My Modeling Standards: Couplers Revisited

Protocraft’s new coupler with their uncoupling tool. Protocraft photo

Back in September, I started looking at the couplers I had been using in the post My Modeling Standards: Couplers. At the end of the post I mentioned that there were new couplers coming from both Protocraft and San Juan Car Company. Over the last week I’ve had my hands on those two new couplers, one from San Juan and one from Protocraft. I am impressed by the looks of these new couplers. They are a huge improvement over the old 800 series Kadee couplers. And they are also an improvement over the 700 series Kadees.

My testing was simple mount the couplers on two cars, place the cars on a section of flex track and see how easy they couple and uncouple. Simple right?

First I’ll set the standard they will be judged against, the Kadee Coupler. Push the cars together and the Kadees always couple. Easy and smoothly even if you don’t want them to. I use the screwdriver or  a “McUncouper” ( a modified McDounald’s coffer stir ) to twist the couplers open. Simple and works where you want to leave the car.

First up… the New San Juan “O” Scale Couplers – Brown #5116. I was very impressed with these when they first arrived. They fit into the Kadee coupler box perfectly so changing the old Kadee out was simple. The San Juan coupler has a round hole in the end of the coupler shank that fits over the post in the center of the Kadee draft gear box. This eliminates the slack play in the couplers. They are priced close to the Kadee so that is not a big change. When the cars were pushed together they coupled as smoothly as the Kadees.

Then came the horror. I couldn’t uncouple them. I tried the screwdriver first, no luck. They couple to closely to get my screwdriver in between them. So I tried using a magnet under the rails, again no luck. I tried pulling on both trip pins at the same time, no luck. There is a small hook on the end of the knuckle and the two knuckles hang-up on that. Your mileage may vary. Big Disappointment!

Next up… The Protocraft Type E Magnetic Scale operating coupler.
These are new casting made from prototype drawing not just an upgrade to an old coupler design. They look great! they have their own coupler pocket or draft gear box. It has a much smaller opening then the old Kadee box. That will restrict the coupler swing more than the Kadee box does but will be a big improvement over the wide mouth of the Kadee draft gear box.

There is some work to getting the couplers to mount on the cars. On one car I had to trim the draft gear box slightly to allow it to fit next to the end of the frame on a model. I also found the slightly filing the inside of the hole in the coupler shank improved it’s ability to slide inside the draft gear box. I also found that filing a little off the end of the centering boss on the end of the coupler shank also improved the couplers centering.

In testing the couplers I found they worked perfectly. They couple together as designed, they uncouple with a magnet above the release pin perfectly. They will couple if one coupler is open and the will couple if both couplers have open knuckles.

I did not connect the release bars on my test cars because one car did not have one yet and the other car had one soldered in place and it did not move. But I did test and they would work as a bottom operated coupler if one so desired. I have also seen where some guys have drilled a small hole in the top of the release pin to make them connect as top operated couplers. This is not a desire for me as I don’t want any operators using them to release the couplers. I will use the magnetic wand above.

I’m modeling a railroad that often squeaked when it came to money issues. At $37.95 for five pair that would have caused many issues for my prototype railroad. I’ll have to be creative about how these will get justified on the expense sheet. But from an operating standpoint the Protocraft couplers work perfectly and look great!