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I am hoping for feedback on methods of adjusting or modifying these cars so that I can use them on my layout consistently. I would think there should be some approach that would eliminate the issues I am having. So far I have not been able to do so. I would appreciate any advice that OGR members or The Atlas Co. may have. These are the only cars that I own that have an issue with, on my layout. It seems to be an issue with all of them at different times. I have had no problems with the Atlas 89’ flat trailer cars, Lionel Auto Carriers, Lionel Big Boy, Lionel Allegheny, or a MTH Yellowstone. I am trying to run the Atlas CZ's in a 11-12 car consist. The cars are a mix from over 5 years of building the train CZ consist. I have at least one of all the variations of the cars except the coming conductors car. I sold my K-Line CZ 21” cars which were never a problem. The Atlas cars are absolutely beautiful, But!!

I am asking if others are having these issues with O72 switches and the related causes associated with these cars and trucks. It would be very difficult to replace the switches with larger radiuses.


The cars short out and trip the breaker. One cause is the thumbtack for the coupler release arm, which hangs too low or is too loose (sloppy). The tack shorts out on the middle rail or catches on the Ross O72 “ Y Switch or on the Ross 72-96 curved Switch. The temporary fix was to cover the tacks with electrical tape. So far that is working. I have covered all the tacks with tape.


Now the cars still short out because of derailing on two O72  switches. They are not derailing  because of picking the points. In-fact the approach on the curved switch Ross 72/96 doesn’t come into the points, it comes in from the leads. This the only area of the main layout that has O72 switch curves.





It appears to me that the cause is related to the trucks and couplers are not free to rotate freely or far enough. It looks like the leading car's trailing truck does not allow the following car's leading truck to follow and rotate. It wants to go straight instead of curve on the switch. I think one of the problems is the cross bar that connects the simulated steam line pipe and the brake line. It seems that when the truck turns, the connecting bar piece gets hung up on the under side of the door frame protrusion. Temporary solution is to carefully remove the brake hose/steam line trim. But I would like to have them on the cars in the end.





Another cause is the coupler height and hitting the wire footstep on the face between cars that is possibly too low. I have included photos of my attempt to reshape and raise that foot bracket. Only the right side has been modified at this time. The left side does not come into play on right turns.




A third cause may be the position of the adjustable tongue for the coupler. By extending the adjustable coupler it tends to clear the under carriage better but at the same time seems to lower the thumbtack, allowing it to contact the middle rail. I would like to know if others are having these same issues, and if they have a consistent treatment for the problem. It seems that the cars all vary. On some trucks the torsion bar on the side of the truck hits the car frame when rotating the truck.



I have considered replacing all the couplers with Kadees but would like to hear from anyone that has already done this and run the cars on O72 switches.

On the 2 rail cars, how do they replicate the steam line and brake hose?

Is there a prescribed length of the adjustable coupler tongue for O72 radius?

Is there a standard setting on the coupler adjustment screw?

Has anyone modified the truck or the frame to allow further rotation?

Has anyone had the interference of the coupler and the foot bracket?




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Original Post

I have the complete car set as well. The cars are beautiful, however they are not made to work on 072 curves or switches. 

When the cars where first released I had no issue with ONE car taking these turns but couple another on and the fun began.

First off I have notice that the details of the underbody do not like DZ1000 switch machines and their large screw heads. They even seem to pick the switch springs.

I have never been able to get this set to traverse over 072 curves. Thus I only run them on my upper deck with a minimum of 096, and I still have issues. I have adjusted the draw bars and removed the air hose details, however this lead to other issues.

Mostly unwanted uncoupling.  S curves are a curse, even on 096 the trucks and couplers will uncouple, and the inside of the trucks hit the car bodies and will cause a derailment. 

I use the same electrical tape fix for droopy coupler tacks.

The dome cars seem to be my most aggravation.  If you do find a fix, I will be listening. However, grinding away details, which I did not want to do, may be our only hope.

Last edited by J Daddy


You might want to ask guys over on the "3RS" forum about the Kadee conversions. I'm sure someone over there has done these cars by now.

From your photos, it looks like the cars are pre-drilled for the draft gear boxes as is usual for Atlas equipment. You probably just need some styrene shims and Kadees with the correct shank length. 

