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OK Folks, The Erie Shore & Ironton is getting to a point where operation is becoming a key factor.  This is a large 30X50 double decked layout with 3 main yards and a 6 track staging area that is 16 feet long (actually a 3rd level).  I have never been satisfied with the operation of 3 rail couplers as far as switching and staging operations.  Now it's becoming even more difficult.  You can imagine that some of these yard areas are not easily reachable. 

Kadee in themselves work great and are reliable.  However, I have a 100 foot long 2.2% grade that I am concerned about the small size of the Kadees (up and down motion) and some 30 year old pretty rough gargraves and ross switches that will one day be replaced... maybe... one day... like so many other "temporary" items on a layout of this size.  And then there is the question of destroying resale value of around 200 pieces of rolling stock that my wife and kids will need to sell after my "departure". 

What say you... is it worth the trouble, initial expense and possible lower resale value in the future?  I hope to hear from some folks that have done this on a large collection and layout.

Troy

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My thinking on this is to install Kadee couplers on my most "scale 3 rail" cars (e.g., GGD passenger cars, Atlas freight cars) and keep the lobster claws on everything Lionel and MTH.  Also note that you can leave the lobster claw in the original box of "convertible" cars and thereby not lose any resale value.

Personally i would not worry about resale value.  Value increases are a Cr@p shoot at any given point in time.  I have cars that 10 years ago were worth $250 each and now are 1/2 that.  As for operations ...i have found Lionel style couplers are great at uncoupling on demand (UCS tracks) but not so hot at recoupling - this includes new TMCC engine/tender couplers as well.  The most recent atlas and MTH cars i purchased are more consistent.  As for Kadee's, i operated on a friend's O Scale layout for many years.  It was 3 decked as well, 50 ft long basement so probably 100 foot long runs as well.  We typically ran upwards of 15 car trains and never had a separation issue that i recall. 

My thought of resale value. Is if your worried about it. Never take it out of the box.  My way of enjoying the hobby may not be for everyone. That’s fine. People enjoy the hobby in different ways. Everything gets Kadee’s and weathering. Rolling stock boxes get trashed. I think of everything as part of a fleet. Not a collection. Every piece has a job on the railroad to do and fits into the scheme of the region and road modeled.

For operating with Kadee’s. First off. They all work the same way on anybody’s car. It’s becomes a standard. Adjust them properly and you will have no issues with 2% grades. I do use the Kadee magnets in a few spots and use delayed coupling. I’ll say it works most of the time. For serious operations. I would design the layout from the get go to have everything reachable for manual uncoupling.

@Crazy J RR posted:

what model # kadee would you say is the most common for our use?  Maybe I will start with 10 or so cars and test run a train for a while.

I always used the Kadee #805, with excellent results. Back when I was a member of the Independent Hi-Railers, Midwest Division, I had no problems running 75 car freight trains (or even longer), since our modular layout was so huge. Even with some questionable module "joints", I never had any uncoupling issues with the Kadee body mounted couplers. All my locomotives and freight rolling stock were up-graded to Kadee metal couplers.

When Kadee came out with the "improved appearance" 740 series couplers, I then began using the #740 couplers, especially on locomotives and cabooses.

Also, don't forget to purchase the Kadee coupler height gauge, thus insuring that all your equipment have couplers at exactly the same height.

If you don’t plan on converting engines or doing a transition car. The 805’s will mate with most 3 rail couplers. Though they seem to have an issue with MTH coil couplers. The 740’s seem popular. A little more like a prototype coupler and no visible spring.

I run mostly all  805’s. It’s what I started out with. A word of caution with either of these. Everything is metal. When fastened to a metal chassis. The trip pin will be close to the center rail. Which in a roundabout way through the chassis. Connects to your outside rail on some cars. If you want to use the magnets. It will need to be fairly close. I know many opt for the versions with plastic boxes for this reason. Nothing wrong with the metal versions. Just make sure everything is adjusted to the height gauge. Or just simply bend or remove the trip pin if you don’t plan on using magnets.

  Committing to Kadee’s is more than just buying the couplers. You’ll need a height gauge. A few different thickness shims. Plus the hardware to install them. For older rolling stock with no mounts. You’ll need some small drill bits and taps.

Last edited by Dave_C
@Dave_C posted:

If you don’t plan on converting engines or doing a transition car...

1:...The 805’s will mate with most 3 rail couplers. Though they seem to have an issue with MTH coil couplers. The 740’s seem popular. A little more like a prototype coupler and no visible spring.

