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Kadee Couplings

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I mentioned in my Worsley Dale thread about trying out some Kadee couplings but rather than add my thoughts there I decided to start a new thread here to keep things separate.

I've always overlooked the Kadee couplings because I tend to think they look very un-prototypical but I've now changed my mind. I've seen some photos of a layout that uses them as the standard coupling and the loco's, especially, look rather good so I decided to give them a try.

What I'm primarily looking for is a standard coupling that I can use on all my loco's in order to couple up to the leading vehicle(s) in each fixed rake. Once my layout is fully operational there will be a lot of end to end running with a lot of running round required so I want a reliable and easy method of detaching a loco from the front of an incoming train and sticking it back on at the other end without me having to walk up and down doing it all manually. I also want a coupling that actually looks like it should be there.

I've started by obtaining a selection of NEM type Kadee's, the ones that are a direct replacement for the normal tension lock couplings in NEM pockets. They are available in various lengths in order to fit varying situations - I ordered No's 17, 18, 19 & 20, each sized coupling being approx 1mm longer than the previous one so that once fitted the coupling extends just the right amount beyond the loco buffers.

First of all I added a No. 18 to my Heljan class 26 which appeared about right to me. I'm sure if I were to do an online search then there'd be a list of which ones to use for each particular loco but I suppose it has a lot to do with the radius of a layouts curves and pointwork as much as anything else. I then added a No.20 to the leading end of my Mk1 coach rake and coupled them together. The Kadee on the Heljan class 26 seems to sit a bit high but it works without problems - that on the MK1 appears to be at the correct height according to my height gauge but I'm still very new to this so you'll have to bear with me. They ran together without a hitch - in fact I was very pleased with how they performed - not a single derailment throughout the entire day.

This is the height gauge with its attached Kadee coupling which sits on a section of track. Place your vehicle up to it to test your coupling is at the correct height.


I tried a few different scenarios such as coupling two coaches together which would then allow me to shunt coach rakes. My first test used two No.20's but that left me with a slightly wider gap between the coaches than I currently have with the Hornby R8220 bar couplings. Two No.19's proved to be too close and the coaches wouldn't couple. There'll be a compromise for sure - I just have to work it out, however, for now I'm happy with the bar couplings between coaches and Kadee's only on the outer ends.

So how do you uncouple? Well I'm using the cheapest commercial method in the form of a bar magnet that fits between the rails of your track.


Stop your vehicles over the magnet where you wish to uncouple and reverse slightly to disengage the coupling knuckle - then draw forward. It takes a bit of practice initially but it does work pretty well. I don't think it looks too out of place - it resembles an AWS ramp or perhaps a foot-crossing board. I would think after a while you'd barely notice it was there.

I'm very keen on the idea of remote uncoupling - in fact I'd go as far as saying I want it. I think Kadee's could be the answer for me but whether or not I decide to go with it for the whole rake of coaches or just the end vehicles I have yet to decide. I have so many coaches that shunting them around might be something I might wish to do eventually.

More testing to do on these.

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I have been suffering with problems occurring between the loco and front coach - I have started putting my own couplings on the locos, but this has left me short for the next passenger train I am putting together - :idea: maybe I will give kadees a go - I have a few spare in my toolbox

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  • 4 weeks later...

Can Kadee's lose their ability to react to a magnet?

I bought a Peco magnet de-coupler, but it has no effect on my Kadees - I should have listened to the proprietor of my local model shop, who told me they were rubbish before I bought it.

I could buy the Kadee uncoupling ramps, but I think they look a bit intrusive.

Can anyone else help with ideas on good magnets to use?


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My preferred coupling is Dingham http://www.dingham.co.uk/, I've used magnetic uncouplers on others layouts and having had problems with undemanded uncoupling, decided it will be electromagnetic uncouplers for me. I have a source of relays and now have a pile so I must get round to trying the conversion of one into an uncoupler.

The club layouts at the moment use http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Neodymium-Super-Strong-Magnet-Small-Round-Disc-Rare-Earth-N50-Grade-5mm-x-6mm-/272064785631?var=&hash=item3f58532cdf:m:m4WYXKOF9sNCT9E_1BkzW9g sunk into the baseboard. They will hold a wagon from rolling away on an uneven baseboard with the magnet sunk into the baseboard.

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  • 2 months later...

Kadee's are used around the world but in the UK if you wanted to be as prototypical as possible then you would need a hefty supply of three link and screw couplings and an even heftier supply of patience to couple and uncouple them. Oh yes every piece of rolling stock would have to have sprung buffers.

The tension lock or bar and battering ram as I like to call it is hardly British looking even though it's sold on all new OO gauge R-T-R stock. The Kadee is a much better and easier option even on steam locos and yes it can easily handle super elevated track work. Strong magnets can be placed underneath the track work and marked by a post as to their location. Over the proper magnets uncoupling is a breeze and stock can even be lose shunted into a siding provided the loco doesn't stop mid propelling of the stock into the siding otherwise it will recouple. You will then say "oh bigger it!!". 

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My usual rant about em.

I am a huge fan of Kadees. but there are other brands as well, assuming you want to do US outline.

Most of my experience was with N scale. I found that due to a lack of weight, and a certain accordion effect on small scale trains, It was possible to roll over a coupler magnet and get a decouple. Still, I ran trains for hours without decouples. They are amazing in N scale!


HO trains are an odd thing. They, kadees, look wrong to me on european stock. I can't abide them on my HO scale continental trains. :P

I would consider keeping uncoupling magnets off of the mains.

Most people I know simply use bamboo cooking skewers as uncoupling tools. One also see's a lot of small screw drivers on layouts that are used as pry bars for uncoupling.

Most important, you really need to keep things aligned and crappy track will be a problem.


We had some members a while back who had bought american stock and complained about the couplers. I questioned if their track was properly aligned and if some of the couplers weren't banged up during shimpent over seas. Over here, people use kadees on 150 coal car trains with no problems.


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