Al makes his own couplers

“Not being able to find coupler boxes (N scale), I started using plastic shapes. I take a square tube that seems to fit the coupler (such as Bachmann EZ II), and cut it down the middle with a hobby saw. Then it is just a matter of fitting on the floor of the car, drill to clear whatever size screw I am using, (already have drilled & tapped the floor), tighten securely, and all done. Except for painting, of course.

Have done this on more than a dozen car now, and seems to work just fine. Trying to work through all to convert to body-mounted couplers.

First, cut square tubbing down the middle. Select the size that best fit your couplers, allowing for movement.


Then drill for screw… will be “clear” size for your mounting screw.


Insert screw and coupler (here, a EZ II coupler), and mount into the tapped hole in the floor of the car. Add shims if required for proper height.



Hope this helps someone.

Al Lyons”

“I have a 40 year-old 6ft x4 ft N gauge layout, which I’m about to resurrect. Plenty of good track, rolling stock and scenery. Sort of European 1930s era…but it’s all about to be freshened up, some replaced, and added to.

My tip is for the hills/ mountains. Try to get a surfboard blank – they are about 6 inches thick (15cm) , rigid , dense, fine cell foam. It can be carved with a bread knife, sander or similar, painted, and holds trees and posts without needing reinforcement. You can even mount track directly on it with short nails to hold the sleepers down. Has plenty of strength to be self-supporting. Could even be used for buildings if you have the carving skills.

I also use coarse sawdust for ballast. It can be glued using straight white glue – apply the glue sparingly and sprinkle it on. It sometimes comes pre-coloured, and not all ballast is black, so you can buy your preferred pre-coloured sawdust, or paint it with water based paint afterwards. Other advantages are that it is not abrasive to delicate train components, and non-conductive – so no electrical shorts, especially around points.

Water – a layer of white glue dries clear –works if the river bottom is painted a preferred colour first. Clear 2-part epoxy also gives good results, as does clear polyurethane. Colour the underlying river-bed before you do the water for better realism. The colour has to dry first, and not be reactive to the clear coating.



Big thanks to Al and Terry for sharing. Please do keep them coming!

That’s all for today peeps.

Don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide is here is today is the big day when you make a start.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.


20 Responses to Al makes his own couplers

  1. ben miller says:

    neat idea

  2. Good idea for the couplers Al.and Terry has give some good tips there

  3. some good detailing tips, and most of them involve verry little cost,,,thats a good thing!!!!

  4. Ralph says:

    Great idea Al it should work well on any scale using the right square section.
    Thanks for the great tips Terry, I have a water mill that needs some realistic water, I’ll give it a try.

  5. great tips and photos will give them a try for shore.

  6. Tom says:

    Al Lyons,
    I am doing ” N ” The coupler tip is going to help me because I have a problem with some couplers not being even. Also, cars seems to be a little light may need to add some weight … oh well, that is another situation. My passenger cars have a tendency to derail; solution I am looking for.

    Surf board (foam) scenery sounds great. Foam works great. I am doing 2′ X 6′ X 2″ N layout, using foam board. I have additional 2′ X 6′ X 2″ and a 2′ X 4′ x 2″ foam boards. All cut from a 4′ X 8′ X 2″ foam board. I can add to or take away from as needed. Yep, foam works great.

    Thanks Al and Terry … thanks Al, for bringing it all to use, your our hero!!

    Best regards always,

  7. Dave Fairfull says:

    Thank you for the tip Al. I will be using it for my scratch built HO logging cars. Also Terry some ideas I have never thought of. Thank you both.

  8. paul Otway says:

    neat trick

  9. john wisnieski says:

    Nothing like being resourceful. What gives with the ebay site, it dosen’t come like it had been?

  10. Greg says:

    That is billiant – if I wasn’t getting rid of all my Bachmann N Amfleet cars, I’d try that there.

  11. Jim Moe says:

    Great idea, Al, I am going to try it for Ho scale conversion from truck mounted draw bars to body mounted.

  12. Cary Price says:

    Homemade couplers? what a great idea! I work in G scale where everything is so expensive and I quite often have to change couplers when I buy a new piece of rolling stock so they all match. There are kits of chemicals you can buy where you can take a master part, pour a mold around it and then fill the mold with resin to reproduce your part. Coupler components might be the perfect item to “pour my own”. Great idea, thanks for the tip! Cary in KY

  13. I like to color sawdust with those Easter-egg dye pellets. Just create the dye according to the directions. Then you can mix up different combinations of colors for natural variety. If you buy right after Easter, they are even cheaper. Then mix in sawdust to order. Good for grass, bushes (rougher sawdust) or tree leaves. I get sawdust from my high school woodshop after class.

  14. Robert Brady says:

    AL where can i find the plastic square rod or maybe c [ channel ?

  15. Robert Brady says:

    Question: where would we get the square stock for HO AL?
    I actually have 3 box cars to fix all have broken coupler boxes.
    Robert Brady

  16. Steve Joyce says:

    Been modifying couplers for years. Problem when you are modelling German. For some reason all the different manufacturers use different couplers.

  17. Mark Johnson says:

    I just inherited a tin full of those couplers, and I was about to start experimenting with different ways of mounting them to change over from the D type couplers I currently have. I don’t need to experiment now, thank you. A quick search for “square section styrene pipe” on ebay revealed lots of it in varying sizes, just in case you can’t get to a model shop that sells it. Thanks to all.
    Mark J

  18. Tim Lowe says:

    Very clever! I like this!

  19. Jerry Cahan says:

    Also a good idea for a 3d printer. I make a lot o parts that are currently unavailable with the printer.

  20. Malcolm says:

    For Terry – What is a “surfboard blank” and where do you buy one? If it’s exactly what it sounds like, where I live is landlocked and there’s no surfing around here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *