Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 44

Thread: Coupler Conversions 101 Part 1

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    LIRR, NY
    Posts
    1,076
    Thanks
    361
    Thanked 267 Times in 91 Posts
    Mentioned
    1 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default Coupler Conversions 101 Part 1

    Coupler Conversions 101

    One of the most basic things that you may need to do as a model railroad hobbyist is changing the couplers on your locomotives and rolling stock. It doesn’t require much in the way of skill or fancy tools, but like anything else that you have never done before, it can be a frightening proposition. I know it was for me, and that is why I decided to bring all the information I found out about coupler conversions to one place for easy reference. Hopefully it will help you to get through that first conversion and on to other aspects of N Scale railroading.

    Let me start off by introducing myself. I’m a 49 years old model railroad enthusiast returning to N scale for the first time since the ‘70s. Back when I was enjoying early ‘N-Gauge’ as it was called then, there was no Internet, no Micro Trains and no knuckle couplers. The first thing I noticed on returning to this great hobby was how cool the knuckle couplers looked compared to the old Rapidos style couplers. It wasn’t long before I was immersing myself in all I could find to learn all about the different manufacturers’ and the couplers that they produce: MTL, Atlas, Red Caboose and Kato to mention the major ones.

    If you spend anytime reading the model railroad forums on the Internet, you will find that most model railroaders have strong feelings and loyalties towards couplers. And they aren’t shy about sharing them. I’d like to say right from the start, it is not my intention to take any stand on the merits or benefits of one coupler vs. another. For the most part, for locomotive conversions the only coupler choice is the MTL coupler. And that is what I am going to start with first.

    After collecting new rolling stock and planning my layout it was soon time to try running and enjoying my new acquisitions, To do that I needed to perform my first locomotive coupler conversions. Now for people that have been in the hobby for a while this may seem like taking candy from a baby. But for a novice, a beginner, a newbie; it is a procedure that can be a little frightening. Why? Well for me there were several reasons. My eyesight, which at one time was keen enough to read the copyright line on the eye chart now makes me struggles to read the instructions on a can of soup. My fingers and hand to eye coordination, once steely and precise, now occasionally misses my mouth when I am trying to eat that same soup. But most importantly, my fear, the fear any beginners face, is of the unknown. Of irreparably breaking something that you just spent some serious money on. In preparation I spent quite a while searching the Internet. I looked through all the forums starting with this one, Nscale.net, but I was unable to fine a detailed step by step illustrated ‘how to change couplers’ for any of the many major locomotive releases that are common today. There are plenty of tutorials on how to scratch build, kit bash and modify some of these same locos into esoteric models that may have existed for only a nanosecond or two somewhere in the Appalachians during the spring of the year 1937. But change a coupler on a Life-Like or a Bachmann? Good luck, you are on your own.

    So what follows is the first of hopefully several, overly written, overly photographed, overly simplistic ‘how-to’s’ on coupler conversion. It is intended for the novice just getting into or back into the hobby. But I certainly welcome any help, hints or improvements from others that have been here longer and may know or have found a better way. For the most part, I have put together this tutorial by trial and error. I did my own research and spoke with the great and helpful people at Micro Trains Line, Atlas, Life-Like, Bachman and others manufacturers. I hope that you find it helpful and that it makes getting into model railroading a little easier and a little less scary.

    All Aboard!
    Life-Like Item 7250
    N GP 20 LOCO
    UP # 474

    Recently Life-Like has had the Union Pacific GP 20 Road Number 474 listed on their web site on sale for $16.42, a great price for a great little runner. Unfortunately for me the locomotive comes equipped with Rapidos while most of my fleet is the newer Atlas Accumates© or MTL Magne-Matics©


    Figure 1 The Life-Like GP 20

    A quick look at the Micro-Trains website (http://www.micro-trains.com/conversions_.htm) lists the proper couplers to convert this locomotive as the 1015 or the 1016. (Figure 2)


