New coupler on the way

Mike Skibbe May 7, 2012

  1. robert3985

    robert3985 TrainBoard Member

    Thanks! It's nice to know that you "despise" a good percentage of the members of this board. Your contention that "rivet counters" drive up the cost of this hobby is seriously prejudiced and obviously not founded on facts...just your personal opinion.

    Secondly, if you're not concerned about appearance, since your focus is "cost", why are you even making a comment here? I am sure that there are thousands of N scale modelers who would be more than happy to donate their old Rapidos to you for only the cost of shipping. That would be your most cost-effective approach. Rapidos work okay for keeping trains together, and since your focus is "cost" don't care what they look like...right?

    The FACT is, "rivet counters", like DKS here (and others) who continually push the envelope with their fine, prototypical appearing and excellent functioning products, and those "rivet counters" (and others) who support their efforts by buying and using those products, are a great combination that is evolving this hobby in a very positive way.

    If the primary focus of the whole hobby was "cost", we would still be pushing used Brio trains around on the floor on our shag carpets...because the wooden track would be too expensive.

    When I got back into N scale model railroading in the early 80's and decided that I was not happy with the appearance and function of pizza cutter wheels, code 80 rails, unprototypical looking tie sizes and spacing and the size of any MT "N scale" coupler, I was branded as a "rivet counter"...but I went ahead and turned all of my wheelsets in my lathe to a scaled-down RP25 contour, discovered Railcraft code 55 and 40 flex track, hand-laid all of my turnouts (there were no code 55 or code 40 turnouts commercially made)...and started body-mounting MT Z-scale couplers on to everything that I could. Much to the surprise of the nay-sayers among my fellow all worked...and in some cases, it worked better than the stuff considered to be "standard".

    I won't even get into shaving cast-on grabs off and replacing them with .007" wire, thinning or replacing stock running boards, or lowering 90 percent of all of my freight cars (it's an ongoing project).

    Come today...2012. After years of kicking and screaming, code 55 track, low-pro wheels, prototype tie sizes and spacing...ALL are accepted as the "norm" by a lot of N scale modelers. Some manufacturers are making sure their new N-scale cars are the correct height and etched running boards, separate grabs and prototype-specific details are becoming more and more common. AND DKS is working on how his new coupler should "appear"...which has been sort of the last barrier for me and other rivet counters, because Z-scale MT's don't fit, in quite a few applications, and frankly, don't look all that prototypical (even though they are very close to the correct size).

    What I'm saying is that ordinary N model railroaders today, if they kept their present expectations and standards, would be considered to be "rivet counters" in the 1980's. The definition of "rivet counter" is beginning to include a whole lot more of us than it used to.

    Doesn't seem to me that my model railroading is much more expensive than it was in the 80's. Especially when I use my brain and factor in inflation. Truth is, it's probably relatively cheaper now than it was back then...a whole lot cheaper. What's changed is the dollar is worth less now, but overall, incomes have gone up quite a bit in the intervening 30 years.

    Since DKS already has the mechanism figured out, only part of the functionality of this new coupler will be determined by appearance. One of the ways appearance is going to affect function is in its "compatibility" with earlier knuckle coupler designs...all of which have very unprototypical looking "knuckles". If "compatibility" is a major feature of his new coupler, then it will also be bigger than what would be prototypical...which is a crying shame. There are at least two negative points that "compatibility" forces...unprototypical looks, and size. It's up to DKS to determine if lack of "compatibility" will hurt sales enough to force compromising appearance and size.

    One possible solution would be to design the Z-scale coupler to be more uncompromising. Reject compatibility with Z scale MT's so that the appearance of the knuckle is more prototypical, but make them exactly the correct size for N-scale (with an appropriately robust "shank" to facilitate long N scale trains). That way, the knuckle-dragging rivet counters in N-scale would be satisfied with using NZT Z-scale couplers (and using "transition cars" in their consists), the Z-scalers would have a more prototype appearing coupler to replace their odd-looking MT's with (even if it would be approximately the same size as the Z scale MT's), and all the N-gaugers who feel they "NEED" compatibility with all the other knuckle couplers out there would be happy with their odd-looking, oversized N-gauge NZT couplers.

    Of course, they would all have NZT's patented innards, so they would function flawlessly (right DKS????)!

    And...they'll be a nice, warm, medium gray color.

    Bob Gilmore...a confirmed Rivet Counter
  2. Metro Red Line

    Metro Red Line TrainBoard Member

    Speaking of BLMA, last weekend there was event in Fullerton, CA called Fullerton Railroad Days that had some heritage, BNSF and Metrolink (commuter system) equipment on the rails, several layouts and other booths, at the Fullerton RR station. BLMA's offices are located literally right across the tracks (accessible by a pedestrian bridge) and Craig Martyn threw an Open House event, welcoming people into the BLMA offices. He even had a "garage sale" selling surplus stock items, returns and minor defects for a huge discount.
    I'll post pics of this soon!
  3. subwayaz

    subwayaz TrainBoard Member

    They look really nice and love the concept; I'll sure buy them
  4. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter


    As someone was so 'nice' as to remind me...its a discussion forum....anyone can post their thoughts. Your contention that "...a good percentage of the members of this board.' are rivet counters is just your personal opinion...also not based on 'fact' you are so fast to condemn the OP for his opinion.

