Bottom Operating Cut Levers For San Juan Couplers

Author Scott Spears

When I originally designed my Virginia & Western Railway, the main objectives were to look and operate like the prototype. This meant being able to uncouple cars anywhere on the layout. There are many ways to do this, but I wanted operating cut levers like the real thing. On the prototype, the cut lever is lifted at the handle, causing the lever to rotate and lift the coupler pin. The prototype coupler uses a two piece lift pin to accomplish this lifting. I use San Juan couplers that have the lift pin molded from in a single piece. (It would be near impossible to duplicate the prototype). This compromise eliminates the possibility of using a rotating the lever, so below is my solution to fabricating and installing an operating cut lever.

The cut lever is made from .020″ brass wire. To get the proper bends, refer to a prototype photo. Once the basic shape is formed, make an elongated loop at the coupler end to allow for coupler movement side to side. Make sure this loop is level with the coupler and the diameter is large enough to prevent binding in the lever and the coupler motion. Enlarge the hole in the coupler lift pin with a #75 drill before inserting the lever loop. The returning loop hangs below the coupler. The cut lever is attached to the car using a mount bracket fabricated from .010″ thick brass bent into the shape of an “L”. Drill two holes on the horizontal surface and solder a loop of .005″ brass wire in place on the topside. Make sure the cut lever passes through the loop freely. For additional strength when attaching the mount bracket to plastic cars, solder a pin to the backside of the bracket. Drill a hole through the carbody. Insert the pin through the body and epoxy in place.

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