    Figure 2 MTL Conversion Chart

    As you can see from the chart, there are two couplers listed for the GP 20. I needed to figure out was which one to get, the 1015 or the 1016? By looking at pictures and descriptions of the couplers on-line, I was able to figure out that the difference between the couplers was in shank length: short for the 1015, medium or regular for the 1016. My layout…okay my temporary layout, the Placeholder Railway, whose motto is “…holding the place for a really great railroad that I will build someday…”, has curves with a minimum radius of 9.75 inches. Even though the short shank couplers would look more prototypical, allowing the locomotive to couple closer to the car attached to it, I decided to go with the medium shank couplers. My thinking was they might be less troublesome on the tight radius curves on the Placeholder Railway. My style of enjoying model railroading is the power company’s dream come true. Turn them on and let them run! I love continuous running, having several loops running at once, all day long. For me, trouble free running takes precedent over prototypical look. So a call to my favorite Internet dealer (Chuck Ciaccio of Feather River Train Shop on the west coast) had the couplers in my hands two days later for $1.25 in postage. He did tell me that Micro Trains offers the choice of purchasing the 1016 Coupler unassembled or assembled, in brown or black. With this being my first conversion, I opted for assembled (in black).


    Figure 3 Micro Trains 1016

    I have read enough horror stories of N-scale veterans having trouble assembling MTL couplers. I’ll save that experience for some future day, after I have the Lasix surgery.

    Now came the moment of truth. What to do with these things?


    Figure 4 The front Rapido

    It was time to examine the GP 20 and see what lay ahead.

    The Rapido couplers are held in place by a plastic retaining clip that anchors itself to the body by spreading into the front and rear steps (Figures 4 & 5).


    Figure 5 The rear Rapido

    The copper strip that is visible in the photos acts as a spring for the Rapido coupler.

    The first thing that I did was remove the copper strip by holding the loco with one hand, using a pair of tweezers in my second hand and gently pushing back on the Rapido with my third hand (Figure 6). This step may or may not be necessary, but I wanted to get an unobstructed view of the retaining clip before removing it. The copper strip can now be recycled into a gondola load, placed in a small box in your parts kit, never to be used again or left on the layout where it will no doubt find its way into the gears of your finest running locomotive. You have a choice here so choose wisely.


    Figure 6 Removing the Copper Strip

    Using the tweezers you can gently pull the plastic retaining clip straight up and out. (Figure 7)


    Figure 7 Removing the Plastic Retainer

    Next remove the Rapido, pulling it straight out of the loco. (Figure 8)


    Figure 8 Removing the Rapido
    Best,
    Tony

  2. The Following 10 Users Say Thank You to Gargoyle For This Useful Post:


  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    LIRR, NY
    Posts
    1,076
    Thanks
    361
    Thanked 267 Times in 91 Posts
    Mentioned
    1 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default Coupler Conversions 101 Part 2

    Because I have the power of editing I will come clean and tell you that for the next hour and a half I struggled with how to get the Magne-Matics© in place with the plastic retaining clip. Eventually I did find a way, which you will see shortly. Unfortunately however, after I was all done, in checking the coupler height I found that my couplers were attached way too high to mate with other MTL Magne-Matics© or Atlas Accumates© knuckle couplers. MTL anticipates this and packs shims in with the couplers just in case this problem occurs. (Figure 9)


    Figure 9 The Shim

    I needed to remove the couplers and add a shim between the loco body and the coupler in order to lower the height of the coupler. A great trick here (thanks go out to Joe at MTL) is to add a dab of Goo© or rubber cement between the coupler and the shim. A tiny dab is all you need, don’t overload it. You only want to keep the parts together for a moment while you put them in place and secure them with the retaining clip.


