Drawbars for Intermodal Cars

There are many cars running the rails today that are drawbar connected sets of 2, 3, or 4 cars. Athearn and Walthers have both released thier stand alone well cars painted as drawbar connected sets. Other manufacturers have released other types of cars that can also be found in drawbar connected sets. For intermodal modelers like myself, the most important of these ars is the Alan Curtis Models ( now N-Scale Kits ) Tripple 53 and Tripple 57 version of thier 89 ft flatcars.

Until recently, the there were only two viable options for drawbar connected sets of these cars.

One option was to modify a rapido coupler into an H shape so that the two sides of the H could be inserted into coupler boxes on adjacent cars. I believe athearn uses this technique for thier drawbar connected Gunderson cars.

The second option is to use a drawbar that is connected to each car through the truck kingpin. Drawbars of this type are commercially available, in etched brass, and also sometimes used on steam locomotives to connect the tender. In the past, I have constructed drawbars of this type from thin plastic.

Both of these options work, but neither is visually appealing.

Micro-Trains recently introduced link and pin style couplers for civil war era cars. When I first saw these, I thought they might make a good option for body mounted drawbars, so I ordered a set to experiment with.

MTL Link and Pin couplers

The link and pin couplers come with what appear to be pre-assembled Z-scale ( MTL905 ) coupler boxes. The coupler itself is a drawbar that snaps onto the mounting boss/coupler pivot inside the box.

MTL Link and Pin coupler components

My experiment mounted a drawbar on two units of a Walthers 3-unit Thrall set. I used boxes from MTL1025 couplers instead of the supplied boxes (this allowed me to use some coupler boxes recycled from coupers with broken knuckles. ) These are mounted in the same manner as the body mounted couplers used on the cars A and B ends.

MTL 1025 coupler boxes mounted to the underside of a Walther's Thrall stack car.  Drawbars connecting the two halves (truck removed for visibility)

I think the result is quite pleasing to the eye, and looks better than any other drawbars I have seen in N-scale.

finished product showing close coupling

Additionally, unlike other drawbar connection methods, the units of the car will pull apart with a little force. This means you can return the cars to the boxes they were delivered in without any tools or removing the trucks from the car.

For those of you who truck mount couplers, the link and pin drawbars can be utilized in the same manner by removing the guts of the coupler from the box. The coupers components can be used as spare parts.

This page has been created and maintained with pico and vi. Please address corrections and comments to paul.bender@acm.org