The release of the retooled Model Die Casting Old Time 36' freight cars is a boon to Turn of the Nineteenth Century modeler. It allows a fleet of freight cars to be acquired quickly. The couplers supplied are really lacking and the faults ot the original tooling are still evident.
The nineteenth century knuckle coupler is a 3/4 version of the modern coupler. Sergent has a prototypical modern coupler. I tried the Sergent and found it a little finicky for my taste, but I found the Accumate Proto: HO. The Sergent uses the Accumate draft gear box. The Accumate is more forgiving over my rough track and couples automatically. It is larger but I can live with that.
The Sergent coupler in an Accumate draft gear box at left. A nineteenth century coupler above.
(Smithsonian Negative No. 49863)
N scale couplers are the right size but their height makes them undependable on rough track. An Atlas Accumate on the left and a Microtrains on the right.
Kadee makes the #711 "Old Timer" which looks like the N scale coupler. I used them a long time ago. They don't have a proto appearance.
The Accumate Proto: HO on the left compared to the Sergent for stock HO draft gear boxes.
I find the Accumate with it's draft gear box is the best compromise for "scale" couplers.
The KD 58 looks like the skeleton dog from "Corpse Bride" and the KD and McHenry both have those knuckle springs and no prototypical draft gear box.
Athearn supplies the cars with those dreadful McHenry's with the whisker knuckle spring. They are also the full size "HO" couplers.
After taking the stock couplers off, throw them away. Don't even think about saving them.
A comparison of the stock couplers and the Accumate Proto: HO, the cars are much closer together. The smaller coupler though not exactly the correct size adds to the appearance.
Athearn's revised tooling extended the draft gear box out beyond the buffer block. This is un-prototypical. Scribe a line across the draft gear box.
Take the couplers and trucks off the underframe. Run a hobby knife along the side seam to break loose the sides.
The ends are "glued". Break the glue joint with a single edged razor blade. Gently pry up the underframe at the buffer block with a screwdriver.
Cut the step stirrup lugs where they are glued. Pop the stirrups off with a hobby knife. Be careful they are delicate.
The broken stirrups can be reattached with ACC.
Put a spot of glue on the innerside to strengthen the joint.
Cut off the excess draft gear box. I run a razor saw along the inner side of the draft gear box to give a "faux" frame member look. The sides of the box can also be removed.
Drill out the mounting hole for the plastic rod.
I use nominal .080 styrene rod. The rod is measured and a drill a couple of thousands smaller is used.
Dip the rod into solvent, I use MEK from the hardware store. Twirl the rod into the hole.
Twirl the rod into the hole until it is above the bottom of the draft gear box.
Slice off the rod with a NEW single edged razor blade.
If a new razor blade is used it will slice the rod off flush with no effort.
Use the razor blade to remove the lug inside the box. Slice off as much as possible.
Use a chisel blade to remove the final remains of the rod and lug. Smooth the bottom of the box.
Cut the ears off the outside of the Accumate box.
Put the Accumate box into the underframe with the back end sticking out. Cut off the over hang.
Adjust the coupler box so the face lines up with the end of the car's draft gear box. The top supplied with the Accumate is not used. It will be the correct height without the top.
Use a drill that slips into the coupler box hole to mark the location of the mounting hole. Just twirl the drill to make a small indent. Drill and tap the mounting hole for the Accumate #0-80 screws.
Assemble the coupler, whether Sergent or Accumate. The Accumate should move freely.
Sometimes the Accumates have a small piece of flash at this location on both pieces. Scrap the flash off with a razor blade.
The Sergent coupler gives a very realistic appearance but I found the operation of the Accumates outweighs the slightly larger appearance. I don't use magnetic uncoupling so that wasn't a factor. The Sergent's are uncoupled with a magnetic wand. The Accumates are uncoupled with the Accumate uncoupler or a screw driver.
I have found the Accumates couple on curves with a small prod of the uncoupling wand.
The Kadee #58, what were they thinking, does not look like a prototype coupler.