Standardization in couplers?

Hi, I'm still in the "armchair", stage of buidling my HO layout, but I want to start off on the right foot. Just a few questions if I may:
1: Who makes quality diesels, yet inexpensive. Atlas is OUT for me because of $$
2: Can I buy rolling stock from only one maufacturer to assure compatibilty on couplers?
3:Do most of them have to be removed and replaced with standardized couplers.
4: Is KAydee the defacto standard? Any other to recommend?
I just don't want to start buying what I like without a thout to standardization and compatibility.
Thanks very much...every little bit of hel, helps. I bought a Life-like HO GP38 Santa Fe and it looks kind of cheap , a lot like a toy. Is there a better inexpensive brand?
Mike Picture Rocks, AZ
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Michael P Gabriel), In a message on 2 May 2004 12:31:19 -0700, wrote :
MPG> Hi, I'm still in the "armchair", stage of buidling my HO layout, but I MPG> want to start off on the right foot. Just a few questions if I may: MPG> 1: Who makes quality diesels, yet inexpensive. Atlas is OUT for me MPG> because of $$
Athearn's are a good place to start. They can be re-motored and/or the shells can be 'super detailed'. You start with an affordable engine that runs well out-of-the-box, which you can incrementally improve as funds and time permits.
MPG> MPG> 2: Can I buy rolling stock from only one maufacturer to assure MPG> compatibilty on couplers?
Couplers are compatible across manufacturers OR couplers can be replaced. Don't worry about it. There are only two flavors of couplers: the 'old' Horn-Hook type, which is mostly being phased out. Older stock will have these. They can be generally be replace with either Kaydee or McHenry -- the Kaydee's are the 'original' H0 'working' knuckle couplers, made out of metal. The McHenrys are the newer (cheaper) plastic version. Kaydees and McHenrys are fully compatible with each other.
MPG> MPG> 3:Do most of them have to be removed and replaced with standardized MPG> couplers.
Mostly only stock. Almost all Atlas, Athearn, and Walthers rolling stock now come with McHenry couplers.
MPG> MPG> 4: Is KAydee the defacto standard? Any other to recommend?
Kaydee and McHenry are what serious modelers are using. They are compatible with each other. Kaydees are more costly then McHenrys, but come in a wider selection of mounting heights and shank lengths, and are the way to go for after market replacement of 'stock' Horn-Hook couplers.
MPG> MPG> I just don't want to start buying what I like without a thout to MPG> standardization and compatibility. MPG> MPG> Thanks very much...every little bit of hel, helps. I bought a MPG> Life-like HO GP38 Santa Fe and it looks kind of cheap , a lot like a MPG> toy. Is there a better inexpensive brand?
'Standard' Life Like are somewhat cheap. There are better inexpensive brands. Athearn for one.
MPG> MPG> Mike MPG> Picture Rocks, AZ MPG>
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Not to worry about couplers. Way back when (early '90's) rolling stock came from the factory with "NMRA" couplers and most serious model railroaders removed them and replaced them with Kadee couplers for the looks. Then the Kadee patents expired and it became possible (legal) to make "clone" couplers, knuckle couplers that intermate with Kadee. So now, much, and more to come, rolling stock comes with the Kadee clone coupler installed (or packed in the kit). I'd plan on Kadee's (or clones) for a new railroad, they look better, most rolling stock comes out of the factory with a Kadee 'clone', and it's easy enough to convert the few older units to Kadee's.
You will be happy with diesels from Athearn and P2K. I have a fair number of each and they all look good and run well. Atlas and Kato have wonderful reps but I have not indulged in them due to the cost.
I run rolling stock from all makers. It intermates, stays on the track and there are no compatibility problems, short of the occasional coupler swap. Athearn, Roundhouse, Accurail, Intermountain, Red Caboose, Kadee, all are good.
Real Kadee couplers are a little more dependable than Mchenry and Bachmann "Kadee Clone" couplers. The clones intermate properly, but they have a plastic knuckle closing spring which breaks or takes a set and then the knuckle won't stay closed. The Kadee bronze coil knuckle spring lasts longer. Right now a pack of real Kadee replacement couplers is just about the same cost as a pack of clones. So for conversion couplers, I buy Kadee. I might buy the clones if I was saving money, but since I can get the real thing for about the same money as a clone, why not get the real thing? Rolling stock that comes equipped with clone couplers (much of it now) I run as is until the clone coupler breaks. When that happens I replace it with a real Kadee. Cost is about $1 per car for Kadee's.
Likelike is a "train set" brand. They run, but as you have noticed the looks aren't really up to snuff.
You might want to give some thought to the era that you want to model. Modern rolling stock is longer than 1950's rolling stock. The 40 foot cars from the 1950's can take sharper curves and you can fit more of them on the layout. You can also run steam power convincingly on a 1950's layout. The modern cars start at 50 foot and go to nearly 80 foot. Rolling stock lasts a long time, say 40 years, so you can see trains today with a few elderly cars from the 1960's still trucking along. But a wood box car will look out of place in a train of double stack well cars. You have purchased and read a couple of Model Railroader magazines?
David J. Starr
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in article snipped-for-privacy@theworld.com, David J. Starr at snipped-for-privacy@theworld.com wrote on 5/2/04 2:20 PM:

