jark Jan 17, 2017

  1. jark

    jark TrainBoard Member

    Jark the newby - Just getting started in 'n' and have several locos and rolling stock with many different couplers. I would like to standardize my stuff.

    What would be a recommended coupler manufacturer and (frame mount vs truck mount) and why? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!
    wwublee likes this.
  2. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

    Obtaining the can of worms....almost all knuckle couplers mate up. They have their upsides and downsides. The only knuckle couplers that can't couple to anything but themselves is the Micro Trains True Scale Coupler. They are also body mounts only.

    Truck mounted couplers are better for tight radius curves, while body mounts work best for backing up long trains and look a lot more realistic.
    wwublee likes this.
  3. rrjim1

    rrjim1 TrainBoard Member

    I used MT trucks with couplers when I upgraded all my older rolling stock. The only couplers I don't like and change out is the Kato brand.
    wwublee likes this.
  4. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

    The Atlas Accumate couplers are known to have issues with reliability. They seem to explode on a whim. Most all couplers except the new Micro-Trains couplers will mate as said above. All couplers have thier good points and thier less good points, it is up to yo to decide what works best for you. The one piece of advice is to run all the cars with the same coupler together. They seem to do better that way, experience from running long trains on a NTrak layout.
    wwublee likes this.
  5. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

    I agree. Consistency has its rewards. The Micro Trains coupler, whether it be truck mounted or body mount is probably the defacto standard in N scale. That being said there are situations where another coupler may be used. I used the Unimate/Precision Master dummy couplers between locomotives in a lash up of an ABBA consist. I did so because they shortened the distance between units and these units don't get uncoupled. The A units have MT couplers on their fronts to match any piece of rolling stock they might be coupled to.
    wwublee likes this.
  6. jark

    jark TrainBoard Member

    WOW! Thanks for the quick responses. All is taken to heart!!! Jark
    wwublee likes this.
  7. CraigN

    CraigN TrainBoard Supporter

    Micro-Trains is the preferred coupler for me !
    I have a mixture of truck mounted and body mounted.
    I do have some accumates on some equipment but they will eventually get changed out to MT couplers.

    wwublee likes this.
  8. Hansel

    Hansel TrainBoard Member

    All my locos and rolling stock have Micro-Trains couplers; truck mounted couplers for my rolling stock, body mounted couplers for my locos (diesels). I would also highly recommend metal wheels for rolling stock. Unfortunately, I have had some metal wheels come apart, I won't mention the manufacturer, but the metal wheels from BLMA have worked flawlessly.

    I have tried body mounted MT couplers on some of my empty hoppers but the trucks would have a tendancy to rub on the coupler boxes, so I switched back to truck mounted couplers.
    wwublee likes this.
  9. Maletrain

    Maletrain TrainBoard Member

    MicroTrains magnetic knuckle couplers are pretty much the standard, these days. Since you are new to the hobby, I will add some points that might confuse you, otherwise. The "normal" n-scale MicroTrains coulplers come in an almost bewildering number of mounting configurations and shaft lengths to facilitate conversions of most of the existing cars from other manufacterers, so they do make a good "standard" for conversion purposes.

    But, just about all n-scale couplers that are not non-functional dummies are much larger than scale size. That has led to two things.

    1. Many people are starting to use z-scale MicroTrains magnetic couplers on their n-scale models, because they are closer to scale size, will still couple to the n-scale couplers, and seem to work quite well on n-scale trains, even very long trains. But, the z-scale couplers come in only one, body mount configuration. (A second configuration specific for coupler replacement on Marklin cars has just come out.)

    2. But, although smaller, the z-scale MicroTraiins couplers still do not look like real railroad couplers. So, MicroTrains released an entirely new coupler design called True Scale Couplers, last fall. These are actually scale size, although they do not have as much surface detail as scale dummy couplers. These new True Scale Couplers will only mate with each other. And, they only come in body mounts, so far at least. The initial versions of these couplers have some substantial issues. They require more force to automatically couple cars together. They have to be uncoupled with a hand pick (not a magnet inside the rails), and they do not work well on track with radius less than about 15" to 18" because they have very limited motion from side to side (swing). So, the True Scale Couplers are not (yet?) ready for "prime time" in our hobby, replacing the magnetic knuckle couplers.

