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Written by Paul D. Race for Family Garden TrainsTM

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Bachmann Coupler Tips

Several weeks ago, I attached three Bachmann coaches behind a modified Lionel 4-4-2, which is pulling an Aristocraft tender. They looked nice enough behind the thing. But I couldn't keep them coupled, so I wound up running a single coach, by closing the Bachmann and Aristo couplers and pushing the Bachmann coupler down into the Aristo coupler manually.

All of the years when I ran mostly AristoCraft, I used to put Aristo coupler on the few Bachmann cars I wanted to incorporate into my freight runs. Aristo couplers are double-sprung, and generally much more reliable. But it doesn't make sense to replace the couplers on a whole (three-car) passenger train that won't be pulling cars from other brands.

Subsequently, I wrote a question on Bob Cowan's Large Scale Central forum page and got some great responses. I also asked a friend who used to use Bachmann couplers exclusively and said he had a "trick" for making them more reliable. As it turned out, that fellow has converted all of his rolling stock to Kaydees, so I won't list his responses here.

The Drooping Problem

On the Large Scale Central forum, two folks responded that they had problems because the tangs holding the Bachmann couplers allowed them to droop. This mostly seemed to cause in operations where are pushing the cars or trying to couple "on the fly."

  • Bob Cope recommended body-mounting the couplers, which works fine if you have large-radius track and freight cars in the 40' class (or shorter). It won't work on my coaches, however - even my 10'-diameter curves are too tight for body-mounting the couplers.

  • Jon Radder recommended replacing the little pin that allows the coupler to swivel on the tang with a machine screw and nut, his version of a similar solution first proposed by Dave Goodson over 30 years ago. Jon's description of this approach is on his Candlewood Valley Scenic Railway site here. (If that link doesn't work, click here.)

Other Random Uncoupling Problems

Bob Cope also addressed the generic random uncoupling problems that IMHO result from lack of quality control in the factory. He writes:

    Second issue is in the coupler itself. MY SOLUTION was to carefully disassemble the coupler.

    There is a small spring that opens the knuckle, make sure to contain it when you push the pin out of the knuckle.

    Carefully, using a sharp (said new) Xacto #11 blade, clean all the flash off all the mating surfaces of the three operating components (knuckle, body, and drop pin).

    Pay close attention to the drop pin. Sometimes the plastic does not form quite perfect and you will get a high spot. Again, carefully with a fine file or emery board flatten the high spot.

    I DO NOT RECOMMEND any form of lubricant, wet or dry. Carefully reassemble the coupler and it should perform considerably better. Be prepared to spend some time if you plan to do it right. Doing them in mass will speed up the process, but I found keeping the parts to each coupler together seemed to be more reliable. Doesn't make sense, but that was my experience.

    All of that said, I have been on a slow process of converting to Kadee 'G' coupler, which play quite nicely with the Big Hauler couplers. One transition car allows me to mix and match body mount Kadee, body mount Big Hauler and truck mounted Big Hauler couplers.

LGB Couplers on Bachmann Coaches

George Schreyer, who has written extensive tip sheets for all sorts of Large Scale products replaced the couplers on his Bachmann coaches with LGB couplers.

Though they are a little oversized George seemed to feel that they're more reliable, even if they make the cars sit farther apart. So he shortened the shanks/tangs slighly to close the gap between the cars.

George's tips on that conversion are here. While you're at it, take a look at George's tip index page and see if he's solved any other problems you're encountering.

My Conclusion

Because I have been dabbling in Narrow Gauge recently, I have a bunch of Bachmann freights that may deserve either Bob Cope's coupler cleanup method, or conversion to Kaydees.

But that doesn't address the more immediate question of my Bachmann passenger cars, which I don't plan to use in switching operations. I haven't done it yet, but I am tempted to use a drop of glue on each coupler to keep it closed. Yes, that will require manually coupling them together at the beginning of each run, but that's better than recoupling them again and again during a run (and they always misbehave the most when there are visitors over).

Alternatively, I could buy Kaydee couplers for them. But if I go that route, treating the Bachmann entry-level coaches like prized possessions, I'd probably feel obligated to replace those flimsy vinyl railings with metal railings. And do something about the internal lighting so I don't keep having to remember to remove the batteries. And maybe glue people inside the cars, and . . . .

The Cotterpin Solution

This is only recommended for your passenger trains, and only if you tend to put the whole train on the track manually (instead of building it up in the switchyard).

I didn't invent this, but I discovered it on a couple Bachmann coaches I bought third-hand. The truth was, I was considering the drop-of-glue "solution" for my string of Bachmann PRR coaches when I came across it, and it seems like a better approach.

A cotterpin driven through the Bachmann coupler's vertical member keeps the coupler closed permanently but can easily be removed.Some unknown previous owner, obviously frustrated by his coaches coming uncoupled every time they hit a turnout or a tiny bump in the track or a curve or slope they didn't like, came up with a totally reversable solution.

He drilled a tiny hole in the vertical piece that you bump up to uncouple the cars. (Yes, there's probably a name for that, but I don't remember what it is.) Then he inserted a cotterpin in the hole and bent out its "legs."

As long as he owned the cars, they did what he needed them to do, which was to stick together. But any subsequent owner - like me - could easily pop the cotterpin back out and take his chances with the coupler.

I haven't done this to my PRR coaches yet, because I've put them away for the holidays, but I have ordered appropriate cotterpins.

Keep in Touch

Finally, please let us know about your ongoing projects. Ask questions, send corrections, suggest article ideas, send photos, whatever you think will help you or your fellow railroaders. In the meantime, enjoy your trains, and especially enjoy any time you have with your family in the coming weeks,

Paul Race

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