N scale close coupling alternatives

NorsemanJack Jul 6, 2018

  1. SF Chief

    SF Chief TrainBoard Member

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    Next on the agenda for me: trying out the Kato 923500 short shank. The Unimates work well for me and look great on a moving train. But putting together a train by banging the cars together is a whole lot easier than putting together a train full of Unimates. Years ago I modified my Kato Super Chief to be close-coupled the set by putting Unimate short shanks on the front of each car and medium shanks on the rear. It looks fantastic and runs well on the big NTRAK curves. But it takes a lot of time to fit 12 cars worth of couplers together. When I later got the COLA and Silver Streak I just decided to leave well enough alone.
    Rick
     
  2. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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    Just fyi. Your Super Chief cars would have originally been equipped with the 923500(s), so you'll be returning it to "as delivered" spacing. Maybe you already know that.... :)
     
  3. SF Chief

    SF Chief TrainBoard Member

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    I don't think so. I'll try to post pictures, but things are busy so it might take a while.
     
  4. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

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    IMG_0636[1].jpg
    Yes I can and here is the best shot I could come up with:
     
  5. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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    If you need me to, I can pull out one of my Super Chief cars and try a side by side comparison. Mine are unaltered (at this point). Kato has used that 923500 (and the identical "silver" colored 923500s) for almost all of their releases for most of the past two decades. I know that they delivered a few locomotive releases (the SD45's are one I am personally familiar with) with 923502 medium shank couplers to help with tight radii. They didn't look good and I swapped those to the 923500's when I got them.

    Before:

    [​IMG]

    After:

    I am almost 100% certain that all Super Chief releases were originally equipped with the 923500 "short shanks," which provide about the same offset as the Fox Valley/Unimate "medium shank" couplers (see photo in OP). All Kato CZ releases have come with the 923500's, and the first CZ came out a year before the first Super Chief. It can get a bit confusing. The fact that you originally swapped out the Kato couplers for a Unimate short/medium combination would make sense, as that is the first basic step in reducing coupler distance (the approximate equivalent of the photos I posted earlier of the Kato CZ cars where I kept one of the Kato 923500's but changed the mating car to a Kato 923090. I believe that this Unimate combo is what John Sing has recommended for Kato E8 and PA units, where the gap is not as large as the Kato F units. As with your Super Chief mod, my cars no longer "bump to couple." Also keep in mind that to switch your Super Chief back you'll need the Kato 923524(s) "coupler covers" and 923511 centering springs to go with the 923500's.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2018
  6. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks David. That's about what I remembered. Are you sure that those "bump" together at times? Those Unimate body mounts are pretty fixed when it comes to separation distance.
     
  7. SF Chief

    SF Chief TrainBoard Member

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    OK, here's the photos. First, the close coupled Super Chief, with Unimate medium shanks on the rear and short shanks on the front:
    [​IMG]
    Very close, but I've never had a problem with the Super Chief on the big NTRAK 2-foot radius curves.

    And this is what the unmodified Silver Streak looks like:
    [​IMG]
    No problems on curves here, obviously.

    Side by side:
    [​IMG]

    Super Chief looks good and runs well on the big curves, but it takes time to put together. I've had more reliability issues when combining Kato Santa Fe with Con Cor corrugated coaches to replicate trains like the Chief and San Francisco Chief. But that's another story...
    Rick
     

    Attached Files:

  8. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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    That Super Chief looks great Rick! Thanks for posting the photos.
     
  9. mark.hinds

    mark.hinds TrainBoard Member

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    You can get IMR F units close-coupled to the prototypically correct distance (and there is no logical reason to go any closer than that). You get the correct distance from plans such as these http://www.nprha.org/Diesel Diagrams/EMD F-7 Pass 6601A-6602A 55.jpg. Note that the distance from the rear of the car body to the coupler face is 18", so 2 x 18" = 36" or 3 feet.

