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Thread: Kato City of Los Angeles uncoupling problem

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    Default Kato City of Los Angeles uncoupling problem

    I have been running the new Kato City of Los Angeles around my layout and every so often one of several cars will uncouple (not the same car each time, but some have this problem and others not). This does tend to occur in the same places on the layout, but the curve minimum radius is 15", so not very tight. I had a similar problem on the older Kato El Capitan (not the newer bi-level version), and wound up replacing all the couplers with MT. That worked, but was a real pain (I really don't like fighting with those tiny springs). Any ideas for taming these Kato couplers? Would a little graphite powder be worth trying?

    Thanks,

    Dan

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    Well... uncoupling tends to occur when there are vertical kinks in your track, so that's one thing to look for. But if the El Capitan runs fine with MTL couplers, I'd go that route. They're also available pre-assembled (though at a steep price) so you don't have to fight with the springs.

    This may be a little harsh, but I'm replacing everything with MTL couplers, it's just the nicest coupling experience. Couple to a light flatcar sitting somewhere without it moving? MTL. Now I realize it's not that important for passenger trains, but anyway...

    My 2ct (European, so watch out for the conversion factor ),
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    Did you install the trip pins?

    In the cases where I still have Kato couplers on the car, I don't typically install the trip pins, but I have found that if a coupler gives me an issue, installing the trip pins sometimes helps.

    (most of my equipment has body mounted couplers. For kato passenger cars, that typically means an MTL 1015 coupler (or whatever the current part number is...) with one shim installed (on the Kato cars, the shim usually goes on backwards, so the coupler box can go to the edge of the car.))
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    I had this problem with a couple of my Kato Burlington Silver Streak passenger cars. I found that using some silicone paste right where the coupler spring is located stopped the unintentional uncoupling. The silicone makes that joint rigid when it dries. Just be sure the coupler is closed before putting a dab of silicone paste on the spring. It renders the coupler unusable (for automatic coupling/uncoupling) but on mine it stopped the random uncoupling. Like you I did not want to change out the couplers to MT and I certainly didn't want to wrestle with installing a replacement KATO coupler with those pesky springs.

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    I haven't installed the trip pins, pbender, so I will give that a try next. Not sure I want to silicone the couplers shut at this point, so I am leaning in the direction of just installing the MTs, since they work so well on the El Capitan (and now that I think of it, I think I changed these to MTs because they also had an uncoupling problem!)

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    I've been doing some experimenting with installing MTs into the Kato City of Los Angeles cars this weekend. I started with one of the cars that was giving me particular problems with random uncoupling. I had previously installed MTs into a set of Kato El Capitan (non-bi-level) cars, but I find these really difficult to install. Fitting the coupler together within the Kato coupler frame, holding it in place while installing the metal MT adapter with the spring inside (those springs fly all over the place), and getting it lined up so that the coupler swings freely is a chore. Even when I get it right, I find that the coupler doesn't swing quite freely enough.

    So, I decided to try something different: MT makes a nice pre-assembled coupler that is meant for body mounting on freight cars. I assumed that body mounting on a passenger car would be problematic, as the truck mounted couplers provide a much greater freedom of side-to-side motion, which is helpful for long passenger cars to navigate model RR curves (even broad ones).

    So, I devised an adapter to attach the body mount coupler to the Kato truck. This started with a small piece of styrene (drill the screw hole before attaching) that was glued to the bottom of the Kato truck's coupler mount (Figs. 1 and 2). Epoxy is the best glue to use on these acetyl plastic parts (CA doesn't seem to adhere well). Let that dry for a full 24 hours before the next step (don't ask me how I found that out). I then test fit several styrene shims to get the coupler to the proper height using a MT calibration device (Fig. 3). Painted the white styrene dark gray, trimmed the screw top and attached the coupler on top of the shim. The finished installation is shown in Fig. 4. I ran this around the layout for multiple laps, and no more uncoupling. I still haven't decided whether this will be a better long-term fix than just installing the need-to-assemble MTs into the Katos, but the swing motion of the couplers is definitely better when mounted this way.
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    I hope that works OK for you but it seems like a lot of work to solve the problem.

    I wonder why Kato couplers experience random uncoupling in the first place? Personally I like their couplers but having experienced the same problem as you have on passenger cars I wish we could get to the bottom of the issue. Have you thought about contacting Kato directly about this issue? I know that this problem does not occur (for me anyway) on any cars other than their passenger cars. I have many Kato freight cars and have never had any problems with them.

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    I have been expirencing the samething with my Kato passenger cars and the PA set of locos that I use to pull them. I have the trip pins installed and sometimes it’s the locos that uncouple and other times it’s the cars. No rhyme or reason as it happens at different locations on my layout. I have the MT couplers to install just waiting till I’m good and relaxed before starting.

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    Forgot that I also had the uncoupling problem with my KATO Alco PA A/B/A engines consist as well. Fixed that with silicone as well.

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    My guess is that the longer passenger cars require a greater lateral movement of the coupler to negotiate curves (at least on my layout, the cars never uncouple on straight runs). The trucks on these cars do swivel a lot, but there has got to be more lateral pull on the couplers than on much shorter freight cars. The interesting thing is that not every car has this problem, so it might be a quality control issue with the Kato couplers. On my City of LA set, 3 of the 11 cars seem to be troublesome, the rest seem OK. I guess I could contact Kato and ask for replacement trucks for the problematic ones, but since I never have that problem with MTs, my solution has generally been to replace any troublesome ones with MTs.

    I also find that MTs are much better on the trailing end of a loco consist. I have not tried silicone yet.

    As for being a lot of work to solve a problem, it is about the same amount of work as installing the non-pre-assmebled MTs into the Kato trucks - and a LOT less frustrating.

    Dan

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