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Kadee 1906 Couplers on an Aristo-Craft Tankcar

This article details a method of installing Kadee 1906 (Gauge 1) couplers on an Aristo-Craft tankcar.


Place the car upside down on a soft surface such a foam-lined cradle. Remove the four screws under the frame holding the straps near the ends of the tank. Fasten the screws back in the straps so they do not get lost.


If the center post on the bottom of the tank that holds it to the frame has a plastic wedge in it, remove it. Remove the tank from the frame by pulling it up at each end. It is a tight fit and may have to be gently rocked end-to-end to remove it. Set the tank aside for now.

Remove the screws from the center of the truck bolsters. Fasten the screws back in the frame so they do not get lost.


Remove the screw from the bottom from each of the Aristo-Craft coupler shanks. Place the screws and couplers in a small Ziploc bag and store them in the tankcar packaging.

The bottom of the end sills on the frame are the correct height for mounting Kadee 1906 couplers, but the openings in the center of each will have to be filled. From a strip of 1/8 by 3/16 inch styrene, cut two lengths 5/8 of an inch long. Sand the ends of each piece until they fit snugly into the openings and flush with the front of the sills. A Northwest Short Line, True Sander is a good tool for this as it will not only sand the shims, it will ensure the ends are perfectly square. Clean the styrene dust from the shims.


Super glue the pieces in the openings of the frame with the front sides flush with the front of the sills. Paint them flat black.

From the same strip of 1/8 x 3/16 inch styrene, cut two pieces 3/4 of an inch long. File the numbers off the tops of the Kadee coupler box covers and super glue a piece on edge to the top of each cover as shown. Paint the shims flat black.


Pop a cover and coupler box together. Set the coupler box on the center of the frame with the lip of the cover flush against the front of the frame sill. Holding the coupler box firmly, use the front and rear holes as guide to drill 3/32 inch holes through the frame. Repeat the process for the other end of the frame.


Fine-threaded 3/4 inch machine screws, like Kadee supplied with their 820 couplers, will be required to fasten the 1906 couplers to the frame. Paint the tops of the screws flat black.

When they are dry, slip them through the holes in the top of the frame. Assemble the couplers and slip them over the screws. Fasten the nuts on the bottom of the screws until they are snug against the bottom of the coupler box. Test the couplers to ensure they can return to their center position. Paint the nuts flat black as this may keep them from coming loose.


Remove the wheels and axles by gently spreading the truck side frames. Next remove the brake shoe holders shown at the bottom of the photo. Be careful not to lose the two small springs from each. If a spring is lost, it can replaced with a spring from a hook and loop coupler. To prevent the springs from getting lost, place a small puddle of CA (super glue) on a piece of paper. Place the end of the springs in it and glue the springs back into the brake shoe holders.

Remove the bolsters from the side frames. Using a razor saw cut the drawbar from the bolster at the red line shown in the photo. File or sand the ends of the drawbars smooth. Spread a little plastic compatible grease on the cut end of the drawbars to restore the shine. Wipe off any excess with a tissue. Clean the black dust off the work area and wash your hands.


Place some plastic compatible grease in the slots at the end of the bolsters. Hold a sideframe upside-down and insert the end of the bolster into it. Push the bolster down to the top of the sideframe to hold it in place. The holes in the bolster for the springs should be facing up. Add the other sideframe to the bolster.

Place a brake shoe holder, with the springs pointed down, behind the side frame. Angle the brake shoe holder until the springs are through the opening in the sideframe and their ends engage the near side of the pins in the holes in the bolster. Carefully angle the lip on the top of the brake shoe holder down until it just clears the top of the opening in the sideframe. Push the lip through the opening until it just clears the other side of the side frame. Square up the brake shoe part with the back of the side frame. With any luck the brake shoe part and springs are in place. Do not become discouraged if you do not get it together with the first try, I didn’t. With a little patience and practice however, this will become a lot easier.


Repeat the process for the other truck.

Spread a little plastic compatible grease on the end of the axle of each wheel. Insert the axles into the sideframe bushings one-at-a-time by gently spreading the side frames. Place the trucks on a piece of track and test the action of the springs by pressing down on the center of the bolsters.

Remove the screws from the frame and use them to install the trucks.



Install the tank on the frame and secure it with the two straps.


Congratulations, you have successfully installed a set of Kadee 1906 couplers on an Aristo-Craft tank car.



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