Coupler Conversion (Part 1)

Now it’s time to get operations in order, starting with magnetic uncoupling.

I got a Micro-Trains 1133 coupler conversion kit in the mail a couple of days ago, and set aside some time to replace the standard knuckle couplers that came equipped with my 0-6-0. While I’m not too keen on the cost of Micro-Trains couplers, my understanding (based on forum conversations on the Web) is that they are good enough to warrant the price tag.

The reason for the season: magnetic trip pins.

Tools of the trade.

The instructions. Q: How the heck do I make sure I don’t trim off more than 0.006″ from the “T” on both coupler halves?  A: I don’t. I just trimmed a tiny shaving off. Hopefully that will be okay.

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The old knuckle coupler, still in place. There is no articulation on these couplers (i.e. they don’t have opposable thumbs). These are held on by tabs pressed into slots under the pilot. To remove these, I simply stuck a hobby knife under one side and pried it up.

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Out with the old…

With the factory-installed couplers removed, it should be just as easy to put in the Micro-Trains assembly, right?

Not quite.

The first frustrating bit was getting the shanks onto the spring. Holding them so that their backside points were aligned while inserting them into the metal adapter was essentially like holding a tiny, volatile pipe bomb. I used various tweezers, etc. to achieve this, but eventually I got wise to it and wrapped them together with dental floss before inserting into the adapter. I swung the adapter down into place in the plastic gear box (another fidgety procedure, as the fragile cross-ends of the shanks preferred to fold into the gear box rather than slide into the open slots), and then I slipped the dental floss out. After numerous attempts I started to get into a rhythm.

The real tragedy occurred when attempting to fit the whole thing to the engine. It didn’t fit well. I made dozens of attempts at turning over the assembly and getting it into position without the contents spilling out (which I achieved, again, by wrapping with floss and then slipping the floss out). I had test-fitted the box while the contents weren’t inside it, and snapped it in place, but it wasn’t easy even then; it required some force. With the adapter in the box the fit was very tight. I needed to use a tool to press it into the slots once the clips were lined up, and after a half-dozen attempts that tool slipped off the gear box with enough force to snap the front end off the pilot.

My wife is a surgeon’s assistant, literally, which was helpful. She assists with very precise eye surgeries, so she has a keen ability to use small tools and assist with such things. More than that, she keeps her cool in frustrating situations like this, and she helped me to keep mine as well.

The next morning, I ordered a new pilot for my 0-6-0, and I decided to practice with the broken pilot until the process becomes easier. Also, when I removed the broken pilot it suddenly struck me that I was making it harder for myself by keeping the pilot on the engine (as the instructions imply I should). With the pilot removed, I am able to attach the coupler assembly without flipping it over, and I can press the tabs into the slots without putting pressure on the front end of the pilot. Just this morning I made an attempt and got it within five minutes. Live and learn.

I will post an update after the new pilot comes in.

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