    There was a guy on this Forum who used HOn3 couplers from "Rail Line"; part number #116. They are a soft-ish plastic, and you cut the shaft to the desired length, and drill a mounting hole near the end (position of the hole for the first pair of couplers involves some trial-and-error, but once you have achieved the correct 3-foot spacing, you just duplicate the hole position in subsequent examples). I modified his design by putting a Micro Trains spring on the mounting screw, as you can't torque it down for obvious reasons. I also carved off the top portion of the coupler to get the look I wanted for N-scale; note how the side-view image of the couplers looks flat on top. The close-coupling couplers can be substituted for the standard Micro Trains couplers on the Intermountain F-units, at any time desired. So, if I want 2 A-units back-to-back, I can switch them out appropriately. BTW, these can't be uncoupled during an operating session, so are most appropriate for multi-unit diesel sets, such as 1950s-era F-units, which the prototype operated in sets.

    MH

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2018
  10. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks Mark. Are you certain that this photo is only 3 scale feet? It looks like more than that (a seated racoon is about 18 inches wide, and I'm eyeballing about 3 - 4 racoons between those units).

    The following measures out at .200 inches with my calipers, which is 2.7 scale feet.

     
  11. mark.hinds

    mark.hinds TrainBoard Member

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    My N-scale ruler says exactly 3 feet between those 2 points; I just re-measured one of my F-unit sets. If you compare our two respective efforts, yours look closer together, corresponding to your 2.7 foot caliper measurement. I modeled mine based on scale drawings, FWIW.

    You should be aware that there isn't much to eat on my layout, so my raccoons are on the small side.

    MH
     
  12. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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    LOL! Yeah, your N-scale ruler is likely much more accurate than my "eyeball-based-upon-a-coon's-butt" estimate. Your units appear spaced fairly similar to other photos I've seen of IMR units with the red caboose/unimate body mounts. As long as it closes up that ridiculous factory spacing, it's all good!

    (if we are now comparing how far off from prototype we are in inches, rather than feet, than we are likely where we need to be)
     
  13. atsf_arizona

    atsf_arizona TrainBoard Supporter

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    Hi, all, (NorsemanJack thx for inviting me),

    I have 12.75" radius curves on my little Santa Fe N scale layout, and have not had any problems with the short-shank Unimate-equipped Kato F-units ends hitting each other. I believe that is certainly due to fact that the short-shank Unimates are truck-mounted and not body-mounted.

    As has been said earlier in this thread, if you want close-coupling of N scale F units, I also have always been a fan of using truck-mounted Kato F units for this, as the truck mount solves the problem of the small amount of space at the back of the A unit / ends of the B units between the axle and the end of the truck.

    Here's my tutorial of N scale Unimate mounting on the Kato F unit, it's still around (along with a lot of my other tutorials, at pbase.com :

    http://www.pbase.com/atsf_arizona/kato_n_scale_unimate_install&page=all

    Those tips aren't my invention, I learned them from one of the N scale experts at the Train Shop in Santa Clara, CA way back in the mid-2000's when I was living/working in Silicon Valley.

    Yes, part of the "tricks" of the short-shank Unimate on the Kato F/E/PA install is:

    a) Leave a stub from the casting sprue, to allow the spring to slip over it:
    [​IMG]

    b) Cut diagonal on the coupler retaining tab, so that you can slip it in and rotate it in place in the stock Kato truck-mount:
    [​IMG]

    c) With this result (yes, that is a Kato E unit or PA unit... more on that in the following post):
    [​IMG]

    d) You get what IMHO is the closest reliable, easy to achieve N scale F unit close coupling. Nothing against Intermountain units, they're beautiful and tons of paint schemes, but because I model Santa Fe, I have been able to get all the Santa Fe F units I need from Kato (and they run really well which is nice):
    [​IMG]

    I do agree the Intermountain's look a lot better, but I didn't have a need to do the surgery necessary to both lower the IM shell and implement a close-coupling body mount.

    Again, check out this Pbase.com album of mine for lots of photos on this topic of close-coupling Kato's with Unimates: http://www.pbase.com/atsf_arizona/kato_n_scale_unimate_install&page=all

    Hope this helps. :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2018
  14. atsf_arizona

    atsf_arizona TrainBoard Supporter

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    1) Btw, my old long-gone ATSF_Arizona website that went away when Comcast stopped providing free web space....

