Coupler types

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Michael J

New model railroader
Hello. I am a new HO modeler, and I have a newbie question. I've noticed two different types of couplers on HO equipment. Could someone explain the difference between them, and the advantages of one over the other (if any). Also, are they compatible with one another? Can I change one type out for the other, so they are all the same? Should I do that? How difficult is it to do that? Are replacement couplers readily available?

Photo shows two of my locomotives, with the different types.

couplers_zpsfc8a5486.jpg


(I know, lots of questions. Sorry 'bout that, but I want to learn.)
 

Burlington Bob

Well-Known Member
Here is Kadee's website............http://www.kadee.com/. They are probably the "gold standard" for couplers. There's a lot of info on their website and a complete list of their couplers. It's a good place to do some reading on the subject and you can check on Youtube for coupler installation and maintenance tips. Hope this helps.
 

Ronzzr11

Member
The one on the left is the Kadee type,commonly known as a knuckle coupler, the right hand one is a horn and hook type. The horn and hook type has fallen out of favour with most people, they usually get changed out for the Kadee couplers. When I go for a new loco, or other piece of rolling stock, one of the first things I do, is fit Kadees, they are just so much better.
Ron
 

wiley209

Member
It takes a bit of practice, but knuckle couplers CAN connect to horn-hook couplers. But I'd still recommend the knuckle couplers in most cases. I already upgraded maybe half of my Life-Like locomotives and rolling stock to knuckle couplers.
 

PNKFLOYD

Mikey
You have been given good advice.

There are another couple manufacturers of "knuckle" couplers, but KADEE is consistantly the best, IMHO. The knuckle type couplers are more prototypical and do not uncouple as easily as the hook-horn style.
 

cv_acr

Active Member
Point by point replies follow.

Hello. I am a new HO modeler, and I have a newbie question. I've noticed two different types of couplers on HO equipment. Could someone explain the difference between them, and the advantages of one over the other (if any).
At left is a "knuckle" coupler made by Kadee. Kadee made the original design of this type of coupler; there are now all sorts of knock-offs, but the Kadees are cast in metal and still the best. They also have a large number of variations for specific mounting situations, while most of the copies only have one version, a copy of Kadee's #5.

At right is an older "horn hook" (sometime also referred to as a "NMRA" (although to my knowledge it was not actually accepted as an official NMRA standard coupler or anything) or "X2F") plastic coupler. These were common on just about all rolling stock from about 50 to 10 years ago. (ish. plastic copies of the knuckle coupler are now standard, and for a while (I think manufacturers are now currently no longer doing this) cars came standard with the knuckle coupler installed, but the older horn-hook couplers included in the box to change out if desired.)

While not _exactly_ looking like a real coupler, the knuckle coupler has the advantage of looking more like a real coupler than the horn-hook, has a metal trip pin that enables magnetic uncoupling.

The horn hooks used to have the advantage of being dirt cheap and simpler to install; they're harder to get now - I'm not sure anyone even makes them anymore, but there should be scads of used ones out there (although most modellers probably just throw them out when replacing them with knuckle couplers, you can sometimes get them for cheap or free at shows and swap meets.

Also, are they compatible with one another?
No.

Can I change one type out for the other, so they are all the same?
Yes.

Should I do that?
Since they're not compatible, yes. It would be best to have all your couplers of one design.

Some people run "conversion cars" with a knuckle on one end and "horn hook" on the other to connect cars of different couplers. This of course limits your trains to running with a pretty fixed set of cars in a fixed order; this may not matter to you, but if you ever want to do any sort of switching or "operations" then this is a no-go. I expect to be able to match ANY cars and/or locomotives with each other on a layout.

How difficult is it to do that?
Varies. Most newer cars are a 30-second job. Remove the screws holding the coupler box covers on, remove the old coupler, put in the new coupler, screw the covers back on.

Cheap older cars with truck (wheel and axle bearing frame/assembly)-mounted couplers will be the most difficult. Either cut the extension and coupler mounting away from the truck and attach a new coupler box to the body/floor, or you'll need a special truck mounting conversion kit.

Are replacement couplers readily available?
Yes. http://www.kadee.com

Their #5 is their "standard" coupler; that's what's pictured on the engine at left in the photo.
The #58 is equivalent but with a smaller, more scale-size head.

Everything else is a variation to handle mounting situations where a #5 doesn't fit or line up properly. Try a #5 (or #58) first, and if it doesn't work, then look for a different version that will.

There are other copies, mostly cast in plastic (Bachmann "EZMate", McHenry) but the Kadee is still the best.

Photo shows two of my locomotives, with the different types.

couplers_zpsfc8a5486.jpg


(I know, lots of questions. Sorry 'bout that, but I want to learn.)
 

Cjcrescent

Master Mechanic
Be sure to also check out the coupler height gauge, and also the washers Kadee has. These tools will allow you to make sure that all of your couplers are at the same height above the rails.

As Bob has said, study the site carefully. There is a lot of needed info there.
 

riogrande

Active Member
It takes a bit of practice, but knuckle couplers CAN connect to horn-hook couplers.
I managed to trick a horn hook to mate with a KD by trimming the hornhook strategically, but trust me, thats not something you want to take seriously.
 

Michael J

New model railroader
I think that I will just get some Kadee knuckle couplers and replace the horn-hooks. Thank you all for the help.
 

Tuna

Member
There are different sizes of "knuckle" couplers also. The smaller, closer to scale size knuckle couplers are a little more critical about height. I personally like the slightly larger "original" style knuckle couplers.

I prefer Kadee but I also use McHenry couplers. I toss all horn-hook couplers in the trash if I buy a car that comes with them.
 
What do you do on the older Tyco they have a completly different setup for the wheels and couplers than the newer stuff (75% of what I have is hook and horn)
 
C

catt

Guest
You can

A- replace the coupler on the truck with a knuckle coupler conversion.

B - Remove the coupler and mount from the truck and body mount the
the knuckle coupler( This is the preferred method and usually quite easy to
do).

I would also reccomend a tool called a truck tuner that is used to clean the axle cones on the trucks,the way to do this is remove the trucks,then remove the wheel sets ,insert the tuner ,turn it a few times ,flip it around (tuner does one side at a time) repeat the process turning (spinning )the tool the same amount of times you did on the first side.Do the second truck ,replace the wheel sets and put the trucks on the track and give them a light push.If it does not roll freely repeat the process.

The tuners are about $14.00 I believe but it will soon pay for itself when you find that your loco can now pull more cars.My axle tuner was made by Jay Bee but Micro-Mark has them too.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Hank4014

Member
For my son's trains, since we were acquiring older rolling stock (we don't have a permanent layout, so lots of EZTrack and no major investments in rolling stock). I also had some sets that were mine that came with knuckle couplers. To solve the problem of mismatched couplers, I bought a few packs of Kadee couplers to replace the broken couplers on the new-to-us equipment. Instead of replacing at both ends on all cars, I changed one end on a few, so he could mix and match his trains. It's the job of his 0-5-0 switcher to make sure the couplers match between the cars.
 




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