    BTW...I also believe 'rivet counters' have driven up the price of the hobby. The more that goes into manufacturing prototypical anything...will drive up the end cost to the consumer. It's not rocket science.

  5. glennac

    glennac TrainBoard Member

    And yet, I wonder, 'What's wrong with that?' If cost is a modeler's primary concern then there are low-cost options in locomotives and rolling stock. If all a hobbyist wants to accomplish is control an inexpensive train around a loop of snap-track then there are cheap options to do that. If you don't care for the 'rivets' then don't buy them. There are still plenty of 'smooth' & glossy options out there.

    On the other hand, if a modeler is into authentic road equipment and realism of operation then they have that opportunity as well. Naturally, he (or she) is going to pay for that privilege. But the person who wishes only to drive a Chevy shouldn't be complaining about the driver who chooses to shop for a Cadillac. Thankfully, the hobby is broad enough to include all levels of income.

    The cost of model railroading has only increased because the quality and accuracy has improved. I don't see how anyone could be opposed to that. Even if a new-comer to the hobby can't afford the 'top of the line', eventually the improvements at the higher end tend to trickle down over time. It happens in every industry. We all drive cars that incorporate advances that got there start in million dollar race cars. Are we going to begrudge the fact that not everyone can be involved in that end of the industry?

    So whether it's the realism of knuckle couplers, the fine details of a brass truss bridge, or the number of 'rivets' on a GP15 in N Scale, let's all welcome the advances in detail and accuracy. After all, we will all benefit from them eventually, whether we can afford it now or not.
  6. Metro Red Line

    Metro Red Line TrainBoard Member

    Calm down folks. The price of the hobby is up because the cost of living is up. even if the model RR manufacturing industry were somehow stuck in 1985, I doubt that the prices would be much lower. The prices of other hobbies have gone up...RC cars, rocketry, wargaming, comic books, macrame, bonsai, antique collecting...but they don't have rivet counters in those hobbies.
  7. CSX Robert

    CSX Robert TrainBoard Member

    I find it ironic that someone would complain about "rivet counters" driving up cost and then go on to suggest a coupler specifically for traction usage (which would almost certainly cost more because of the narrower market place and only be wanted by what others would likely call "rivet counters").
  8. CSX Robert

    CSX Robert TrainBoard Member

    Here is my "want list" for a new coupler, in order of priority:
    1. No slinky!
    2. Stays coupled in long trains
    3. Couples easily.
    4. Uncouples easily with a Rix uncoupling stick.
    5. I would like a better looking coupler - as an example, although some complain about the size of McHenrys, I think they look better than Micro Trains. They are only slightly bigger(and really only noticeable when looking down from the top), but they just look more like a real coupler to me.

    Automatic uncoupling is not on my list, but I do know it is necessary for sales because many use it.
  9. johnh

    johnh TrainBoard Member

    My we are a sensitive lot today (tongue in cheek with fire retardant suit on the ready)....LOL! We definitely need an MT alternative, and this could be very interesting. Though the Atlas couplers have received a thrashing by some, I have had no problem with them. I think my only desire in a replacement coupler would be realistic size and dependability. Oh, and a coupler box would be nice too (one of the shortfalls of the McHenrys).
  10. David K. Smith

    David K. Smith TrainBoard Supporter

    Thank you, one and all, for the feedback. I've also received quite a lot from other forums, as well as offline. Even with the scant negative comments and the trivial bickering, it's been most useful.

    I thought I'd pass along a few more details to give the project a little more meat in the minds of interested members. There will be at least two and possibly three different couplers. Two will be for N scale. One of these will have a knuckle having relatively the same size as current products in order to maintain as much compatibility to suit those for which this is important. The other coupler will be relatively close to current Z scale couplers, possibly even smaller; essentially they'll be as small as they can and still be reliable. Obviously these will target modelers looking for a close-to-fine-scale coupler.

    If the fine-N-scale coupler can be made compatible with Z scale equipment, then the product line will end there with two. If Z scale requires its own (the most likely reason being the box requirements), then there will be a third product to cover Z scale exclusively. This would actually allow for a cleaner marketing approach, since there would be no need for one product marketed for two scales, which (for me) has always imparted a sense of compromise. My preference would be to place the fine-N-scale under the kliegs for the exclusive use of N scalers looking for the best possible functional coupler. So I won't be bothered by having to add a third product at all.

