Author Topic: Converting To Z-Scale Couplers - Is It Worth The Effort?  (Read 9453 times)

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BCR751

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Converting To Z-Scale Couplers - Is It Worth The Effort?
« on: December 25, 2013, 02:00:37 PM »
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I've been considering converting my locos and rolling stock to Z-Scale couplers.  All of my couplers are MT and most are body mounted.  Do the Z-Scale versions fit in the N-Scale pockets or does the whole thing have to be replaced?   I really like the appearance of the Z couplers but need to know if it's worth the effort.  Over to you........   

Doug

Chris1274

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Re: Converting To Z-Scale Couplers - Is It Worth The Effort?
« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2013, 02:07:08 PM »
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If you have Athearn bethgon coalporters on your layout, the effort is definitely worth it. Here's an example of the difference in coupling distance that replacing the stock couplers with z scale couplers makes:


C855B

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Re: Converting To Z-Scale Couplers - Is It Worth The Effort?
« Reply #2 on: December 25, 2013, 02:21:31 PM »
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I am wrestling with the same issue. I bought a bunch of McHenry couplers a couple of years ago thinking I was going to start a conversion project, but realized after doing two or three locos that they weren't the answer, especially to the proportionate appearance issue.

My thinking at the moment is sit back and wait a bit, possibly until 2015. We have multiple coupler projects at least mentioned on TRW that will appear to bear fruit about then. Admittedly, I'm mostly waiting word if the Bowser Z coupler production issues have been resolved, but I'm not going to move ahead on any large-scale (pun!) conversion project until DKS's developments are gelled enough to unveil. Anything I have that has to be converted today, right now, is getting standard MTLs if just to operate smoothly with the rest of the fleet.

If you have Athearn bethgon coalporters on your layout, the effort is definitely worth it. Here's an example of the difference in coupling distance that replacing the stock couplers with z scale couplers makes:...

Oooo. Now that's impressive. I need to do the same with my 100+* Atlas ore jennies.

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« Last Edit: December 25, 2013, 02:59:45 PM by C855B »
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Erik W

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Re: Converting To Z-Scale Couplers - Is It Worth The Effort?
« Reply #3 on: December 25, 2013, 02:58:13 PM »
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For me it was worth it.  I had decided when I got back into MRRing years ago that I wanted more realistic looking rolling stock.  So, before I bought my first piece of rolling stock I decided that no piece of equipment would go on the layout until it had Microtrains trucks, Z scale couplers, had the ride height lowered and was weathered.  It was easy to convert piecemeal as I acquired rolling stock.  All the cars I have had truck mounted couplers originally, so I'd cut the couplers off the trucks, file the frame down at the bolster to the desired height and drill and mount the Z scale couplers.  I like the more scale look of the z scale couplers as well as the closer coupling distance.  That said, operations wise, the Z scale couplers are a little more finicky.

Here are some photos that show my rolling stock with Z scale couplers.






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Kisatchie

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Re: Converting To Z-Scale Couplers - Is It Worth The Effort?
« Reply #4 on: December 25, 2013, 03:51:05 PM »
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...I like the more scale look of the z scale couplers as well as the closer coupling distance.  That said, operations wise, the Z scale couplers are a little more finicky.

I can't stand finicky couplers  :P. That, and having too many cars to economically convert them all, keep me from considering using Z scale couplers.


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sd45elect2000

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Re: Converting To Z-Scale Couplers - Is It Worth The Effort?
« Reply #5 on: December 25, 2013, 04:25:26 PM »
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Like Kiz I have way too many cars to consider a wholesale replacement program however.. I recently began building a fleet of electric interurban cars from the North Shore line and knew that the prototype Tomlinson couplers were in fact much smaller than a standard drawbar/coupler. I immediately knew that Microtrains N scale couplers were simply not going to cut it. So.. I bought a ton of 903 Z scale couplers and installed them. I cannot keep the cars coupled to save my soul. On sharp curves its impossible and on straight track its iffy. I'm not sure what my next step will be.