    However, I (and many other n-scale modelers) have given-up on using magnetic uncoupling for operating our model railroads. Their uncoupling is just not reliable, especially the delayed uncoupling. That leads to using the throttle to make the train repeatedly back over the the magnet location in the track to get the uncoupling action to work. And, if the car is to be placed ("spotted") somewhere farther down the track, the springiness of the MicroTrains magnetic couplers ("slinky effect") can frequently make the couplers recouple before you get the car into position, meaning you have to go back to the uncoupling magnet and see-saw over it to get uncoupled, again. This can get very frustrating, not to mention leading to very urealistic train movements/operations. I don't mind using a pick to uncouple cars, because, to me, it is more like a real railroad brakeman pulling the ("cut") lever on a real car when that car is exactly where it is supposed to be spotted. So, I suggest that you try your hand at actually using the magnetic uncoupling feature before deciding what to do for coupler standardization and operation on your own layout.

    Me, I am working my way to z-scale MicroTrains magnetic couplers on cars that will see a lot of switching (hence a lot of vivibility of the couplers), and using the n-scale magnetic couplers that came with the cars for the rest of my equipment, unless that causes problems, and then I convert to the Z-scale couplers. With older "legacy" cars that come with Rapido or other non-knucle couplers, I typically convert to either MicroTrains magnetic n- or z-scale couplers, or maybe just dummy couplers if those cars are not going to be switched on my layout.
    wwublee and Another ATSF Admirer like this.
  10. randgust

    randgust TrainBoard Member

    I've been using MT couplers as a standard since about 1975, and predominantly truck-mounts.

    I pretty much improvised my own rules with them (lacking either other N scalers or the Internet to guide me), and never had anybody to tell me that the magnetic uncoupling was unreliable. I've been hands off for 40 years now. I did learn some basic lessons on working with them, early, if you really do like the magnetic uncoupling concept. At your decisionmaking stage, you need to know about this.

    1) The false uncoupling problems with long trains from the 'old days' was solved by the late, great Jim Fitzgerald, who discovered that the mild taper on the coupler 'finger' part of the knuckle caused vertical separation. It also caused trip-pin hanging all over the place as one coupler was typically pushed down and would bang into switch frogs and points. MT changed their design to 'RDA' for Reverse Draft Alignment, and it's a miracle when implemented. The problem is that literally millions of pre-RDA couplers must be out there without it, and still have to be lightly trimmed to fix - which is easy to do with a sharp Xacto #2 if you learn the technique. So there's the solution to two of the real buggers - pull aparts and trip pin hits. Even the extended boxes and passenger car extensions solve their problems with this one.

    2) The uncoupling magnets are just WAY TOO LONG. Back in the old days, when an N scale locomotive typically lurched into action at 20mph with a 3-pole motor, a magnet had to be 4" long to be able to accurately spot over it. So any slack in that 4" results in a false uncouple. I started snapping magnets with vises and glass cutters to as short as 1/4" and discovered that very short magnets worked better if you could control your locomotives, and the false uncoupling of trains in motion drops to zero. So you put out more, and smaller, magnets instead of one long one. Delay uncoupling is nice, but a 'knuckle popper' on every siding does the job too. I mark my magnets with a 'removed' scrap tie beside the track, precisely indicating magnet position from outside the gauge.

    3) Drag springs. They really work and stretch out a train. If you can put them in cabooses the slinky effect is diminished as well as false uncoupling. I even put them in dedicated cuts of cars. To put them on a wheel (usually one per car) I dip them in Vaseline and then on the axle end so they don't fly all over.

    4) truck mounts are far more reliable if you are going to do magnetic uncoupling, because they keep the coupler centered independent of the center sill alignment both vertically and horizontally. Nothing against body mounts, but you can neither couple or uncouple reliably unless you've got excellent track alignment either side of the magnets or spurs. I have had awful derailment issues with truck mounts coupled to body mounts on 85' passenger cars, but other than that, it's not the top issue here.

    5) Geez alou, just get a bottle of grimy black, a 00 paintbrush, and paint the brass trip pins as SOP. And while you have it out, put some on the truck sideframes and even the wheel faces. I have to chuckle every time I see somebody go to all the trouble of metal, or low-profile wheels and they still leave the trip pins in the brass color.

