Re: Couplers - Prototype


When I was Master Mexhanic in the amusement park business (Opryland) one of my railfan engineers was Wilbur Golson. He told the story of visiting (I believe) the T R Miller Lumber Mill in the south and getting to run their Baldwin 2-4-2T yard switcher. He was pulling up to a car and when he hit it the coupler pin didn't drop. The car without any air started  rolling through town. They started chasing it for over two miles to the mainline connection blowing the whistle as the car ahead of them approached every street crossing  They finally coupled up at the G M & O yard which was slightly up hill. They got down and thanked their lucky stars. Wayne Weiss

-----Original Message-----
From: Earl Knoob <earlk489@...>
To: <>
Sent: Thu, May 16, 2019 11:15 am
Subject: Re: [HOn3] Couplers

In my 41 years of railroading, I NEVER shoved a car to a spot with the knuckles butted closed.  Very dangerous.  When the engine stops, the car will keep rolling.  Most yards have some sort of grade to them, so the car can easily roll off.  You shove to a spot with the couplers locked.  When you get the car spotted, set out or whatever, you chock the wheels and/or tie down the handbrake, pull the pin if the slack in in, and pull away.  You always leave angle cocks open on cars left on a siding.  If you close the angle cocks, it is possible for the air in the car reservoirs to leak into the brake pipe and release the brakes.  that is known as "bottling the air".

"Safety stops" are a modern day invention in railroading.  Old timers didn't do that either.

BTW, 714's were a godsend to us in the late 1960's.  Until then we had to use #5's on our narrow gauge equipment.

Earl Knoob
 An "HOn3-er" since 1968.

From: <> on behalf of Dale Buxton <dbtuathaddana@...>
Sent: Thursday, May 16, 2019 1:30 AM
Subject: Re: [HOn3] Couplers
That is exactly what is being said. Personally I like and prefer operating my coupling and uncoupling operations  manually like the prototype, I get a part of the feel of what it is like to operate the prototype. Sergent  couplers give me that real operation feeling like Kadee 714's never ever could.

Ok, I'm going to incur the wrath of some people here. Be that as it may. But, it's like this. Kadee 714 and 715 couplers became the defacto couplers of HOn3 for decades because no other company came up with a usable operating coupler of the appropriate size for HOn3. End of statement full stop. The 714 design has design limitations due to compromises that needed to be made by size they needed to be and the actual thought processes of the designers. One of these  compromises  was the complete elimination of a pivoting coupler knuckle. At the time Kadee 714's were developed, the first really working coupler to the market was going to be accepted as the go to product of use and 714's were just that. Personally, I felt for many, many, many years that a lot of this acceptance was based merely on the overwhelming success of Kadee's #5 couplers and not much else. The #5's were the best couplers on the market and since then every other coupler on the market has been based on them.

But the 714 design had and still has its operational detractors. They have  fair amount of vertical play in their coupler box. this allows them to dip down or climb up on the coupler they are mated too. This also plays into the slinky action in the draft gear spring. It also can allow the magnetic trip horn/pin, which if it is not adjusted to absolutely perfect vertical height, to drop down and snag on uncoupling magnets, turnouts, RR crossing boards and pretty much anything else that is mounted between the rails. So a lot of modelers started to just snip the trip pins off and use uncoupling wands instead. This completely negated the whole delayed action concept that was and still is at the center of Kadee coupler designs. Uncoupling with a wand mostly entails  pushing a pointed stick between the 714 couplers, twisting it and then pushing the freed car away some with the stick. HOW REALISTIC! 

 I think that removing the 714 trip pins and the delayed action they gave, brought about a whole era of unrealistic, lazy, sloppy, pseudo coupling and uncoupling operations.  On the prototype there is far more to coupling cars together than just backing up, mating and pulling away. WAY MORE!!! The full size railroads use a pretty much set system of coupling and uncoupling trains or spotting cars. For the most part it works like this.


In prototype car spotting operations. You will have a switchman/brakeman on the ground. He usually starts out at the locomotive or at turnout to a siding that they want to spot a car at. The train makes a safety stop at 50' or more before turnouts and stationary cars. The switchman throws the turnout and signals the engineer to pull into the siding. The car is pushed forwards past the turnout. Now because automatic couplers will only un-couple while not under tension. For expedience (because it is easier to spot cars EXACTLY where you want them this way), train crews will pull the cut lever on one of the cars. Which releases the knuckle pin and un-couples the car from the train. The switchman gives the signal that the coupling has been broken. The engineer pulls the locomotive/train back a little. If the break does not happen, the engineer moves the train forward and takes the slack out of the coupler knuckle faces again and the switchman tries to pull the coupler pin again. Once the break is made and the engineer has pulled the open couplers a way from each other and stops. The trainman gets permission to get between the cars and closes the knuckles on both opposing couplers. He gets back out and signals the engineer to move forward. The car will now be pushed (closed knuckle to closed knuckle) to its final position. The hand brakes will be set, The angle cocks will be closed and the train line (on K-brake systems) will be bled. The train and crew then moves on to the next car set-out or whatever. 

The biggest reason for closing the knuckles to push the car gets back to the Link and Pin coupler days. The number one most dangerous place to be on the railroads is in between the cars during coupling and un-coupling. Putting automatic couplers on cars with the cut levers to operate them extending to the outside edge of the cars, which put the trainmen out of the danger zone when the pin was pulled. These improvements to car spotting started saving lives and limbs almost immediately. So that is the primary train movement process for car spotting. But, 100% of the time you must have slack in between the coupler knuckle faces for the couplers to part when the pin is pulled. 


