JMTN blog

(Japanese Model Train Newsletter)

MicroAce coupler review

This is a review and my conclusions after trying out the new MicroAce couplers.

MicroAce (and all other manufacturers except Kato) have always made provision for the excellent Tomix TN close couplers to be fitted to their trains. Recently they decided to bring out their own range of couplers in competition to Tomix. The items available are …

  • F0001 – Micro Coupler x6 (Scharfenburg type) – black
  • F0002 – Micro Coupler x6 (Scharfenburg type) – gray
  • F0003 – Micro Coupler x6 (Buckeye type) – black
  • F0004 – Micro Coupler x6 (Buckeye type) – gray

I had just bought the ‘Roman’ Joyful passenger set, so I though I would try out these new couplers on it – the appropriate item for this set is F0003.  One good reason to use these might be that the retail price is 20% lower than Tomix’s price for a set of 6. 

p6155505.jpg     p6155507.jpg

As you can see above, they come in a blister back with a cardboard back. The couplers are mounted on the car floor the same as TN’s by using the side flanges with two holes in them. You either take off the bogie mounted coupler in the case of MicroAce, or cut it off with all other manufacturers. As you can see from the instructions, just push the cars together to coupler, and pull them apart by twisting vertically. Tomix TN’s are uncoupled by strongly pulling apart horizontally, but the MicroAce ones will not come apart horizontally, because of the jaw shape.

The coupler actually has a pin in the head which is used to swivel the two ‘jaws’, and one of these (the one on the right) is attached to a thin plastic ‘finger’ that runs back along the coupler shaft. Moving the jaw outwards brings the finger into tension so it will spring back and hold the jaws closed, but without tension it swings outwards, and closes the jaws. In this mode, two cars would not automatically couple together without manual intervention. The shape of the inside of the jaws is different to the Tomix TN’s, so they will not lock together with each other.

p6155503.jpg

Here is the bottom of the coupler, and you can see the pin that allows the two jaws to swivel.

p6155502.jpg 

Here you can see what happens when the freely swinging finger closing the jaws.

The couplers also has one nub on each side of the jaws, to prevent vertical movement. However it is not completely secure, and you can force the cars apart this way. I would not swing two cars around in the air the same way I do to show how secure the Tomix TN couplers are. Tomix’s couplers have one nub on one side and two on the other that lock inside each other, so you cannot force them apart vertically. However I could not get the MicroAce ones to come apart by twisting vertically as the instructions suggested, and I had to use the pure vertical separation method to separate them by just sliding them apart.

 

So – are they better than the TN’s ???

p6155499.jpg

Here are two cars coupled together using Tomix TN couplers.

p6155500.jpg

Here are two cars coupled together using the MicroAce couplers

p6155501.jpg

Here are two cars coupled together using the original Rapidos. Many of MicroAce’s recent releases have Rapido couplers that are quite closely set in on the bogies, so the inter-car gap is not very large at all, compared to what it used to be, and what other manufacturers use.

I think you can see the problem – the MicroAce couplers do not even reduce the gap compared to the original couplers – it is bigger 😦

Here is the data …

  • Tomix couplers – maximum gap – 11/64″

  • Tomix couplers – minimum gap – 7/64″

  • MicroAce couplers – maximum gap – 16/64″

  • MicroAce couplers – minimum gap – 14/64″

  • Rapido couplers – maximum gap – 15/64″

  • Rapido couplers – minimum gap – 12/64″ (at rest)

  • Rapido couplers – minimum gap – 7/64″ (when springs are compressed)

The differences between maximum & minimum are because of loosely fitting couplers or the coupler mount, or the coupler head gap or spring tension in the Rapidos. Also don’t worry if you don’t understand Imperial measurements – I only used them because I could accurately get smaller measurements than ‘mm’ on my ruler, and I didn’t reduce them for easy comparison purposes, as well as for those people who didn’t know that 12/64″ is the same as 3/16″ 🙂

Conclusion:

Why would you buy MicroAce’s new couplers ? They may be a little cheaper, but they …

  1. do not give a closer (or even equivalent) inter-car gap compared to Tomix’s TN couplers – do not even give a better gap than the standard Rapido couplers, therefore they do not look good.

  2. do not come apart as the instruction suggest, and may have a tendency to come apart vertically, therefore they could be unreliable.

  3. may not couple up properly because of the loosely swinging finger causing the jaws to close up, therefore again may be unreliable.

  4. will not couple up to Tomix TN’s, because the jaw shape is different, therefore are not useful unless you use them exclusively.

  5. are not available for locos, so if you add these to a passenger train, you still have to leave the Rapido’s on the end cars.

My advise is to not waste your money and don’t buy them. Either leave the Rapidos on as they are if the inter-car gap is not too bad, or if you really just hate Rapidos (like I do), spend a little extra and use Tomix TN couplers. Originally the best coupler system on the market, and now still unchallenged 🙂

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June 15, 2007 - Posted by | MicroAce

10 Comments »

  1. That leaves me with which dealer? None so far that I can find in the U.S.

    Comment by Pat | September 28, 2008 | Reply

  2. Pat, if you haven’t received your 25 set yet, you will find that it will show you which couplers can be used on the instruction sheet. Otherwise contact the dealer you bought it from, as they should be able to advise you what your options are – if they can’t, then you should buy your trains from a reputable dealer that will provide after-sales service !!!

    Comment by redracer | September 27, 2008 | Reply

  3. I have ordered a Series 25 set (Tomix) and I still cannot figure out what Tomix part number for the kunckle coupler yet for that set I had bought. The problem I have is that I ordered mine from Hobbysearch (in Japan) and everything is in Japanese. There’s no U.S. based Japanese train dealer as of yet (except 1 that I know of). A few I looked at kinda look do-able but I am not sure. At this point, it’s gonna have to be trail and error until I run across someone who know more about these trains……

    Comment by Pat | September 27, 2008 | Reply

  4. I can’t see why you have wasted ANY dollars Pat? Each set tells you in the instructions which couplers to use, and if you deal with a reputable dealer, they can advise you as well !!!

    Comment by redracer | September 16, 2008 | Reply

  5. By the way, I mostly have Japanese model train and it has been a pain trying to choose the right equipment for the right model. Wasting hundred of dollars in the process.

    Comment by Pat | September 16, 2008 | Reply

  6. Just wondering what’s TN stand for? For an example, Tomix TN coupler …… there are knuckle and none-knuckle coupler with word, TN. I have seen a few of these couplers but I just cannot figure out what’s what yet.

    Comment by Pat | September 15, 2008 | Reply

  7. Chris, I haven’t tried their Scharfenburg type, so cannot comment. If they are as long as the Buckeye type (and when you see them in the package, they do look the same except for the end mechanism), they will be useless for my purposes and I will not be buying any even just to test them. If a customer orders some, I can test them then ….

    Comment by redracer | June 20, 2007 | Reply

  8. Doug,

    I understand your point about the buckeye/knuckle coupler, but what are the Scharfenburg couplers like? Given these are now (understandably) the international 1:1 scale passenger train coupler of choice, are they compatible with tomix and other Scharfenburg? etc etc.

    cheers,
    chris

    Comment by Chris | June 20, 2007 | Reply

  9. Thanks Doug for the review. I will continue to use TN couplers.

    Comment by Malcolm | June 16, 2007 | Reply

  10. Yeah, Tomix have the best coupler system on the market – unless you want to shunt!

    Comment by Matthew | June 15, 2007 | Reply


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