    6) For locomotive MU consists, mine have assigned 'lead units' with full lighting packages and various 'trailing units'. Trailing units have ONE lead coupler converted to a Caboose Hobbies dummy knuckle, or an MT coupler where the head has been ACC'd solid. End of all false uncoupling problems on MU consists.

    7) I love the Z couplers, particularly on older equipment, locomotive pilots, or display models. I just rebend the pins to reach down to N magnet distance, and I'm done. They work just fine mixing and matching with other MT couplers. Another thing that isn't supposed to work that does. And they delay uncouple.

    I've derailed and even knocked detail off so many cars trying to switch with a sticker when I'm visiting layouts that I'm very much not convinced of the 'conventional wisdom' that MT couplers are so problematic. I keep hearing over and over about the same stuff I solved 30 years ago, mostly because nobody told me it couldn't be fixed. I'm still astounded on the number of people deliberately whacking off trip pins.

    Oh, and don't even bother with Accumate, Kato, or anybody else that thinks they can reliably magnetically uncouple except MT. None of them actually work and most get a "D" for material and design. I'll usually keep the couplers on, but only on cars that aren't actively switched. If it is in switching service, out they go.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2017
    wwublee and atsf_arizona like this.
  11. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter


    If those trip pins are supposed to represent air hoses...the scale diameter of the hoses would be 10" or 12" !!! I dont know the exact diameter of train hoses...but I will bet $$$$ they ARENT 10 or 12 inches...Just Sayin !! :p

    * I suppose someone with a Mic or calipers could get an exact scale diameter of those trip pins. *
    wwublee likes this.
  12. randgust

    randgust TrainBoard Member

    Which is exactly why I love the Z couplers on anything where the trip pins are painfully visible... and like several have said, they work amazingly well in N, and for my testing, work just as well magnetically if you simply rebend the pin.

    wwublee likes this.
  13. jdcolombo

    jdcolombo TrainBoard Member

    I'll chime in.

    I've used MT couplers on everything since the early 1990's; I have a few cars with Accumates, but they will eventually be converted - I haven't had the "exploding Accumate" issue, but they are harder to uncouple manually than MT's.

    All of my couplers are body-mounted. I found long ago that backup moves that are over 5 cars long are much more reliable with body mounts, since the truck can swivel however it needs to without putting lateral forces on the coupler (or the coupler putting lateral forces on the truck). I can back up a 20-car train through a yard ladder with no derailments - none. I couldn't do that with truck mounts. That said, body mounts will create issues on long cars (e.g., 85' Trailer Train cars or passenger cars) on curves less than 16" in diameter. If you run a lot of this stuff, you might want to stick with truck-mounted couplers. DO NOT MIX truck and body-mounted couplers if at all possible, and certainly not on anything longer than 50'; this will lead to no end of woe.

    I too like the Z-scale MT's, particularly on "show" pieces. But I don't have the energy to convert everything, so I limit Z couplers to the pilots of steam engines and the like or on models that will be featured in close-up photography.

    I don't use magnetic uncoupling; on my layout all uncoupling is done with an uncoupling tool (a Rix-like tool, but made from 1/8" solid brass rod, with a longer and somewhat thinner "spear point" at the end). And yes, I'm a trip-pin cutter :).

    John C.
    wwublee and mtntrainman like this.
  14. Maletrain

    Maletrain TrainBoard Member

    I recently read about and just tried using those tiny cylindrical brushes, intended for cleanng between teeth, as picks for uncoupling cars with MicroTrains couplers. I was surprised and delighted at how well they worked, compared to a Rix Pick and the bamboo coctail skewers that I have used in the past. The "tight" (smallest) version of the Sunstar Proxabrush was almost magical for uncoupling the n-scale couplers, while the "moderate" (bigger) version was much less effective. However, I am going to try the moderate size on HO couplers the next time I get to the club, because I think they will fit that scale best. There is also an "ultra tight" version and a "wide" version that I have not tried, that may or may not be good fits to other scales, small and large. These brushes come in packs of 8 or 10 for a cost of not much more than a Rix Pick. And, there are several manufacturers that may or may not use identical dimensions for their various versions. The Sunstar "tight" ones measure about 0.075" at the "business end" for uncoupling, although they taper out to 0.100" on the handle end.
    wwublee and Boilerman like this.

Share This Page