That's a nice layout you've got started there. Good luck!

Last edited by richtrow

I don't have this set.  You might try raising the car body height by putting washers between the trucks and the frame to allow the trucks to just clear the bottom of the car body when they swing.  This shouldn't change the coupler heights since the couplers are attached to the trucks.  I have no idea if this would be an easy or difficult modification.   I have done this successfully on a couple of my cars that had similar problems.

NH Joe


I believe I have made some progress since I first wrote the original post involving the O72 issues with the Atlas CZ cars and O72 switches. I appreciate the post replies and emails that offered suggestions and ideas. I have some conclusions that I have applied to my layout and cars. It is not perfect yet, but improved. I will share what I’ve have found to date, my actions taken and why. I found a variety of issues that varied from car to car. I think that these issues mostly appear when trying to use O72 curves and switches and probably become insignificant with larger radii.

 1 Removal of air brake lines and steam pipes. Bending foot grab irons

The pipes hit the frame of the car, being one of the limitation of the truck rotation. They come off fairly easily, many of them are already off and in the box when you get them. The brake line comes off easily with the trucks still mounted but steam pipes need to have the coupler removed which means you also need the adjustable bracket removed. The steam line is more fragile than the break line and needs to be removed carefully. A miniature thin blade screw driver can be used to pry a little bit at a time on each side of the connection. It can be removed with out damage if done patiently and gradually. It is held in by a mortise on the coupler and tenon on the steam pipe. After removal of the pipes reassess whether the foot step grab iron interfere with the rotation of the truck. If they do, leave alone until you have finalized the height of the coupler, then if needed they can be bent up slightly with the needle nose pliers. This is much easier than reshaping or remaking new.

 2  Centering spring stability

I found that on about 1/3 of my cars that the coupler centering spring was moving off the small dimple and post that is used to hold it in place. The spring is then resistant to re-centering the coupler after if moves off the post. It can be observed when exercising the coupler, that the spring will rotate. The spring can be stabilized sometimes by adjusting the tightness of the holding screw securing the coupler mounting (see #3). On the springs that couldn’t be stabilized with adjustment I used Mike’s CA Glue to hold it in place. Some of the posts showed wear. This is a very delicate procedure. No glue can remain on the surface of the spring that bears the coupler, the hole that acts as the bushing, or on the leaf springs. The leafs must be able to act as springs. I feel that if you are doing this you need to use scopes and head lights. I doubt that Atlas would approve this and might void your warranty

Box Spring

Box Spring 

Box Spring 

Post and Dimple Worn

Post and Dimple

Seated well and Glued

Box Spring Cemented

Seated well


Not seated well and will not work

Spring and Box

3  Adjustment of coupler on the adjustable bar.

The cars I have, required that I adjusted the tightness of everyone of the attachment screw. About ½ were loose and dropping or were too tight to swing properly. If couplers are dropping they are also letting the spring become non-functional. It is a fine adjustment, similar to tightening a bearing or bushing on a car or bicycle wheel. My method was to remove the screw holding the release lever and then tighten the screw holding the coupler until it is fully seat and the coupler doesn’t swing. Then back off 1/8 to 1/4 turn. Check if it snaps back right and left and doesn’t have vertical slop. Most of my cars had a washer between the head and the adjustable bar, but a significant number didn’t have them. I believe the system is that the mounting screw is set then fixed when you tighten the screw that holds the coil spring and release lever. They should meet inside their common shaft although they are not the same gauge. You can over tighten the lever screw. I had 4 mounting screws that were bent. Two of which the heads twisted off when I tried to removed them. Initially I had thought they were bent from the thumb tack hitting parts of the switch, but I now believe it was from the manufacture over tightening the larger lever screw. I had also linked the bend I saw in the lever arm to the same cause (striking a switch part), but since most of the arms have a slight bend, I think it was from the hole punching process during manufacturing. I have set all of the coupler heights to ¾” + or - 1/32 from the top of the coupler knuckle to the top of the middle rail. The adjustment if needed is easily done with the 2 back mounting screw. Very few of the couplers needed this after tightening the coupler properly to the adjustment bar. If you need pictures or additional clarity with the adjustments, please email me.

 4  Adjusting the rollers or the O72 Switch

After all the adjustment were done, I still have significant derailing on the switches. The 21 CZ’s are extremely difficult to see what is happening when they go over a switch, but you can feel the binding some times with the right pressure on the car. I knew there is some problem between the truck and the switch. I took videos to help see the problem. I do not have any extra trucks but I do have extra cars. I removed the trucks form one of my cars. By doing so I could see the problem and cause, I believed. I can only say this is the cause on the Ross switches but I would think it would pertain to all the manufactures that have sharp rails versus tubular rails. My belief is that Atlas has used a roller that really has sharp edges (a true cylinder) compared to other rollers that have a chamfered edge like a salami shape. I have taken pictures I hope you can make out. The roller rolls in and drops down off the entrance center rail over the outside rail and onto another guard rail (which is lower) then needs to rise up to the exit center rail. The sharp edges prevent the roller from consistently rolling up on the exit center rail and when it doesn’t it causes a derailment. I believe the solution is to modify the roller or the switch. I will probably be doing both. The red tape on the switch picture is the area where the square edge roller hits the exiting middle (3rd) rail and binds. Without the body on the trucks it is very easy to see the problem, and make it reoccur in the testing. My solution is to regrind the edges of the rollers and place an elevating filler between the guard rail and the middle rail. The roller can be placed securely in a drill and the edges rounded by a fine file. I am concerned about removing and the replacing the roller and what affect it would have on the bracket. I do not know if Atlas would agree.

Sharp Edge Roller

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Red Tape Contact Point of Sharp Roller


Red Tape Contact Point of Sharp Roller


Path of Roller  Middle rail to outside rail to lower guard rail to higher exit middle rail.


Red tape and contact of leading edge of sharp roller causing derailment not allowing truck to follow track but forcing it to the right because it can't lift up to the rail

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I will report back when that is done, the filler and grinding.

Thanks for following 




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Last edited by tplee

Buzz - thank you for the diligent work. I appreciate the updates and I will be following your findings, I have sentence my CZ cars to run an outer loop with 096 min curves, with no cross over switches.

I was able to eliminate the un-coupling of cars by adding a small piece of black electrical tape to the inside of the couplers.  

 I'm a firm believer in Kadee couplers. It looks like the coupler mounts are the same as the scale coupler conversion they were offering in freight cars at one time. Despite their issues they got me started in converting everything to Kadee's. In your case these might be worth a shot and give the Atlas adjustacouplers a try.  I would first remove the the stock Atlas centering spring and replace it with a Kadee which is much softer. You can also file  back the coupler box to allow more swing. With this setup the couplers will actually stretch out a bit as the cars start to move. With truck mounted couplers and couplers that can move more freely you should be able to adjust the length and get it working reliably. You want have issues with a thumbtack hitting the rails. 

 If you are going to run this as a consist without doing switching moves you should be fine. A little care needs to be taken when backing up. You will need to leave the stock 3 rail coupler in place on the head end car to mate with the engine.

 If you want to try this setup. I can send you some couplers and Kadee springs.

I'll second Dave C's post above. Although I did not purchase the Atlas CZ passenger set, I did purchase the dome observation and baggage car. I found a way to modify the Atlas "claw coupler" mount, in order to accept a Kadee O Scale coupler, and still retain that "talgo truck mounting" arrangement that Atlas uses. I now can include that really nice CZ baggage car into my CB&Q heavyweight passenger train from Golden Gate Depot.

I don't own the CZ cars. Just speaking from experience of doing many scale coupler conversions on a variety of cars. I never had any issues with the Atlas adjustacouplers. My biggest gripes was they wouldn't mate to a stock 3 rail coupler, the centering spring was way to stiff, and they wouldn't work with the Kadee magnets. I have a few sets of these couplers and would be happy to swap them out to a Kadee spring and ship them to you to try. This would eliminate your thumbtack issue. Atlas looks like they tried to solve the age old problem of offering both 3 rail and scale couplers on the same model truck. Seems the 3 railers got the quick fix were as the scale guys simply body mount a coupler or use the scale coupler and box that fits the 3 rail mount.

 If you decide on using Kadee's. You will need to fabricate your own mounts. It seems like you could bolt a piece of brass or aluminum stock to the Atlas bracket. Then drill mounting holes to attach the Kadee box and coupler. A lot of work for a fleet of cars.

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