Randy

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Re: Converting To Z-Scale Couplers - Is It Worth The Effort? "A Mixed Bag"
« Reply #6 on: December 25, 2013, 05:36:55 PM »
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       Are  Z Scale Couplers  worth the switch? I would say it is a mixed bag. I have some cars and locomotives with MT Z Scale / N n 3 couplers. Some of the old small Atlas covered hopper's like UP 11236 (the car number not product #) and the similar Rio Grande car came with a pad on the car ends to body mount couplers. I found the assembled MT Z couplers fit without any height adjustment. The Bowser Pennsylvania caboose's can be retrofitted the same way. I have put Z Scale couplers on some locomotive's the pilots on KATO E-8/9 locos for example. If I had more time to rework my vast fleet I would probably buy a huge quantity of the Full Throttle couplers used by Bowser and usually found on trucks and go hog wild converting. As it is now I hope to finish installing the last group of metal wheel sets to the cars that remain permanently out on my layout for Op Sessions. My now shaky Senior Citizen hands do not help either. The couplers do operate with no problems mixed in long trains with MT, Accumate, and Mc Henry brands. Nate Goodman (Nato). Salt Lake, Utah.

robert3985

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Re: Converting To Z-Scale Couplers - Is It Worth The Effort?
« Reply #7 on: December 25, 2013, 08:14:45 PM »
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I've been running MT Z and Narrow gauge couplers on engines and cars for over 20 years.  I started back in my Ntrak days, and I could pull a train of 60-something cars easily on zero-grade trackage with no spontaneous uncouplings or breakage.  They'd also pull through those bad, ski-jumped connector tracks.

Frankly, I noticed no difference in their performance as opposed to MT N-scale couplers.  The difference was (and is) purely cosmetic, except that I body mount all my MT Z-scale couplers, and cut off the Talgo mounted N-scale couplers on the trucks.  Maybe that helps performance wise.

Note that I don't use the "Magnematic" uncoupling feature and cut off all the "dongles" on every coupler, and install BLMA plastic brake hoses for appearances sake.

Those of you who wonder whether the size of MT Z-scale coupler is actually close to scaled-down prototype size will be pleased to note that I took six measurements of actual prototype couplers at the Utah State Railroad Museum several years ago (I don't remember what those dimensions were nowadays) and that when scaled down to 1:160th scale, the MT Z-scale coupler was within a mil and a half of every dimension except one...so it complied with five out of six major dimensions.

To support that finding here's a photo of an MT Z-scale coupler coupled up to a dummy N-scale coupler of correct proportions:


Here's a photo comparo of Z-scale and N-"scale" MT couplers on cabooses to show how HUGE the N-"scale" MT coupler is compared to their Z-scale version:


ALL MT coupler have the same problems however,  the main ones being a non-prototypical appearance and the "slinky effect" when tension is minimized on both long and short trains, which is because of their mounting protocol which involves a spring.

Although I've converted several hundred engines and cars to MT Z-scale couplers, I have backed off lately from the process because of the increased availability of brass coupler pockets and the increased availability of the Bowser Buckler/Full Throttle couplers...which look better that MT Z's, have a smaller coupler "box", and don't exhibit "the slinky effect".  I was planning on converting to this combination, but then...RUMORS and PROMISES from DKS at NZT about a new coupler he was designing that would be the "end-all" to the unprototypical-looking N-scale coupler and put an end to the slinky effect.  So I waited and put aside my coupler conversion projects (except for contest entries and cabooses).

Along comes another promise a couple of months ago that a coupler design by Charlie Vlk has been developed and will be introduced on a new locomotive by a rejuvenated Arnold (Hornby) for the US market.

I have not seen any photos or spec's for either the NZT or Charlie Vlk (Arnold/Hornby) couplers, but I have high hopes.

Since both the NZT and Vlk couplers are/will be designed to be compatible with MT couplers, converting selected rolling stock and motive power to MT Z-scale couplers now would probably not be a waste of time.  They ARE the best that's presently available and the new scale coupler designs that are down the road a bit will work with them.

As to the Z-scale couplers being "finicky".  That has not been my experience with them.  Maybe on really bad track, but I am extremely careful with my track laying and hand-built turnouts, so I've NEVER had any problems with the Z-scale couplers.  Even when I was using magnets to uncouple years ago, I just re-bent the "dongle" so it was closer to the ties and it worked just as well as the MT N-scale couplers.

So, if anybody has had trouble with their Z-scale couplers, it's because they're not mounted properly or your trackwork is so bad the decreased knuckle-face on them won't hold over your track irregularities.  A good way to figure it out would be to note if the problems occur at the same spots on your layout.  If they do (and I'm almost certain they do), then FIX THE PROBLEM with your track...or just run big, ugly couplers.  :D

Here's a shot of my superdetailed brass CA-8 caboose, with MT Z-scale couplers of course:


So, the answer to your question is a qualified "yes".  It's worth the trouble, but I'd start out with cars and engines that are already super-detailed or on your cabooses, or on a train of cars you want to body mount couplers on anyway.  I think better options are almost here, so I'm in a bit of holding pattern myself at the moment.

Chris1274

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Re: Converting To Z-Scale Couplers - Is It Worth The Effort?
« Reply #8 on: December 25, 2013, 08:34:19 PM »
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To support that finding here's a photo of an MT Z-scale coupler coupled up to a dummy N-scale coupler of correct proportions:


For those who are more into railfanning their layouts instead of ops, I'm wondering if that dummy coupler wouldn't be a viable option if it could be made to swivel inside an MT draft gear box. Kato did something similar with their bethgons. You have to lift the cars by hand to couple and uncouple them, but they're meant to be run as unit trains anyway. A more realistic TypeE dummy coupler like that one would work in just the same way and look a lot better.

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Re: Converting To Z-Scale Couplers - Is It Worth The Effort?
« Reply #9 on: December 25, 2013, 09:43:17 PM »
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For those who are more into railfanning their layouts instead of ops, I'm wondering if that dummy coupler wouldn't be a viable option if it could be made to swivel inside an MT draft gear box. Kato did something similar with their bethgons. You have to lift the cars by hand to couple and uncouple them, but they're meant to be run as unit trains anyway. A more realistic TypeE dummy coupler like that one would work in just the same way and look a lot better.

Considering their appearance, at least from the plan view, regular Kato knuckle couplers seem to be closet to the prototype.  But operationally, they suck.



For more photos see http://forum.atlasrr.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=52328


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randgust

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Re: Converting To Z-Scale Couplers - Is It Worth The Effort?
« Reply #10 on: December 25, 2013, 10:17:01 PM »
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I use them on all my Climax N model kits and also on the V&T ore cars.   I've used them on the front of diesels as a good compromise between size and performance on doubleheading.   I've installed a lot of them.

I do use magnetic uncoupling, works very well for me, and I can get the Z couplers to work with regular MT's, but body mounts in general can be problematic, Z or not, if you're doing delay uncoupling and any curves at all get involved.

I've noticed, however, that new versions of MT couplers are even bigger than the 'vintage' MT's that I have, and that's really been disappointing.  I think one of the reasons that I'm content with what I have is that the older MT's are actually smaller than current production.   RDA's were a big step forward but a bigger knuckle is just ....wrong....

I've had absolutely no luck with consistent uncoupling with anything other than MT's, Z or not.  Accumates, Katos, all of them - none of them work reliably and on cars involved in regular operations, they immediately get swapped out.

You're talking to a guy that actually had an entire layout of Rapido-equipped cars with lift ramps (manual and electronic) and I got that to work reliably before I went to MT's, so compared to that....


VonRyan

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Re: Converting To Z-Scale Couplers - Is It Worth The Effort?
« Reply #11 on: December 25, 2013, 11:01:59 PM »
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What does RDA even stand for?
And as for the slinky effect... Apparently MT corrected that by moving the position of the internal spring.
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Re: Converting To Z-Scale Couplers - Is It Worth The Effort?
« Reply #12 on: December 25, 2013, 11:15:26 PM »
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What does RDA even stand for?
And as for the slinky effect... Apparently MT corrected that by moving the position of the internal spring.

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Re: Converting To Z-Scale Couplers - Is It Worth The Effort?
« Reply #13 on: December 25, 2013, 11:19:08 PM »
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I've noticed, however, that new versions of MT couplers are even bigger than the 'vintage' MT's that I have, and that's really been disappointing.  I think one of the reasons that I'm content with what I have is that the older MT's are actually smaller than current production.   

 Are you talking about N or Z couplers?

I just can't see MT redoing their coupler molds to make them larger. All of them or just certain ones? Which ones?  Are 1023s still the same size as the ones made 40 years ago?  Do you have any measurements or photos showing the size difference?
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Re: Converting To Z-Scale Couplers - Is It Worth The Effort?
« Reply #14 on: December 26, 2013, 07:52:52 AM »
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Isn't this the motto at Google: "In God we trust, all others bring data"?  Some very good looking work on this thread.

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