A train needs couplers in order to stay together to move the freight down the rails. Our model trains need functioning couplers to successfully complete a similar task. People frequently ask me what couplers are used on the HO scale Wheeling Freight Terminal. Since I just replaced couplers on several models, it seemed like a moment to share in a blog post. Click on any image here to review a larger size.
Back in the late 1990s, semi-scale couplers were being released by a few manufacturers. Kadee had been a long-time leader in this area. They introduced their #58 coupler which was smaller than their traditional #5 coupler, but still a bit larger than the prototype hardware. I bought several sets and installed them on quite a few freight cars.
At about the same time, Sergent Engineering released a true, scale-size working coupler but it was not compatible with the Kadee couplers. Most of my equipment at that time was in use on a club layout, so compatibility was an issue.
Then I noticed Accurail had a scale-size coupler available, their Proto:HO coupler. It was designed to reflect the Type E coupler design and it had a coupler box that looked like a prototype gearbox. I bought a few pair and liked how they looked and functioned. As I became focused on modeling 1926, these became my coupler of choice.
Here are the basics. The couplers are a split shank style with a pivot point closer to the freight car end sill. Two screws are provided to mount the assembly to the freight car. Trip pins for magnetic uncoupling are also provided but I chose not to install these. The drill bit and drill template are separate but important for many installations.
Parts are removed from the sprue with a little extra that is sliced away with a sharp hobby knife. The toothpick in the image above is pointing to the excess. The dental probe points to a small sliver of flash that needs to be removed so these work properly. A slice and a couple of scrapes removes the material easily. I bought my Accurail Proto:HO couplers in bulk nearly 15 years ago, so newer production may not have this small bit of flash to remove.
After the small bits are removed, a graphite stick is used to lubricate the interfacing parts. A simple pass with the graphite stick on each side of the coupler shanks near the pivot point does the job.
The couplers are assembled in the gearbox and ready to mount on a freight car.
Many of the recent Accurail freight car models have an extra set of holes to install these couplers. Just the week, I discovered some Atlas models have these mounting holes, too! A few of the Atlas 36-foot refrigerator cars are in my freight car fleet, so upgrading them with the Proto:HO couplers was easy.
The reefer underframes are cast metal but the holes are tapped and ready for the small 0-80 screws.
In just a few minutes, two out of three reefers had new couplers installed.
Most of my 1926 freight car fleet is equipped with the Proto:HO couplers. 10-15 car freight car strings are pushed and pulled all through a typical operating session with minimal problems. These couplers mate well with the Kadee #58 couplers that are in use on several freight cars. There were some problems with compatibility, but this was between two types of Kadee couplers, the #58 semi-scale couplers and older 35 couplers. The older Kadee #5 couplers were replaced, or those freight cars were retired, recently which ended those difficulties.
As a prototype modeler, I try to build models to reflect the real thing. Couplers are part of the model and deserve attention. The Sergent Engineering couplers are really nice and would probably be my standard if I were starting over. The Accurail Proto:HO couplers offer scale size, narrow gearbox, a closer coupling between cars, and less play when coupled together. Some installations are challenging, but they make the completed resin freight car kits look even better.
Thanks for dropping by and reading the blog. Share a comment in the section below. Please follow the instructions so your comment can be posted. All comments are reviewed and approved before they appear. To subscribe to this blog, enter your info for a comment and check the last box to notify of new posts by email. Please share the blog link with other model railroaders.