...note that McHenry couplers and Bachman EZ Mate II have actual springs to close the coupler instead of the plastic fingers. McHenry also now has a scale size couple similar to the Kadee #58.
I've found some places where I really want to use the McHenry to replace OEM Bachmann with the plastic finger springs and where the Kadee's require more work: Like Athearn Genesis F3/7/9 locos. I just bought a bag of McHenry scales sizes ones to have one hand; I also made it a practice to get a package of Kadee #58's every time I went into the hobby store where I needed them or not. Now I have a supply on hand all the time.
I also found that the McHenry replacements for Riverossi (sp) passenger car truck mounted couplers are about 100 times easier to install: just snap them in. The Kadee's require cutting and fitting a bit. And since they are both still talgo types, the work about the same.
Ed

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in article 4Mglc.279$ snipped-for-privacy@newssvr16.news.prodigy.com, Trainman at snipped-for-privacy@prodigy.net wrote on 5/2/04 5:55 PM:

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Athearn makes a pretty good diesel, with all kinds of models, from about $40 to $50. Athearn also makes some higher end stuff, $60-$100. Katos and Atlas is in that around a C note range too.

Honestly, choose either the Kadee #5 or #58 coupler. The clones don't hold or couple worth a crap. The #5 looks a little big, but works very well. The #58 is the 'scale' coupler.

See above.

Yes and I don't say anything but Kadees.

Look for your basic Athearns, as I detailed above. Also Proto 2000 (life-like makes these) are about $60 or so, just above the normal Athearn offering. I just picked up a set of Proto 2000 GP38-2s, just finished running them at our club's open house and was very impressed with their performance.
Rick
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Mike,
1> Life-Like's Proto 1000/2000 series are quality engines and are priced below the Atlas/Kato price mark. Athearn's standard line(not the 'Genesis' line) are very good value for the money.
2> Rolling stock from Athearn, MDC, Accurail, Walthers, Proto 2000, & Branchline should all work fine together. Older Life-Like. Bachmann, & Model Power are junk. Basically, you are going to pay at least $6 for a good kit, and maybe $10-15 for some higher end kits.
3> I use the supplied knuckle coupler until they fail, then replace them with Kadee couplers.
4> Kadee was the first good 'working' coupler. If you buy others, the McHenry 'coil spring' versions are good. The ones with the integral spring have problems as time progresses.
You mentioned the Life-Like GP38 - This is a cheap 'train set' engine. A much better GP38 from Athearn costs something in the mid $30's and you can even get parts for it - A much better value, and it even 'looks' better.
One thing that folks who get into the hobby seem to do is get a 'fixation' on engines, and buy stuff that is not even related by time-frame, railroad, or type of service. My current layout is about 25' by 20' in a 'L' shape. To 'run' the railroad, I have 22 engines(equipped with DCC decoders). The 'rest' of the engines really have nothing to do with my railroad, and are very rarely run. I found by going to DCC, I really think about 'correct' engines, and good runners; before I invest the money/time in a decoder install. That said, I bet I have purchased over 200 engines since 1965. Most of the old Athearn are gone(fat bodies), as well as a lot of the 'brass'. My roster now has Proto 2000, Atlas, Kato, Walthers(SW1), and Spectrum steamers. Freight cars have been upgraded in the past 5 years. Those 'hoards' of custom painted/decaled Athearn cars have been replaced with Proto 2000, Kadee, Accurail, Red Caboose, etc. I have 'flea marketed' most of the 600+ older cars. I got a good 25-30 years out of them in building/running them. One thing you find with layouts is 'things change'. The current layout uses code 100 trackage and was started in 1987. I am thinking about having a 'last run' and building a new layout; larger radius curves, code 83/70 and 'built for DCC'(something not available when I started the old layout). So, don't feel too bad about that Life-Like GP38, it is just a 'learning' experience! Enjoy the Hobby!
Jim Bernier
Michael P Gabriel wrote:

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Don,
You made me think - This is layout #5(and the longest lasting one at 17 years). The design is 'good': just want to build it better again with new technology. I have upgraded motive power, freight cars, and gone to DCC. Some new construction idea's interest me, and I could use more staging tracks. The current layout uses Kemtron 'twin solenoid' switch motors(real maintenance issue). And those large block control panels really eat up space. This time I am going to finish off the room completely before starting on the layout.
Jim Bernier
Trainman wrote:

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Hi:
Unfortunately, except for height, there are no coupler Standards nor current Recommended Practices in any scale. The National Model Railroad Association has skirted around this issue for almost 50 years, preferring to cater to minority groups with things like DCC and fine scale. In spite of hype there are no truly scale, remote, automatic couplers on the market in HO. All knuckles are too long to provide prototype spacing between cars.
Mounting provisions are chaotic. Cast-on draft gear boxes are rarely fully compatible with any available couplers. Most yield sagging knuckles and dragging trip pins thus requiring a bending tool and shims. Pulling face distances vary drastically.
It is very difficult to achieve consistent prototype distances and appearances.
For details and extensive discussion of problems and solutions, see first site below.
Hope this helps.
Thank you,
Budb
Author of:
MODELRAILROAD TECHNICAL INFORMATION
http://www.geocities.com/budb3 /
PROTOTYPE TECHNICAL INFO FOR MODELRAILROADERS
http://www.freeyellow.com/members4/budb /
Moderator of:
MR TECHNICAL HELP GROUP
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mrtechhelp
COUPLER HELP GROUP
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mrcouplers
snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Michael P Gabriel) wrote in message

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Of course Bud, there is no "Big Money" in DCC or fine scale. I often wonder if the NMRA gets a percentage from manufacturers. They seem to be pushing real hard for DCC, and sound and over priced structure kits.
--
Will
N Scale - Credit Valley Railway
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