I run mostly all  805’s. It’s what I started out with. A word of caution with either of these. Everything is metal. When fastened to a metal chassis. The trip pin will be close to the center rail. Which in a roundabout way through the chassis. Connects to your outside rail on some cars. If you want to use the magnets. It will need to be fairly close. I know many opt for the versions with plastic boxes for this reason. Nothing wrong with the metal versions. Just make sure everything is adjusted to the height gauge. Or just simply bend or remove the trip pin if you don’t plan on using magnets.

2: Committing to Kadee’s is more than just buying the couplers. You’ll need a height gauge. A few different thickness shims. Plus the hardware to install them. For older rolling stock with no mounts. You’ll need some small drill bits and taps.

1. I have found that to be the case, so a "transition car" is not an absolute necessity.

2. ...and that's where the fun begins, right?

Mark in Oregon

I like the original KD design best; I think they couple more reliably than the type "E" couplers. At least, that's been my experience (others disagree). I model in 2-rail O gauge, but occasionally I fit KD couplers to 3-rail Atlas cars, which can be a pain in the neck depending upon the specific car you want to refit. I have never tried to fit KDs to Lionel or MTH cars, but I think you will find that most 3-rail cars require a mounting pad of some kind at each end to fill the gap between the end of the car and the floor and to provide a base for securing the KD couple box.

Shapeways sells a KD mounting pad for plastic 3-rail Pecos River boxcars that makes the job easy; perhaps there are similar ready-made pads available for Lionel and MTH products.

The most recent Lionel and MTH for the most part have supplied shims and sometimes screws in the box. It’s even advertised. What they don’t tell is what’s required to remove the factory coupler. For those that like to meticulously take things apart it can be done. Most of us deal with it using a Dremel and heavy duty pliers. There’s no turning back if you don’t like the result other than buying new trucks.

My advice to anyone looking to go down the road of converting to Kadee’s and want to try a few out. If you have any Weaver cars. Start with those.

@Hot Water posted:

Just my opinion but, I never liked those plastic Kadee "gear boxes". When tightening the "gear box" mounting screws, invariably the cover of the box would warp, thus hindering coupler movement.

If that happens then you are over tightening the mounting screw well beyond what is necessary and deforming the center post inside the box resulting in that center post binding to the the coupler shank.  There is no need to tighten the mounting screws to that degree.

Shims to lower the coupler height are convenient to get to the correct height, however, it is more likely that the entire car needs to be lowered.

@Dave_C posted:

The most recent Lionel and MTH for the most part have supplied shims and sometimes screws in the box. It’s even advertised. What they don’t tell is what’s required to remove the factory coupler. For those that like to meticulously take things apart it can be done. Most of us deal with it using a Dremel and heavy duty pliers. There’s no turning back if you don’t like the result other than buying new trucks.

My advice to anyone looking to go down the road of converting to Kadee’s and want to try a few out. If you have any Weaver cars. Start with those.

I’ll drink to that!…….I’ve succumbed to the world of Kadees too, …..and it’s quite the journey! Some stuff you think you’re a god, other stuff you want to crumple the car up, and sit down & eat it 😄

Pat  

Once you put Kadees on a car and look at it, I think you will not like the look of the larger Lionel/MTH couplers.    and then I think that will nag at you until you convert them all.

I have found most MTH and Lionel cars easy to convert both to Kadees and 2 rail.    Once you do a couple of a given brand,  you understand how they are assembled, and then develop a routine.    My first MTH car had me confused for quite a while trying to figure out how to get to the truck mounting screw.    when I finally figured out  you have to go at it from the top, it worked out.  

Many cars now come with shims to mount the Kadees.   The Lionel GLA and MTH fishbelly hoppers are a good example.    I have found that Boxcars tend to easy since the  underframe is hidden and you can drill and tap as much as you like.    Generally I find I have had to make a mounting plate and I do this out of styrene about 1/2-3/4 inch wide by about 3/4 inches long and 1/8 inch thick.    I often drill and tap this for 2-56 screws and mount the couplers with 5/16 inch long screws.    2-56 screws fit the Kadee mounting holes very well.    I have learned for myself, to NEVER  use a power tool for screwing into plastic/styrene.   I always do it with my fingers, and make if finger tight.    I have found any kind of power screwdriver used with plastic threads quickly strips them out.    I use a power driver to drill holes, of course.

One car that is interesting to do is the Lionel PS-4 flat car.    There is nothing  underneath where the coupler mounts except the wood deck.    On these my technique is to make a plate as above,    Then I drill a clearance hole and counter sink what will be the top for a flat head screws at the proper locations for coupler mount.    I then mount the coupler to the plate and used nuts to hold in place.   The nuts are at the bottom.    Then I use contact cement to mount the plate to the underside of the car.  

All this generally does involve modifying the trucks when removing the coupler to leave room for the Kadee and truck swing.    Since I am a modeler, not a collector, I don't worry about this.  

@prrjim posted:

1. Once you put Kadees on a car and look at it, I think you will not like the look of the larger Lionel/MTH couplers.    and then I think that will nag at you until you convert them all.

2.  I have found most MTH and Lionel cars easy to convert both to Kadees and 2 rail.    Once you do a couple of a given brand,  you understand how they are assembled, and then develop a routine.    My first MTH car had me confused for quite a while trying to figure out how to get to the truck mounting screw.    when I finally figured out  you have to go at it from the top, it worked out. 

3.  Many cars now come with shims to mount the Kadees.   The Lionel GLA and MTH fishbelly hoppers are a good example.  

4.  I have found that Boxcars tend to easy since the  underframe is hidden and you can drill and tap as much as you like.  

1.  Absolutely.

2.  Again, you are spot on. 

3.  Those nice K-Line die cast hoppers came from the factory set up for a relatively easy conversion, with instructions and everything.

4.  Gotta love Boxcars... 

Mark in Oregon

The 805s will grab most claw knuckles so you don't have to fully commit to converting your whole fleet at first. Some cars are more trouble than others to convert. Lionel has added the mounting hole patterns and shims to a lot of their cars and engines over the years but you may find their ride heights are all over the place.

3D printing really has really helped for making clean mounts and shims. I can now make cleaner looking conversions that work better.

One thing I never see mentioned is how much nicer a train will travel with body mounted couplers. Body mounting the draft gear makes for a much more stable car.

Pros:  Superior operation, appearance, prototypical car spacing
Cons: Time, cost and effort to convert, generally lower resale value

My approach:

1.  For most rolling stock, use #805 or #740 couplers.  I like the more prototypical appearance of the #740 series.  They won't couple with the lobster claws.  I use transition cars instead (Kadee at one end, lobster claw at the other).
2.  Start with Weaver cars (easiest), then move to Atlas, then more recent MTH Premier and Lionel cars that are drilled and tapped for Kadees, then drill and tap for custom mounts on the others. Atlas holes are too narrowly spaced, but you can fudge them together by starting each screw with the Kadee hovering above its mount, then alternately tighten the screws.
3.  Buy an assortment of 2-56 black oxide pan head screws of different lengths, M2 x 8 and M2 x 10mm (for Atlas), and 1-72 x 3/8 (for MTH). Buy shims and also I make shims from black styrene.  Scale City, Micromark, and All Nation sell shims.
4.  Use a Kadee coupler gauge.  If I need to shim more than 1/16", the car is riding too high.  I will then swap to a lower truck (including 2 rail) or a lower bolster or sometimes use a #742 overset Kadee coupler.
5.  Follow the instructions. Don't skip over burnishing and adding graphite powder for best operation.
6.  I usually convert my cars in unit trains, eg. do 20 coal hoppers.
7.  Locomotives require the most work and you lose the remote electrocoupler capability.  Usually I am able to do the conversions non-destructively, so they can be reversed when I sell the locomotive.  I do both frame-mounted and truck mounted Kadees on locomotives and they both function well.  
8.  For Cab units I usually modify the pilot to be fixed which is not reversible.  Also you can achieve close coupling of Cab units which greatly improves the appearance.  The short shank Kadees are helpful here.
9.  I only had one elevated area of my layout that was uneven enough to cause uncoupling of Kadees.  It was fixed in 5 minutes with an additional track support to even out the dip.

Good info sources for getting started with Kadees:
LaidoffSick's videos on installing Kadees on rolling stock
CentralFan1976's videos on installing Kadees on locos and rolling stock
My video on installing Kadees on Lionel GLA hoppers
My comprehensive article in O Gauge Railroading Magazine Run 294 on installing Kadees on Rolling Stock

Bob

A note on body mount.    Body mounting couplers definitely improves operaton and reduces derailments - - however there is a consideration.

Body mount using the supplied draft gear boxes, will not allow as sharp a radius as truck mounts.   For example, they won't work on O31.    I don't know what the minimum is, I have a friend who has 072 and has no problems.