    Figure 10 Aligning the new coupler pocket

    Figure 10 shows the placement of the coupler/shim back into the loco and lined up the mounting holes. (MTL also packs screws in with the 1016s but they are not necessary for the Life-Like GP 20 application) Next the plastic retainer goes back over the MTL, its center prong going into the hole through the coupler. The tiny tabs on the legs of the retainer go behind the steps and the retainer snaps into place. While the locomotive and coupler appear delicate and the retainer small, one thing I did find out, is that this combination is tougher and more resilient than they look. To paraphrase an old Timex advertisement, this combo took a licking and kept on ticking. I had several close calls and near misses before I got everything lined up and snapped in place correctly. The coupler and loco both came through my less then gentle handling unscathed.


    Figure 11 The MTL 1016 in place with retainer

    The easiest way I found to get the retainer into place is to position it with the tweezers and push it home a carefully placed finger tip. It is good to reference the photos of the Rapido before removal, to see just how far down the retainer needs to be pushed in.

    When you have one side of the locomotive finished, it is the same exact procedure to do the other end.

    I don’t own a coupler gauge so I check my coupler conversions against other locos and cars. I used an Atlas GP-35 that came with factory installed Accumates©. With the shims in place, the GP20 mated up perfectly to the GP35. (Figures 12 & 13)


    Figure 12 Front coupler height check


    Figure 13 Rear coupler height check

    Lastly a check of the trip pin vs. the rail height is needed. I use an automotive spark plug gap tool here, but a thin piece of cardboard (the MTL 1016 hang card package) will also work. A few laps around the track to make sure there are no snags on turnout points or frogs and the GP 20 is good to go!


    Figure 14 Trip pin to rail height check

    All right! I made it through and finished my first locomotive conversion. It wasn’t nearly as tough as I thought it would be. Nothing got broken, nothing got bent. It took a little longer than I thought it would, but it was actually enjoyable time spent modeling. And the feeling of satisfaction that comes from accomplishing something in the hobby is the true reward here.


    Figure 15 The coupler converted GP 20

    After further research and checking I found that several other Life-Like locomotives share the plastic retainer clip Rapido mount (Figure 18). The same techniques and procedures that apply to the GP 20 will also apply to the Life-Like SD-7s and SW9/1200.


    Figure 16 SW/1200 Rear Coupler


    Figure 17 Life-Like SD-7 Rear Coupler


    Figure 18 Life-Like Locos that accept the MTL-1016
    Best,
    Tony

  4. The Following 12 Users Say Thank You to Gargoyle For This Useful Post:


  5. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Vandling, PA, United States
    Posts
    872
    Blog Entries
    9
    Thanks
    798
    Thanked 210 Times in 115 Posts
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default

    Another excellent tutorial, i might have to try changing out some old hook couplers on my overton cars.


    Sparky(Jeff)

  6. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Posts
    1
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default

    You are brilliant man... that is really a nice tutorial....
    STEVE

  7. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Victoria, BC, Canada
    Posts
    4,539
    Thanks
    1,855
    Thanked 3,928 Times in 1,456 Posts
    Mentioned
    5 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default

    This is AWESOME. I have the exact same engine (unpainted) and have been confused and scared to convert. Now I know what to do, now to actually FIND a reasonably priced coupler set. Seriously, everyone that charged reasonably wants 10+ for shipping.

  8. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Antelope, Calif USA
    Posts
    4,515
    Blog Entries
    6
    Thanks
    1,611
    Thanked 2,187 Times in 1,140 Posts
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default

    Very nicely done. Great pictures and descriptions.
    Sean McC

    "No man is a failure ...

    who has friends." -- Clarence

  9. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Zombington, KY
    Posts
    13,656
    Blog Entries
    16
    Thanks
    3,234
    Thanked 7,169 Times in 3,580 Posts
    Mentioned
    2 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default

    Excellent tutorial, Gargoyle! I've only skimmed it so far, but I plan to come back and read it in detail later. I feel better just knowing it's here.
    Check out the CH&FR Blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed (@CHFRRailroad)
    Ride the real thing at the Bluegrass Railroad Museum!
    My Electronics Projects: http://searchlight2.sourceforge.net

    Never mistake a guy who talks a lot for a guy who has something to say...