So now we need to pick up that car. Once again the train and locomotive move to the turnout. The safety stop is made. The switchman gets off of the train. He throws the turnout and signals the engineer into the spur. They make another safety stop. Now the switchman gets permission to get in front of the coupler and makes sure that the coupler that they are going to use to make the "Joint" is open and aligned. (Remember! On most steam locomotives, the front coupler is merely pined into the coupler pocket on the locomotives pilot beam. So it has the ability to flop around from side to side and get out of alignment. Couplers o freight cars do it too!) The switchman signals the engineer to pull up to the car and make the "Joint". Once the "Joint" is made, the switchman signals the engineer to back up and take the slack out of the knuckle faces. This is called making a "Stretch". If the "Stretch" is successful, the newly coupled onto car will come with them and the slack will be taken out of the knuckle faces. If not the "Joint: and "Stretch" moves must be repeated until the proper "Joint" is made. Once a "Stretch" is successful, the switchman signals the engineer to move up and remove the slack from the knuckle faces. That completed, the switchman signals for permission to go between the cars where he kneels and connects the "Glad Hands" of the air hoses to the trainline, opens the angle cocks to the hoses and releases the manual brakes. Now they can pull out of the siding.


Now where model trains don't need a good deal of these steps. In most cases you don't see modelers doing even half of what they should be doing as simple good practices. At the very least they should be doing "Safety Stops", "Closed Knuckle Spotting" and making "Stretches" to make sure the "Joints" are made.

You can go on line and find videos of coupling and uncoupling operations on the full size RR's. The main elements of these operations are all pretty much the same everywhere  automatic knuckle couplers are used .

So I guess it comes down to something like this. If we are only willing to buy model trains with the highest detail fidelity. Why should we not endeavor to operate our highly detail miniature trains in manor as near as possible to the way that the full size RR's do?

Dale Buxton

On Wed, May 15, 2019 at 10:12 PM <arfio@...> wrote:
Why do you say they are no good for operations?  Because the require manual uncoupling like the prototype?

Allen Farnsworth

On May 15, 2019, at 9:08 PM, Ray <rayhon3@...> wrote:

I suggest Kadee 158 couplers.  Same size as the 714 but have whisker spring. So no assembly required. Operation is the same.
The Sergeants aren't any good for operation.

On Wed, May 15, 2019 at 3:04 PM -0600, "John Stutz" <john.stutz@...> wrote:


Kadee 714  scissors  couplers (and the brown version 715? ) are the 
defacto standard for HOn3.  They are somewhat oversize for the full size 
MCB couplers used on the Colorado NG roads.  Since the centering spring 
compresses under draft, they can a bit stiff to couple, and trailing 
cars to tend to display a slinky action as they are pulled by partially 
compressed springs.  These are probably your best choice for remote 
operation with magnetic uncoupling, as they have the greatest gathering 
range and a longer uncoupling lever.  Kadee  also offers these as their 
"Old Time" coupler with a longer uncoupling lever for SG cars, but they 
may tend to pull apart with the longer and heaver HO SG trains.

Microtrains 1015 and 1016 are their second generation N scale scissors 
coupler, replacing their original designs which are downsized Kadee 
714s. These are about HO scale MCB coupler size, visually similar to 
714s, but the centering spring has been reversed to compress when 
buffing.  This has the advantage that the couplers yield slightly  when 
nudged together, making it much more likely the the standing car will 
couple instead of being pushed down the track.  The 714's slinky action 
at the train's tail is eliminated, but reappears in the leading cars of 
a string that is being pushed.  Being smaller than the 714, good 
alignment of the cars is more critical when coupling.  The coupler 
knuckle is molded with negative draft angle on the pulling face, so they 
are relatively immune to pulling apart by sliding vertically.

Both the Kadee and Microtrains scissors couplers can opened manually, 
using a finely pointed dowel inserted behind the knuckles and spun.   
The two are not really mutually compatible, due to the size difference, 
but can be manually coupled.

Sergent makes dead scale HO couplers in zinc, as both the Sharon pattern 
of MCB profile coupler used on many D&RGW NG cars, and the slightly 
deeper ARA type D coupler.  Both were once widely used on SG freight 
stock.  These are mutually compatible, and some report they can be used 
with 714s.   The ARA Ds have the #10 profile designed to prevent paired 
couplers from jackknifing when pushing a string of cars, but this does 
not seem to be problem with the Sharons on our short NG trains.  Sergent 
couplers all employ an internal steel ball to lock the knuckle closed by 
gravity, and Sergent provides a magnetic rod to unlock and open the 
coupler knuckles.  They are not intended for remote operation, but might 
be used in a delayed manor, as Kadee's MKDs designed to do.  The Sergent 
couplers are a solid pivot design, so there is no slinky action.  There 
is no centering action as supplied.  Instead they have a friction spring 
to hold the coupler fixed when not coupled, allowing manual alignment 
for coupling.  Which is important, given the scale coupler's scale 
gathering range. Sergent has a version of the ARA D that is designed for 
drop-in application in the common SG coupler pocket, or in  Kadee #5 
boxes, but the preferred mounting is the narrower Acucraft box. There is 
a version of the Sharron designed specifically for Blackstone HOn3 
cars.  An a minimal mount can be made with a #2 screw and washer.

Kadee also offers a couple versions of "scale" HO couplers with fixed 
pivots and their standard style knuckle.  These are intended for SG 
models, and are probably compatible with their 714s, but I have not 
experimented on this.   Acucraft offers a "scale" version of their fixed 
pivot Acumate scissors coupler, but I have not tried to use these.  I 
suspect that there are others

John Stutz

On 5/15/2019 8:37 AM, Doug Cummings wrote:
> I have a fair number of both HO and HOn3 cars and locomotives, all currently in their original packaging. I am looking for recommendations for what make and model of couplers are recommended or work best for this equipment. Recommendations or comments are welcomed.


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