Custom Painted P-2000 units

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Draw Bars For Close Coupling and Coupler Mounting Alternatives

Greetings All,

A follow up from my prior post;

In my last post about building a shake the box kit fellow blogger and modeler John Bruce added comments on his method of installing Kadee couplers on the old tried and true Athearn Blue Box kits. I communicated with John and asked that he post a 'how to' on his blog. The timing was right as he had an Athearn Blue Box box car kit ready to build. John's approach offers a simple way to overcome the dreaded Athearn Coupler Box clip failure that most modelers have experienced at least once or in my case several times. I was impressed with the simplicity and effectiveness of the alternatives John employs on his car builds. Check it out here; Athearn Bluebox Upgrade

For more on John's modeling activities check out his other blog posts. He's always got an interesting project going;

Today's other topic deals with the alternative of using draw bars instead of couplers in some applications. The recent painting of NYC F7A #1645 led to another project of getting the 1645 and 1644 to couple closely together. Years ago I used the Kadee close coupling kits for Bachmann F units but was never really happy with them. Along the way I came up with a very simple draw bar system to get my Bachmann units closely coupled. This same system can also be used with Athearn BB units.

The Kadee close coupling kit
Image result for new york central F7 abba 
I used the Kadee close coupling kits above on these FT units. 
Not that close are they?
This is after the draw bar conversion. Much better
The idea for the draw bars came from a magazine article I read in Classic Trains magazine about ten years ago about the Lackawanna draw bar equipping their FT A and B units. 

The first units I tried the draw bar conversion on were a pair of Athearn BB New Haven F7As in 2012

One thing about these projects is that the modifications are easily reversible if you want to go back to a regular coupler. 

After installing the draw bar for the 1644 and 1645 I turned my attention to an A-B-B-A set of PRR F7s and an A-B-A set of B&O F units.. Let's take a look at this super easy way to get the units looking more prototypical; 

The 1645 and 1644 sitting at Bedford Station coupled by draw bar.

 An A-B-A set of F7s in need of draw bars. The F7A to the left and the B unit have had the close coupling kit installed. It's a little closer than the standard Bachmann coupler boxes. But not that much.
With a Christmas delivery of an A and B unit to the P.R.R. fleet of my son I secured permission to use draw bars to couple these units together. Seeing these 1:1 scale units in the Green Frog Pennsylvania RR Heritage video sealed the deal for this project.  
This consist is going to be tough to get back into their respective boxes! The four unit lash up looks great and runs great. It really looks good at the slow speed train crawl with about 25 to 35 cars behind it. 
Here are the B&O units getting ready for their drawbars. The draw bars are made from old IHC /AHM / Rivarossi light weight 2 axle long shank horn hook couplers. I cut off everything and just use the shank. Note when doing a multi unit lash up I make sure I can mate two F7s together before proceeding with the B units.  
 The B&O A-B-A units close coupled and looking good. Another consist that's going to be hard to put away.
The obligatory meet on the Empire City viaduct. Another B&O B unit is now on the shopping list.
As I enjoyed running these engines on the layout it struck me that I had another set of A-B-A units that could benefit from the draw bar application. An Athearn BB New York Central PA-PB-PA to be exact. So back to the work bench I went and here's what happened;

The Athearn PA-PB-PA units coupled up nice and tight at Empire City Station 
 These units have talgo mounted couplers. Note the washers on the B unit lowering the draw bar. This is necessary so the weight of the A units pin sitting on the draw bar doesn't raise the rear wheel of the B units truck off the rails. The amount of washers used was based on trial and error.
The bottom of the unpowered B unit shows the draw bar on one end and the pin on the other. Obviously the A unit to the left is equipped with a draw bar and the A unit t the right a pin. The masonite pad turns this car into a track cleaner which I really like.
Four roofing nails attached to the pad with adhesive. The slide thru the empty motor mount holes in the bottom of the frame. Note the nails are off center which coincides with the empty motor mount holes.
The PA-PB-PA units lead a passenger train around a curve coming out of Empire City Station

The PA-PB-PA climb the grade thru Bedford NY as the train heads towards Terminal Yard and points beyond the layout. The two powered PA units have plenty of power for the grade and the B unit is shining the tracks as it goes. Not a bad combination!
So there it is. A couple of easy upgrades that are cost effective and easily reversible if you should decide later to undo the draw bars.

Thanks for reading!!!


  1. I have a few old Spectrum F7s that I equipped with the Kadee close couplers. These are iffy, because you have to cut a lot of material off the truck sideframe/keeper plate casting. One of these gave out pretty quickly. However, I believe the newer Bachmann F7 chassis is at least basically compatible with the Spectrum body, so this could be another alternative, since they can be found very reasonably on the web. A major on line retailer offered 10% off their usual sale price, so I sent for one and will report.

    1. The removal of material from the truck side frame / keeper plate made me uneasy. I did sand these areas down but never was comfortable removing too much from this area. Let us know how the new F7s work out!

  2. Great looking consists all around! They sure do look good coupled more closely. The NYC PAs certainly have an elegant appearance!

    1. Thanks Ralph! I agree with your assessments!

  3. Very nice! Looks 1000 times better all snuggled up close. Did you drill out the coupler for a 2-56 screw for use as the pin?

    1. Hi Tim, Thanks for the compliments! On the PA-PB-PA and this F7A-F7A project I drilled out one end of the coupler for a 2-56 screw and for the pin I used a thinner screw that came with the Kadee close coupling kits. I used a 1/64th drill bit for this. On most other draw bar applications I used 2-56 screws for the pins. The hole in the coupler shank needs to be a little bit larger so whatever screw you use can fit easily into the draw bar.
      Hope this helps. John

  4. Very interesting about the close coupling. I do know Kadee makes short shank couplers. Have you tried to use them, or shorten the coupler box so the coupler sits back a little further/ They do look good close coupled, I might add. Nice work Sir John!

  5. Thanks for the compliments 1:1 Sir Neal! Check photo#2 above. Both units equipped with short shank couplers and shortened coupler boxes. The back of the truck is sanded to get the coupler box back to this point and that is the result. In photo #7 the short shank couplers are used on the left and the standard shank couplers are on the right. There is a small difference, but not much. Not the worth the costs and work involved to gain such little improvement. Draw bars are the answer for me for these consists.

  6. Thanks for the info. Makes sense. Also like the Masonite track cleaner. Very creative!

    1. You're very welcome. For the record the masonite pads work great. I've been using them on freight cars for a couple of years now and am very pleased with them.