Upgrading a Fleets worth of Couplers

Last weekend I pulled a kind of silly looking “Hospital Train” across my layout. I had all my rolling stock stored in the CPR Staging in the closet, but I finally reached a point where I wanted to finish the “base level” upgrades to the freight cars. They all have Code 88 semi-scale wheels that have been painted, but most of them still had a variety of couplers from the manufacturers. I am going to use Kadee #58 Scale Head Couplers on everything for consistent operations and looks, so I needed to get on with swapping out the old couplers, and cutting off the magnetic trip pins for manual operations.

15 freight cars coupled on my layout, its silly looking on a layout designed for a maximum locomotive and 3 car train!

It was just easier to pull them across the layout than to carry them around the room. For any new kits I am building, they will have these couplers from the start. I was actually surprised, I had installed 58’s on maybe 1/4 of my cars, but not taken the pins off. There is now only one car I haven’t changed the couplers on. I have one Intermountain car where the coupler box seems to be glued shut from the factory. I didn’t feel like forcing it. Worst case I can cut it off and replace the coupler box, but for now, I know its the only car that doesn’t have a scale head, so it can be a future problem.

The next task, was to start looking at improving my uncoupling tool. I’ve noticed a few spots can be dark, so I wanted to steal an idea I’ve seen from 7mm UK modeller Brian Dickey, a flashlight attached to the coupling tool. To do this, I found a two-pack of mini-flashlights on Amazon, and ordered them. I have since taped a piece of styrene tube onto it, and mounted a Kadee uncoupling tool into it. So far, it seems to be doing what I want. This is definitely a version 1.0! I need to get a slightly smaller tube (I had to wrap some tape onto the coupler skewer to get it to stay in place), and do something a bit nicer looking than some black electrical tape, but, as a proof of concept, it works!

Mini LED flashlight modified into an HO Scale Uncoupling tool. Puts light where you need it to see between cars.

I realize sometimes, or at least think about the fact that there are probably people who are new to the hobby sometimes who stumble across my blog. I hope, that you don’t see things like this and get discouraged. You don’t need to change all your couplers to have a layout. This is a choice I am making for a variety of reasons given my interests. Sometimes people in this hobby, as in life can be judgy of others. I know I am guilty of it. I sincerely hope that people who are new to the hobby and learning see my posts, the good things, and the bad, and find motivation to continue to explore how they can and do enjoy the hobby. I know I look at some of my friends work and blogs and constantly wonder how my modelling can reach their levels, and the answer is surprisingly simple. Keep working at it, make mistakes, don’t be afraid of the mistakes, and don’t let something that doesn’t work define or deter you. I make mistakes constantly. I could probably write as many posts about the things I screw up as what I’ve been doing, though that probably wouldn’t help my motivation as much as posts about getting something done do!

6 thoughts on “Upgrading a Fleets worth of Couplers

  1. What a great idea! I use the standard sharpened wooden skewer – painted red to make it easier to find when not in use – but I never thought of attaching a flashlight to it. Off to Amazon…

  2. Standardizing couplers shouldn’t discourage new modelers as much as having trains come disconnected because of coupler failure (plastic couplers), height issues, etc. When you standardize on a coupler you are not only picking something consistent to use going forward, but in the process of swapping them you likely are confirming height, smooth operation, etc. It has two things going for it.

    And, I keep all the older Kadee copies of couplers (at least the metal ones) for train cars that I rarely use but instead are mostly kept on display shelves.

    • HI Benjamin, I agree that it shouldn’t be discouraging, but there are a lot of moving pieces. I look back at younger me making the change from the old NMRA horn hooks to kadees or the like, and how daunting it was for me, and while today’s equipment comes with far better couplers out of the box than those, there is still a lot to learn and for people to work their way through with making decisions to standardize and change couplers. I think it is probably my own history of feeling daunted by the hobby that causes me to worry that sometimes I say things that may not encourage newcomers to the hobby to explore and learn without fear.


    • Thanks Chris, but I can’t claim to have come up with it, just to have taken it to apply to my layout!

      Pretty sure as I said I’m stealing an idea I saw with Brian Dickey’s 7mm Roweham layout!


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