  10. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    1,710
    Blog Entries
    2
    Thanks
    1,068
    Thanked 355 Times in 282 Posts
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default

    Very nicely done the pictures were great and I'm somewhat of a photography buff having dabbled in the hobby since I was about 15 years old. It also seems as though you put a lot of effort into your presentation the writing was excellent. I'm just learning about all of these differences in couplers along with everything else in N scale. So you must like the Life-Like trains so far I'm just purchasing equipment and have gone with Atlas locomotives with decoders pre-installed so I would be interested in your opinion on the Life-Like train line. I do have some Kato rolling stock but I must admit that I am rather clueless on the other brands on the market today. When the time comes for me to change any of my couplers I am sure I will visit your tutorial again so thanks a lot for all your time and effort.

  11. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Chaska, Minnesota (Johathan)
    Posts
    1,124
    Blog Entries
    12
    Thanks
    83
    Thanked 209 Times in 131 Posts
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default

    I did this with my LL GP20, but I used a basic body mount and trimmed a piece off of the shell.

  12. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Indiana
    Posts
    165
    Blog Entries
    3
    Thanks
    54
    Thanked 18 Times in 14 Posts
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default

    Great tutorial.

    I've got some Life-like with rapidos, and haven't switched them out yet. I also have Life-Like cars with knuckles, which came with a spare rapido. So now one of my cars has knuckles on one end and rapido on the other so that it can link up with the rest of my cars which have knuckles.

    I will certainly use your fine tute when I get tired of the hybrid.

    As you know, the later Life-Likes from W*thers and H*bby L*bby run good. IMO, the run well enough to supplement my Atlas and Katos, and they're only $20. I recommend Life-Like for the budget modeler. Now get out an run them trains!!! LOL

  13. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Zombienooga, Zombessee
    Posts
    2,763
    Blog Entries
    16
    Thanks
    2,902
    Thanked 2,018 Times in 795 Posts
    Mentioned
    5 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default

    I wanted to take a moment to say thank you. I have had some coupler conversions (Mostly for rolling stock) in a drawer in the train room for a few months. I have been too afraid to try them. After reading this and finaly growing a set, I got all the parts and one of the cars out and tried it. I put together a MT coupler for an auto rack car. It is the extended shank one. When I opened the capsule with the teeny tiny springs, I almost put it back in the bag. I figured the worst thing I could do is mess it up and dove in. It works BEAUTIFULLY! It took me about an hour to get it together but I got it done! Thanks for writing this and it really DID inspire me to try it. I will not be afraid to try more in the future! Thanks!

  14. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Kimberly, Idaho, USA
    Posts
    4,232
    Blog Entries
    43
    Thanks
    1,805
    Thanked 2,120 Times in 918 Posts
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default

    Tony, It is probably time for Coupler Conversions 102.

    You did such a great job on 101, I was hoping there would be more.

    What do you think?
    (The voices I hear in my head may not be real, but sometimes they come up with a good idea.)

    Have fun.

    Moose

  15. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Guilin, China
    Posts
    37
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 18 Times in 14 Posts
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default

    An excellent tutorial for converting American style stock with plenty of superb photos showing exactly how it's done.

    I am wondering, however, if anyone here is interested in the conversions I have been doing to British locos and rolling stock (Graham Farish & Dapol). The Rapido couplers we have, while looking very simiilar, are mounted in an entirely different way and do not lend themselves to easily converting to the Microtrains knuckle couplers. They do, in fact, require some quite serious surgery to loco buffer beams in particular and, as I am not willing to start chopping into expensive models I am using an entirely different style of magnetic couplers.

    As a 'Newbie' here I am not sure of what sort of following there is for British N Scale so, rather than spend time on something that nobody wants I will wait for any feedback on who might be interested.

  16. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Kimberly, Idaho, USA
    Posts
    4,232
    Blog Entries
    43
    Thanks
    1,805
    Thanked 2,120 Times in 918 Posts
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default

    I say....GO FOR IT! This is a truly international forum.

