Can you recommend replacement couplers for older Athearn?

craftech Oct 17, 2022

  1. craftech

    craftech TrainBoard Member

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    Hi,

    I have a set of older Athearn streamlined passenger cars that uncouple when running. They are truck mounted and I have attached a photo.

    These are the 7900 series Amtrack Passenger cars. Coaches, Observation car, RPO car, Diner Car

    I looked at the Kadee site, but some of it seems confusing in terms of what to get and I was wondering if some of you could help me out.

    Thanks,

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

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    If you want to keep the truck-mounted couplers, swapping them with regular Kadee center-shank couplers should be fine. The classic #5 or scale-head #58 will work.

    However, I would try to determine the root cause of the issue first. Damaged couplers or missing springs will cause uncouplings, and a coupler swap will be an easy fix, however, if the issue is caused by track or issues with the truck itself, you may have a different problem on your hands.
     
  3. craftech

    craftech TrainBoard Member

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    20221017_153347.jpg
    Some of them seem to open because of the weight when moving. 3 cars seem OK, but more than that and different ones will just open. Plus, there are no visible "springs", they are in the pivot I think.

    Also, what is a #119 "Shelf" coupler. The Kadee website doesn't explain it well.

    John
     
  4. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    I never had that problem with Kadees, and I run trains more than twice that length. Trucks which are too loose will pivot more, and truck-mounted couplers can cause trucks to tilt a bit under load. But the problem is far more likely to lie in the track. It doesn't take much of a lump to raise one car far enough above the other for couplers to slip too far up or down.

    Whiskers, scale whiskers and shelf whiskers all seem to be varieties of their McHenry-type centering spring alternative to the old, box-like centering springs that weren't built into the couplers. They shouldn't make any difference in this.

    If your knuckles are closing properly, changing couplers won't make a difference in that. Even body-mounted couplers can be susceptible, though there's less that can cause it. Does it happen in particular spots on the layout?
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2022
  5. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

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    Kadee #5 or #148 would do the trick. Check if the coupler is high or low and correct with either overset or underset shanks.
     
  6. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    Those coupler boxes will not under any circumstances ride high. They'll rub the end of the frame first. They can, however, sag.
     
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  7. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

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    Those look like Bachmann EZ Mate couplers, which are not the original couplers on the car. The 'spring' is a flexible tab on the side that keeps the knuckle shut.

    Couplers cannot open under tensile forces unless the knuckle breaks. However, slack action can uncouple cars if the knuckles are failing to close properly.

    I think it would be worth replacing these Bachmann couplers. Even if you don't eliminate the issue completely, your cars will have much better couplers. Then you know track or other layout geometries are to blame and can start working to fix that issue too.

    In regards to your question about shelf couplers, they are basically as they sound. A shelf on the top and bottom of the coupler prevents an adjacent coupler from climbing over and uncoupling. In real-life you see these on tank cars and some double-stack cars, where the risk of telescoping or overriding is to be avoided in a derailment. The Kadee HO scale version serves the same purpose, but in all honesty, you shouldn't use them as an excuse for bad track. Sure, they keep cars coupled together, but they can also increase the risk of derailments. Cars will be lifted off misaligned track due to the fixed nature of the couplers.

    If you have bad track, you have bad track; and there's no band-aid for that.

    Since they lock the cars together, they also prevent you from lifting the cars apart with your hands. If you pick your cars up a lot, these couplers are not for you. You need an uncoupling tool or uncoupling magnet to open these couplers, so they are more suited to permanent layouts. Environments like train shows or temporary layouts, where cars get packed up and moved around often, these couplers get annoying.
     
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  8. dti406

    dti406 TrainBoard Member

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    The biggest problem with the McJunky couplers on long cars are that they are plastic and plastic is slippery so a small track imperfection will cause one of the couplers to slip up and over causing an uncoupling of the train.

    That is why Kadee and Protomax are good replacements as the metal does not slip.

    Rick Jesionowski
     
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  9. friscobob

    friscobob Staff Member

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    If you have plastic couplers by any manufacturer, replace them with Kadees post-haste. And that goes for ALL of your rolling stock and motive power. The number 5s are my favorite one, but Kadee has couplers of several types to fit your models.

    Sent from my LM-X210CM using Tapatalk
     
  10. tomb

    tomb TrainBoard Member

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    Agreed with the last several posters. Those look like McHenry couplers to me and McJunky seems like a good term to use, as @dti406 called them. The plastic tab in those things is supposed to act as the coupler knuckle spring and is unreliable at best, more often, a total fail.
     
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  11. wvgca

    wvgca TrainBoard Member

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    kadee number fives are used here ... yes they are a little more work the first time, but with a separation of the spring and coupler, it means that either can replaced / adjusted without changing the rest of it ..
     
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  12. fordy744

    fordy744 TrainBoard Member

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    Think they Bachmann's E-Z Mate mki as they had the little plastic finger thing, the mkii have the springs to close the knuckles as per Kadee.

    There is no substitute for quality and all these "cheap" plastic Kadee knock-offs are exactly that. When Kadee's 50 year patent ran out these flooded the market as "Kadee compatible" couplers but they are cheap plastic knock offs. As mentioned previously they are made of slippery plastic and slip apart at the slightest excuse and it doesn't take many cars to stretch them and either force them to slip apart as one goes down and the other up as the shafts flex. Known them to pull the closing knuckle right open and just downright break.

    Bachmann's E-Z Mate (sh!tty mate in my parlance) the McHenry now owned by Athearn (McNasty in my parlance but like the McJunky name too) Walthers Proto-Max couplers were originally plastic too but they have seen the error of their ways and are now metal.

    I only fit Kadees as they never fail me. think it good practice to for all modellers to at the very least step up to #5s! I've moved on to "scale head" #58/158 and use #118/119 appropriately.

    I will add that even kadee couplers will uncouple on poor track and if couplers are not at the same height. Kadee makes a height gauge (#205/206) so you can check the height of your couplers and adjust accordingly to make them all the same. I won't go into how to use it as there are better guides out there but suggest you invest in one.

    Also as stated there is no substitute for poor track so fix that first. You wouldn't build a house on poor foundations and consequently you don't want poor roadbed/track.

    Also note that the longer the freight/passenger car the more exaggerated the track defect will be, so short cars may go over an area fine but longer cars might find issues in more places. Body mounted couplers exaggerate the issues more still.
     
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  13. Mike VE2TRV

    Mike VE2TRV TrainBoard Member

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    I'll say it again, Kadees are the best for their money. They were and always will be my go-to couplers.

    That's so true, especially with slightly misaligned couplers. A slight sudden rise or drop in track height will cause an uncoupling.

    On my layout, I closely watched some uncoupling events on one particular piece of track as I slowly ran the train over it. There was a drop over only a couple of inches, very slight, but enough to drop one low coupler relative to a higher one. After correction of the track profile, no more uncouplings!

    Good track is much more forgiving with coupler misalignments.
     
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