    Yeah, regarding modelers' "demand", I agree body mounted couplers make sense--if you are modeling a single engine or a single car. Real engines and cars don't have couplers connected to the trucks.

    But if you are modeling a train with engines and cars all linked up, and the whole thing is moving, you are apt to only notice the couplers on the lead engine and tailing observation car, caboose or whatever.

    When the full train is all latched up, you tend to notice the distances between the cars more than whether the couplers are body mounted or not. Especially if you imagine yourself walking back to your seat or compartment from the bar car and taking flying leaps between the cars. Very dangerous for N-scale people. Rick
     
  12. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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    Very true. Speaking of passenger car spacing, here's a before and after with Kato CZ cars with one of the two factory Kato couplers replaced with a Kato 923090:

    Before:

    After:
     
  13. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

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    The photo above is over 10x magfnification

    Looking from the top, the door ledges are almost touching. they can not get much closer without being in contact.
     
  14. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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    Can you give us a photo of them "right side up," so that we can see what you are describing? I did own some IMR F3s years ago, and I did essentially the same mod that you did, but I no longer own the units and really can't remember exactly how close they coupled. Thanks.
     
  15. nd-rails

    nd-rails TrainBoard Member

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    I'm not seeing what you describe sorry. A difference yes, but without a datum point it's difficult to share comparisons.

    The couplers sold by Red Caboose as Unimates, and FVM is now manufacture/ distributed by IMRC, and clearly these retain their 'Unimate' moniker.
    Until I saw them on the accessories page, I also wasn't aware of the body mount version at all.
    Those may be an even better one for shorter cars used for narrow gauge stand-ins.
    ~Unimate Couplers ~
    https://www.intermountain-railway.com/n/nacc.htm .

    regards
    davw
     
  16. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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    The datum points should be very clear, and I've attempted to line them up in the photos to allow visual comparisons. In the case of the body mounts, it is the mounting hole through which they are attached to the loco/railcar via screw, pin or clip. Based upon the photo, you should be able to see that both the mounting holes and the front inner faces of the coupler pockets are all very close to each other. Does that help or are you still not seeing it?

    In the case of the truck mounts, for three out of the four, the datum point is the front face of the "base" which mates up with the inner front surface of the truck's coupler "pocket." The Kato 923500 coupler's datum point is the small hole that the coupler cover's pin inserts into. It is right at the very front of the coupler pocket in the truck, so I tried to line that up with the datum points of the other three truck mounts in the photo.

    If you (or anybody) wants to use calipers of other precision measuring equipment to measure actual distances to the thousandth's of an inch, then please post the results for the rest of us. The photos were only intended to give a rough, visual comparison so that people could quickly gain a high level understanding of the alternatives available for N scale close coupling (thus the thread title).

    All that said, all that really matters is the results, which a couple of us have shared with before and after photos.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2018
  17. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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    I believe that you are mistaken about this:

    http://www.foxvalleymodels.com/NParts.html

    The word "Unimate" does not appear on Fox Valley's website or anywhere on the current packaging (I've checked both front and back).
     
  18. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

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    The 'Unimate' coupler (I believe that was its initial product name) has had several owners to include Precision Masters, Red Caboose and now Fox Valley. While the name "Unimate" does not appear on Fox Valley's website the items pictured under the heading of "static coupler" are in fact Unimate couplers. Now here is where it gets tricky. Fox Valley got the Unimates when they purchased Red Caboose's N scale line. Now as far as IMRC is concerned, they are doing the marketing for Fox Valley. IMRC bought the Red Caboose HO line so, they own the Red Caboose HO product line but not the N scale line.

    Google it here:

    http://www.red-caboose.com/

    I don't know if IMRC bought all of Red Caboose and then spun off the N scale to Fox Valley or if Fox Valley bought Red Caboose and spun off the HO to IMRC along with the marketing function for the N scale line.
     
  19. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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    The point being that the Unimates, Red Caboose and Fox Valley are all the exact same coupler, which is all I was trying to clarify in the OP. I'm referring to them as Fox Valley because that is the name they are currently produced and sold under.
     
  20. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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    Here are a couple more, with Micro-Trains Heavyweights. The original couplers on both these cars were Micro-Trains 1015's. Both were replaced with Micro-Trains Z scale 905 couplers:

    Before:

    After:

    The change reduces the gap from "a mile wide" to, well, let's just say less than one half a mile. Even after the replacement, they are still farther apart than I would prefer. The Z scale coupler swap only takes a minute or two, so it's an easy improvement. The sad thing about these cars is that they could have been produced to couple much more prototypically, without any extra effort, as shown in this thread:

    http://www.trainboard.com/highball/...-the-mtl-heavyweight-coupling-distance.50624/

    I'm hoping that the manufacturers will some day realize that prototypical coupling distance (or at least as close as can be achieved) will make their products more desirable.
     

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