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Kadee - HO Scale - Coupler #451 - Extended Swing Gearbox and Whisker Couplers, For Passenger & Long Freight Cars 1pr.
A lot of people now use Kadee couplers in UK modelling - Kadees have mostly been used in America and are a fairly big commitment to change to if you are a UK modeller - so why would you want to? For me though the major reason for changing is that tensions lock couplers scream "TOY!" - Look at the Hornby CCT in the following photograph - it's an OK model, one that I am told Hornby have reworked from the Lima tooling that they bought, the paintwork is excellent and whilst there is plenty you could improve it - the coupling is the thing which, to my mind, most offends the eye. The kadee has a spring loaded knuckle which will couple automatically when two pieces of stock are pushed together.
There are lots a and lots of different types of Kadee couplings, so many it can become seriously confusing. The only differences between each of the four types of NEM Kadee couplers are the lengths of the shank - so #17 is the shortest and #20 is the longest. The majority of the other types of kadee expect to be screwed or glued onto the rolling stock body - these typically come in four components that need to be assembled and fixed to the stock - the shank fits inside the 'gearbox' along with the centering spring (this is the metal plate shown in the picture and not to be confused with the miniscule springs on the knuckle itself). If it is NEM or not is largely decided by the fitting provided by the RTR manufacturer - that leaves two main variables to sort out - getting the right height and getting the right shank length. Getting the right shank length is helped by a rule of thumb that seems to work well - you need to line up the rear face of the coupler with an imaginariy line drawn between the leading faces of the buffers.
In general terms the further your coupler is mounted forward the easier it is for the stock to negotiate bends without causing buffer lock.
Height is where the problems begin - if you are fitting a coupler which has a 'gearbox' like the number 5 then there are a number of choices for getting the correct height - the two obvious ones are (i) to choose a kadee that has a shank offest up or down, and (ii) to fit shims in between the gearbox and rail - many people cut a piece of plastikard of appropriate thickness to use as a shim.
Where things should be easy, is where stock has been provided with NEM pockets, unfortunately the NEM pockets fitted on some stock is at the wrong height. Now this is all well and good but the NEM 362 is an HO and not an OO standard, so the height isn't really perfect. So feel free to give RTR manufacturers pain if they provide NEM 362 pockets at anything other than the 8.5mm above the rail height. Of course what the Kadee range lacks is some NEM 362 shanks which have heights offset in either direction - so perhaps we could encourage Kadee to help by asking them for the same - even though that is a perverse way of fixing the problem. More commonly seen on continental layouts, Kadees seem to have attracted UK modellers in increasing numbers in recent years. The reason?
5 is a complete coupling and pocket solution and did not interest me as I wanted to continue to use the NEM pockets on my proprietary stock.
3) The NEM pocket was often too high on the model for a straight swap from tension lock to Kadee to be effective.

Kadee sell a very useful height gauge (#206) which sits across a piece of test track to allow wagons to be aligned perfectly when mounted on the rails. Having measured my wagons against the height gauge, the solution seemed to be to lower the NEM assembly in it’s mount. Now, I had secure NEM pockets at the correct height whilst still retaining the ability to slot either Kadee or tension lock couplings into the mounts. Not content with producing a vast array of different couplers, Kadee also produce a number of different magnet solutions for smooth uncoupling! The Kadee uncoupler magnet sits underneath the track sleeper base with a steel plate to ensure that the magnetic effect will open the knuckles reliably. In terms of where to place the magnet, on Ingleton Sidings it is placed in the headshunt which adds to the challenge because wagons have to be pulled to the headshunt to be uncoupled before being pushed back into the sidings.
It is of course worth noting that in concentrating on the correct alignment of wagon couplings that adjustments may well also need to be made to motive power. Apart from looking good and working well when aligned correctly, Kadee Couplers are a great way to get started in tinkering with your locos and rolling stock. Smooth rolling Kadee 2-Piece trucks with patented self-centering action for ease of placement on tracks. For UK modellers, using modern stock, there is one key differentiation between the types that it is worth starting with - what type of shank (connection to the rolling stock) the coupler has. This 'gearbox' arrangement allows the coupler to have an amount of rotation, left and right, to allow the stock to negotiate curves. To assess if the coupler is at the right height you will need a simple height guage that kadee sell. I just have been collecting some resources together, and thought others might find them useful.
Probably because with a little imagination, these couplings can prove reliable when fitted into the standard NEM pocket. However, the remainder all provide a coupler on the end of a tuning fork style design which slots nicely into the NEM pockets on OO rolling stock.
It is true that in gluing the pocket into place I had lost the flexibility for the couplers to handle tighter radius curves, however on a shunting puzzle this would not really prove to be a problem. The purpose of this post is not really to go into delayed uncoupling as as I did not want lumps of metal sat between my rails, the only real option for me was to place the magnet underneath the track. This can often confuse onlookers convinced that the magic was infact happening at the point then the wagon parts from the loco.

Wagons often seem to get caught in the magnet’s magnetic field and couplers can very occasionally act irrationally. There are 4 Kadee varieties (#17,#18,#19,#20) that come with a (swallowtail) shank suitable to plug straight into the NEM pocket that are often now provided by manufacturers.
There are a range of couplers to allow you to choose one which has the right shank length and the right height for the particular stock you are fitting - There are also some choices in shape and style of gearbox which further adds to the complexity of the range. Please let me know about corrections or additions, especially links to other conversion advice, by commenting below or sending me a message. This worked for a few hours, but the force of coupling and uncoupling eventually worked the couplers loose from their mounts.
A tongue fitted to each each coupler prevents the knuckles from re-engaging and the train can be propelled clear of the magnet. Furthermore in placing the magnet in a particular place in the headshunt, I have ensured that only one wagon can be uncoupled at any one time, making the puzzle significantly more challenging! My solution is to regularly change the couplers and add above all add weight to your rolling stock. When two couplers are joined the trip pins can be forced apart magnetically to allow automatic decoupling.
A more recent addition to the kadee range is the #58 which works on exactly the same principle but is even smaller and so less obtrusive still.If there is a 'default' choice it is the number 5, this is the most widely available and cheapest, and people often describe others in the Kadee range in comparative terms to the #5.
This is particularly helpful as it allows you to overcome the fact that NEM pockets are often placed in a variety of positions underneath the wagon body. Only when the train is finally separated do the knuckles re-centre ready for coupling again. Ensuring your stock has some liquid lead underneath or perhaps a full load of ballast on board will usually solve the problem.
Using a short throw coupler on a wagon where the pocket is placed well behind the buffer beam will obviously lead to buffer lock and even interference from the wagon hook.
Some people claim that using the old style plastic wheels can help, however in my experience they seem to make no difference whatsoever!

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