    Start with a relatively easy one.

    Put it in the Tutorials forum:

    http://www.nscale.net/forums/forumdi...p?67-Tutorials

    Pick a descriptive title so no one will get confused.
    (The voices I hear in my head may not be real, but sometimes they come up with a good idea.)

    Have fun.

    Moose

  17. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Delray Beach, Florida, USA - Ex Busselton, Western Australia
    Posts
    7,241
    Blog Entries
    1
    Thanks
    1,107
    Thanked 2,253 Times in 862 Posts
    Mentioned
    3 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default

    Whilst the larger percentage of our membership is US based, we do have our fair share from the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, all of whom use rollingstock that follows a British outline to some extent, at some point in time.

    We are global, and want to assist 'N' scalers in any way we can, from any area... so even if there are only a handful that gain direct use from your input, it doesn't matter... we want the information to be available to them.

    So please post away.
    Bryan
    “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519)

  18. #16
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Plantation, Florida, USA
    Posts
    6,143
    Blog Entries
    95
    Thanks
    980
    Thanked 2,031 Times in 1,074 Posts
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default

    I second Moose and Bryan! Post away, someone (and more than one) will appreciate it, for sure!. But as Moose indicated, it should be in a thread of its own!

    Looking forward to seeing it!

  19. #17
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    México, México, México
    Posts
    182
    Blog Entries
    1
    Thanks
    167
    Thanked 37 Times in 15 Posts
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default

    Thanks for the guidance, you made it seem easy,
    Lázaro

  20. #18
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Zombington, KY
    Posts
    13,656
    Blog Entries
    16
    Thanks
    3,234
    Thanked 7,169 Times in 3,580 Posts
    Mentioned
    2 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default

    Speaking for the "American-style only" modelers, I would also strongly suspect that even if we don't use the British-style stuff, we'll:

    (A) Be very entertained by seeing what you've been doing, as it would be novel and unique for many of us US folks... and
    (B) Very likely learn some modeling and kitbashing techniques that will STILL be applicable to the things we are doing, even though you're applying them to a different type of model.

    I say, "Bring it on, man!"
    Check out the CH&FR Blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed (@CHFRRailroad)
    Ride the real thing at the Bluegrass Railroad Museum!
    My Electronics Projects: http://searchlight2.sourceforge.net

    Never mistake a guy who talks a lot for a guy who has something to say...

  21. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Posts
    2
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Post Converting Life Like GP38

    I have 2 Life Like GP38 from the late 1990s I would like to convert to the MT coupler. In the chart there are 2 listed, one for Pre 1995 Blomberg trucks and a different one for Post 1995 Blomberg trucks. I have spent an afternoon trying to figure out which I have.
    Any suggestions how I can figure this out? One is a GP38 the other a GP38-2 but both have identical trucks and couplers.

  22. #20
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Indianapolis, IN, USA
    Posts
    408
    Thanks
    93
    Thanked 249 Times in 142 Posts
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Default

    After reading the tutorial, I mustered up the courage to install MTs on a pair of Life-Like SD7 locos. Aside from having hands almost too large to do such small work, it went amazingly well. Maybe better tools and work area would help in the future. I'll not be as timid when it comes time for my next conversion!

    Mike

Similar Threads

  1. NTrak Module Construction Part 2 - Legs
    By pbender in forum Modular Layouts
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 16th Jul 2004, 01:45 PM
  2. Rotary coupler question
    By Catt in forum Rollingstock
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 23rd Jun 2004, 07:59 PM
  3. KATO Bethgon coupler problems
    By Jack-Doran in forum Rollingstock
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 17th Jun 2004, 12:25 AM
  4. NTrak Module Construction Part 1 - Framing
    By Overshoe in forum Modular Layouts
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 1st Jun 2004, 12:38 PM
  5. LL USRA 2-8-8-2 Pilot Coupler
    By absnut in forum Steam
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 12th Jan 2004, 04:34 PM

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •