• Adding an MTL coupler to the pilot of my new Bachmann 2-8-0...

    last weekend I finally worked up the courage to mount a working MTL coupler to the pilot of my new edition Bachmann 2-8-0. Since I am always hesitant to starting cutting into things without a spare, I started by buying a spare pilot from Bachmann... more on this below.

    I found several threads discussing conversion of the pilot coupler to a Z-scale MTL 905, and a great step-by-step for mounting a McHenry-style knuckle to the pilot (I can't find that thread now... but had downloaded a PDF). I decided NOT to go either of these routes... I recently mounted Z-scale MTL 905s on my heavyweight passenger cars, and find them a bit more difficult to manually uncouple (as well as being prone to random uncoupling). I don't have a lot of experience with the McHenry style. So, I chose the "standard" N scale MTL couplers, using MTL 1015.

    1. The first step is removing the pilot. Loosening the middle screw on the bottom plate, and removing the forward screw, allows you lift the plate enough to disengage and remove the pilot truck. This allows access to the screw that holds the pilot on (I think it also holds the cylinder block). Remove the screw and gently work the pilot out from the front of the loco... the running board ladders on my engine were glued or heat welded to the pilot... each as a small tab that fits into a hole on the boiler. Gently spread the ladders, and they can be slid away from boiler. Re-insert the screw to hold the front of the loco together while working on the pilot.

    2. Remove the dummy coupler, and cut out the front of the pilot to accept the new coupler pocket. I started with a jewelers saw blade to rough out the hole, then used a scalpel blade to clean it all up, test fitting the coupler box along the way. Here's what the hole will look like, when done:
    Attachment 98377
    Note that I first cut the hole in the spare pilot I purchased... that's the one shown here. Only when I went to install it, I found that the ladders and coupler release details were glued or heat-welded to the pilot. So I had to carefully cut a hole in the factory pilot with the details present... I actually did a better job.

    3. Trim the back of the 1015 coupler box... I don't have a good picture of this... but I trimmed as much as I could from the back of the coupler box, rounding the profile so that it would clear the wheels of the pilot truck. You can see this in the pics below...

    4. Test fit and mount the coupler... In order to clear the pilot truck, I had to mount the coupler farther forward, preventing use of the screw hole/screw to affix the coupler. I had a good friction fit, so I could install the coupler, mount the pilot and pilot truck, and check for binding of the pilot truck, negotiating curves, and coupling distance. Once I had the coupler set into the pilot, missing the pilot truck, etc... I used a TINY amount of superglue to hold it in place.

    5. Reinstall the pilot, pilot truck, and it's ready to roll!

    Here are a couple pics from below. The second shows the coupler, and how it has to clear the pilot truck around a curve:
    Attachment 98378

    Attachment 98379

    Here is a view from the front:
    Attachment 98380

    and a couple showing coupling distance:

    Attachment 98381

    Attachment 98382

    You can see that the 1015 coupler box extends just to the forward edge of the pilot. Perhaps a bit farther than a Z-scale coupler would be mounted? The magnetic uncoupling pin clears the pilot, as do the pins of mating couplers. The coupler works fine... and I think will be much easier to manually uncouple than a Z-scale pilot coupler. It may not be for everyone, but it works for me (at least for now)...
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. lilleyen's Avatar
      lilleyen -
      Great tutorial.
      I just ordered a Bachman 4-6-0 and expect I will do the same conversion.
      Thank you
    1. msyoung's Avatar
      msyoung -
      I use Z scale couplers on the pilots of my steam engines. They look better than and will couple to an N scale coupler. I need to cut the uncoupling wire off because it is too short.