    In a little while I will also start publishing some drawings, so folks can get a better sense of what's in store. And I'm starting up a blog/website just for this product line so information will be one click away.

    Thanks again for all of the great feedback, and keep it coming.
  11. Doug A.

    Doug A. TrainBoard Supporter

    Wow, what a thread! I am really excited about the "m.o." David is following with this product.

    Regarding the "rivet counters driving up costs" thing.... Well, and I've said this before, but it's not about the cost, it's about wanting the high-end items for a cost that is not representative of what you are getting. You can buy reasonably priced products all day long that don't have the latest features, but you insist that new releases MUST be in your cart, too. Well you can't have it both ways. If you don't care about rivets, buy those products "where the rivet count is lower". It's really quite simple.

    In just about every hobby, the innovative products consistently demand an ever increasing incremental premium. That's just the way it is. The payoff for innovative products is the reward...a higher price you can demand. Not everybody wants to or is able to pay that premium, or they make other compromises like buying 4 instead of 6. (gasp!!!!)

    While not necessarily a hobby, the personal computer industry is a good parallel. Being in IT, I crave the latest and greatest bleeding edge technology. At various times in my career I've been waste deep in the middle of it. My current gig, not as much...which is fine. Personally, I would love to have the latest, fastest, most awesome computer on the planet, updated yearly. Reality is, if I'm lucky I get one every 3-4 years that is anything but bleeding edge. I mean, I certainly could make that choice to spend the money every year, but I have other priorities. I buy computers with less rivets! :)

    It's pretty clear that this new coupler isn't gonna be a commodity/low-price-leader kind of product. If anyone read the initial post and thought it was, then there's a disconnect somewhere. And certainly "blaming everyone else" is pretty unnecessary...there's obviously a market--that you're probably not a part of--that is paying these prices. Prices that, by the way, aren't even keeping up with inflation if you actually take the time to do 2 minutes of Google searches.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 15, 2012
  12. ken G Price

    ken G Price TrainBoard Member

    After reading all of these post and others post about couplers on this and other forums, cost is not the main consideration by any means.
    Functionality is what will determine if this product is not a one off.
    If it works as advertised, cost will be less of a consideration for those that are going for proto reality on their layouts.
  13. robert3985

    robert3985 TrainBoard Member

    I'm happy.

    I am immediately starting a coupler conversion fund so when you produce them, I'll buy enough of your fine-scale version to convert everything I've got.

    Thank YOU DKS!

    Bob Gilmore
  14. jagged ben

    jagged ben TrainBoard Member

    The more I think about this subject, the more I think that similarity of conversion specs will be really important to me. Most likely I would not start out with these by converting from MT couplers, but would try them first on things I am currently replacing with MTs. (That is, replacing Accumates, McHenry's, and Katos.) But the point is, I do not want to have to make modifications that permanently determine which coupler will be on the car. If I try the new ones, I want to trust that I could change them back to MT if I so decide. And vice versa; if I've already gone to lengths to modify a car to take body mounted MTs, I don't want to have to redo those modifications in order to try the new couplers.

    Also, another suggestion, for what it's worth:
    Offer shanks and boxes separately, and offer boxes in different colors. Some of us like to paint our MT coupler boxes to match the car or locomotive, as it is on the prototype. With different color boxes, we could avoid painting with a close enough color, or get a color that takes the paint better than black or brown. Consider a 'primer gray' box that would take any color of paint well.

    Also, offering shanks and boxes separately would save some nickles and dimes if you break one or the other, or if the same shanks can be used in multiple boxes.
  15. David K. Smith

    David K. Smith TrainBoard Supporter

    I should add that, if all goes as planned, the new couplers will drop into most MT, Accumate or McHenry boxes.

    As for offering shanks and boxes together or separately, that will take some careful consideration. There are advantages (and disadvantages) to both approaches.
  16. Rob M.

    Rob M. TrainBoard Supporter


    Any chance of a version that will replace a Rapido-style coupler in an existing pocket?
  17. jpwisc

    jpwisc TrainBoard Member

    Wow, if you don't have to replace the box, that should keep the cost down a little. Plus that means I can convert my new Exactrail cars and keep that cool new coupler box!
  18. David K. Smith

    David K. Smith TrainBoard Supporter

    Unlikely, as the coupler absolutely requires a pivot pin, and that's not possible given the geometry of Rapido pockets.
  19. Westfalen

    Westfalen TrainBoard Member

    That's a pity, I was hoping to get a T-shank version to make easy conversions of my Japanese freight car fleet and an NEM version for British and European equipment. Still as I said earlier you can't be backwards compatible for ever and still go forwards.
  20. urodoji

    urodoji TrainBoard Member

    If the NTZ coupler is close to scale, looks realistic, and comes in a matte brown color, I won't really care about compatibility with other brands of couplers...

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