The issue is the limit on the amount of swing on the couplers in the box.    This can be overcome if you mount the couplers without the draft gear box, just a screw and washer.    that allows much more swing.    You can still set up centering by attaching the draft gear spring to the small hole in the back of the shaft and to a screw behind the coupler mount.   That is if  you want centering.

On really sharp curves  you may need to mount the couplers farther out than otherwise.    There is a 700 series coupler with a long shank available.

Last edited by prrjim

As usual, "prrjim" is correct ( ) although mounting them (box and all) using only the rear mounting hole and not tightening the screw all the way allows for the entire unit to swivel a bit.

Just for laughs, I have been able to run a '70s Vintage Atlas F9 and a few cars (both Atlas and Weaver, so equipped) on original Atlas/Austrian 2 rail 24"R curves...which is pretty tight.

Mark in Oregon

8 AM 10:29:23

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  • 8 AM 10:29:23
@Strummer posted:

As usual, "prrjim" is correct ( ) although mounting them (box and all) using only the rear mounting hole and not tightening the screw all the way allows for the entire unit to swivel a bit.

Just for laughs, I have been able to run a '70s Vintage Atlas F9 and a few cars (both Atlas and Weaver, so equipped) on original Atlas/Austrian 2 rail 24"R curves...which is pretty tight.

Mark in Oregon

8 AM 10:29:23

What does your attached photo have to do with Kadee couplers?

If Kadee offered a reasonably priced electrocoupler (or coil coupler) in O scale, I think it would make conversion to Kadees a slam-dunk for many more 3-rail hobbyists.

Note: A smaller version of their G-scale remote coupler would be overpriced overkill.  What the hobby needs is a simple electrocoupler for locomotives with a solenoid or similar mechanism that just opens the coupler when the specified voltage is applied.     

Last edited by PGentieu
@PGentieu posted:

If Kadee offered a reasonably priced electrocoupler (or coil coupler) in O scale, I think it would make conversion to Kadees a slam-dunk for many more 3-rail hobbyists.

Note: A smaller version of their G-scale remote coupler would be overpriced overkill.  What the hobby needs is a simple electrocoupler for locomotives with a solenoid or similar mechanism that just opens the coupler when the specified voltage is applied.     

In my opinion, there really is no need for a Kadee "electrocoupler", since Kadee would have to produce different voltage capable operating coils (one for Lionel locomotives and one for MTH locomotives). Then there is always that age old problem of having to bash the couplers together in order to make the knuckle close & latch.

@PGentieu posted:

If Kadee offered a reasonably priced electrocoupler (or coil coupler) in O scale, I think it would make conversion to Kadees a slam-dunk for many more 3-rail hobbyists.

Note: A smaller version of their G-scale remote coupler would be overpriced overkill.  What the hobby needs is a simple electrocoupler for locomotives with a solenoid or similar mechanism that just opens the coupler when the specified voltage is applied.     

A few former forum members local to me have done this. One who used the coil from a Lionel coupler, the other who models On3 wound his own coils that are powered directly from a DCC decoder. The passenger cars he installed them on won first place in a National Narrow gauge convention. Those familiar with the work presented there know the bar is exceedingly high.

Pete

A few thoughts on kadees and minimum radius. The further the truck pivot point (bolster?)  is from the end of the car, the greater the radius has to be for body mounted couplers. Also when talking about minimums consider S curves have to be even wider than that number.

Those with existing layouts have to take that into consideration. 054 mainline minimum is not the same as 054 switches in a yard environment.

A solution there is to mount the coupler to the truck talgo style. Maybe not acceptable to the fix pilot fans but easier than redesigning your layout.

These Lionel F3s have kadees and are able to negotiate an 042 S curve.

IMG_3383

Pete

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Last edited by Norton
@Strummer posted:

Hmmm...lemme see; how do I answer this?

1. Kadee is based in Oregon;

2.  This bridge is in Oregon...and;

3.  I figure you already know what a Kadee coupler looks like, but you might not have seen the Alsea Bay Bridge this morning...

Mark in...

Well, yes I do indeed know what the various Kadee couplers look like but,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,the original poster may not. Thus a bridge in Oregon really isn't much help in this discussion.

@Strummer posted:

Hmmm...lemme see; how do I answer this?

1. Kadee is based in Oregon;

2.  This bridge is in Oregon...and;

3.  I figure you already know what a Kadee coupler looks like, but you might not have seen the Alsea Bay Bridge this morning...

Mark in...

Thank you for posting that photo, I have never seen that bridge before. It looks like it would be easy to model for a layout, sort of like a mini HellGate.

Last edited by PRRMP54

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