Yesterday I visited my local chooch emporium and picked up a bulk pack of Kadee 5 couplers, then set about converting a few pieces of equipment so I can test them as an alternative to the Sergent EC64 and the Kadee 808. (As noted earlier this week, the Sergent has many fine qualities but I want more reliable coupling. I’m perfectly happy with the performance of the S scale Kadee 808 but the Ho scale Kadee 5 is closer to S scale size.)
I converted a locomotive and seven freight cars. I also did a CNR van, which means I now have each type of coupler mounted on a different CNR van – perfect for visual comparisons. I took the photos this morning – click on each image for a larger view:
The Kadee 5 is the smallest of the three. As the photos show, it’s about the same size as the Sergent when looking down on the coupler from above, but not as tall when looking at it end-on or from the side.
Appearance-wise, the Kadee 5 is fine although it could benefit from some rusty paint. (That said, I’m hesitant to paint couplers simply because paint could gum up a coupler and wreck its performance. “Unreliable performance” is the reason I’m – reluctantly – turning away from the Sergents: If painting the Kadee 5 results in performance problems, I might as well stick with the EC64.)
I’m less happy with the HO scale coupler boxes. Simply put, the S scale boxes look better under a car, and because they’re the de-facto standard for 1:64, they’re a whole lot easier to mount. Every manufacturer’s equipment is designed to accept them. I thought the Kadee 5 box might have identical spacing of the mounting holes – and it sure looks that way when you compare the boxes on the bench – but it turns out the spacing on the 5 box is slightly wider than it is on the box for the 808.
From an operations point of view, I do have some concerns with the Kadee 5. It’s been a while since I’ve built an operating layout in HO – my last such railway was torn down in 2003 – and I’m used to larger things now, including couplers. In some quick tests last night, I found my uncoupling tools – all designed for Kadee 5 couplers, mind you – require careful fiddling to slip between the knuckles and separate the cars. Uncoupling is definitely easier with the Sergent EC64 and a magnetic wand – but it’s also easier using the typical uncoupling tool with the Kadee 808.
Now that I’ve been doing some conversions, I’m also reminded that in my years of working in HO, I experienced a lot of vertical coupler movement with the Kadee 5. This is because the opening in the coupler box is taller than the shank of the coupler, allowing the coupler head to rise or fall as train forces act on it. This becomes a problem when two coupler heads are not at the exact same height – when pulling a train, the lower coupler can be forced down, while the higher coupler is forced up, and uncoupling occurs. Of course, all couplers should be mounted at the same height – but even if they are, things like sharp vertical curves can cause problems. And I do have two such curves – at the bottom and top of the elevated coal delivery track in Port Rowan. I did not experience this vertical coupler movement with either the Kadee 808 or the Sergent EC64. Something to watch out for with the Kadee 5.
No – I have not yet made a final decision. I will do some tests with the equipment that I’ve converted to Kadee 5 couplers – including a couple of operating sessions with others. (I think it’s important to do one’s own tests in this hobby, rather than rely on results shared by others, so I encourage you to experiment as well!)
But after working on conversions yesterday and doing some initial tests, I might be reverting to the Kadee 808 after all…