    Still lives on here, thx to the Internet WayBack Machine: https://web.archive.org/web/20151002184727/home.comcast.net/~j.sing/


    2) OK, not wanting to hijack the thread, let's now go back to discussing close coupling.

    Here is a PDF file showing that close-coupling Kato E units and PA is not same as close-coupling the Kato F units.

    The Kato F units can take short-shank Unimates on both ends.

    However, the Kato E's and PA's end-end distance between the truck-mount couplers is different. So I ended up finding out that an
    asymmetric use of both short-shank and medium-shank was indicated for these locos. I uploaded a file here that describes this. Enjoy
    and feel free to share it with anyone, all I ask is that give me credit as the author :)

    "Close-Coupling_Kato_E8_and_PA1_using_asymmetrical_Unimates_by_John_Sing"

    You can click on the "uploaded" file icon below (the icon looks like the piece of paper right under the "Attached Files" words) and I believe that will cause an auto-download of this PDF to your computer. Enjoy!
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2018
  15. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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    Welcome to the party John!!!!!!!!!! Glad you were able to join us! I really have appreciated your contributions on this topic and look forward to your future contributions. (y)
     
  16. atsf_arizona

    atsf_arizona TrainBoard Supporter

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    Here's a couple photos showing the close-coupling work over the years. As you can tell I am a fan of the truck-mounted coupler approach for the back end of the cab units. The Kato E8's and the Kato PA's got the "asymmetrical treatment" described in the PDF above. The Kato F7's have the short-shank Unimates:

    [​IMG]

    and:

    [​IMG]

    http://www.pbase.com/atsf_arizona/wpm2011&page=1


    There's different methods that have to be done on the LifeLike E6's and Erie-Builts. The LifeLike E6's truck-mounts have a modification of the Rapido coupler and then "hooking it" into the empty coupler pocket of the adjoining E6.

    The LifeLike Erie-Builts and IM FT's are the only ones that are body-mounted in the above photos. The Erie-Builts were close coupled as per the N Scale Railroading article by Verne Niner, Nov-Dec 2002 issue. Bruce Arbo did a great write up / photo shoot of this Erie-Built close-coupling here:

    https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=37140.0

    Today's BLI E units and BLI PA's IMHO are farther apart than I would like them to be. But only so much time is available to try to fix everything..... :-(

    Close coupling is worth it. I really couldn't live with the stock "way-apart" coupling that most of these locos originally came with. :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2018
  17. SF Chief

    SF Chief TrainBoard Member

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    John: Nice to have you on the line. Your close-coupling tutorial was how I originally stumbled across TrainBoard some years ago. Like you, "I really couldn't live with the stock 'way-apart' coupling that most of these locos originally came with" and the google machine directed me to your solution on TB. It works well.

    Regarding the BLI Es, Fs and PA/PBs, a good close-coupling solution is swapping out the Micro-Trains couplers with body-mounted Unimates (aka Red Caboose, Fox Valley).

    Mark: Thanks for the tip on using HOn3 couplers from "Rail Line" to fix the large gap between Intermountain F units. Sounds like a good fix: From your description it sounds like one can trim the coupler to have as large or small a gap as you want.

    Thanks all.
     
  18. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

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    Another method that might have some application here is one which I first saw in an article in one of the hobby magazines. It dealt with shortening the coupling distance between the Atlas ore cars. It basically was a modified Rapido coupler with the "L" shaped coupler portion removed leaving a dumbbell shape. The lower portion of the coupler pocket on one of the cars was removed so it could be lifted over the modified coupler. Drew the cars very close together. I converted all of my ore cars before selling them. Never used the method on locomotives as the Unimates did the job nicely on my Kato E and F units and Lifelike FA/B's.
     
  19. atsf_arizona

    atsf_arizona TrainBoard Supporter

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    This "modified Rapido coupler" method mentioned is basically what I did with the LifeLike E6's. :)

    ..
     
  20. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

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    SP-Wolf likes this.

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