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Couplers and looks

19589 Views 30 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  ayvareceli
QUOTE I think that replacing couplers will make a bigger difference looks wise than wheels

Noting Dennis's comment elsewhere, what are the views on of Model Rail Forum members?

Happy modelling
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Horses for courses, as with wheel standards. I was brought up with Hornby Dublo and always thought their couplings better than Triangs; I now prefer the look of three link/ screw couplings, but how many beginners could be bothered with fiddling about with tweezers to couple up- the automatic coupling definitely has its place.
In the US it has long been considered gospel that you weren't a serious scale modeller if you hadn't converted your entire roster to Kadee type couplers.

I guess I'll have to be a little less serious.
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Dennis, serious modeller or not, what is your considered opinion of Kadee?
They certainly look neat but are there any downsides?

I see you have a lot of European N models - have you converted any to Kadee?

Any opinion on the Fleschmann Profi couplings?
Parden my ignorance but talking of couplings, what exactly are NEM? I have a mixture of Hornby and Bachmann locos and rolling stock. In my opinion the Hornby couplings are absolutely gross, the smaller Bachmann ones (are these NEM) although working on the same principle look much tidier. I have looked at the Kadee system, it appears to be the way forward, particularly the versatile uncoupling method.

NEM refers to a set of standards, as such there isn't really an NEM coupling but rather an NEM pocket, this allows differant couplings to be clipped into the pocket so as to make changing couplings easier.

As for couplings, well I've tried a lot of couplings in my search for the ideal, so here is a list of them with some comments, all just my opinion though.

Tension Lock (Hornby/Bachmann type)
These couple well, and work on tight curves, and are double ended so you can turn your stock. However they are difficult to uncouple without an ugly ramp between the rails, and are quite obtrusive as they are both highly visible and don't look like any prototype coupling.

Peco/Hornby Dublo Simplex
The "magni-simplex" version of these is the better of these as they couple and uncouple better than the original version. They work on tight radius curves, but like the tension locks they are difficult to uncouple without an ugly magnet or device between the rails, and are quite obtrusive as they are both highly visible and don't look like any prototype coupling.

Fleischmann/European standard
These are similar to the B&B/DG couplings mentioend below, but are not magnetically operated.

Spratt & Winkle
These work well but can be a bit difficult to uncouple at times. I found it best to have a hook at one end and loop at the other, but then you can't turn your stock. Also I find they are quite obtrusive, you can fit a smaller version (use 3mm couplings on 4mm stock) but then you may have problems on tighter radius curves.

DG / B&B
Similar comments as the Spratt & Winkle, you also may need to omit some buffer beam detail in order to fit them.

Kadee / SEM mk2
Again these work well, and being identical at both ends of the stock, enable stock to be turned. However they don't look right on most steam era models, especially 4 wheel wagons and vans.Also as most people use these at the H0 scale height, they tend to look like an after thought, and don't fit the models, although this can be improved by fitting them at the correct 4mm scale height, but that requires a lot of modifications to the chassis, and in any case some bufferbeam details need to be omitted. They also require shuffling back and forth to get the delay action to work, and don't couple or uncouple well on tight curves.

Lincs Auto Couplings
I found these to be excellent, very easy to fit, you can have full buffer beam detail and even have scale 3/screw links fitted as they do not get in the way of the auto coupling. Only downside is they don't have a delay action. No problems coupling or uncoupling on 18" radius curves or above.

Alex Jackson
These work beautifully, are practically invisible at most distances, and allow full buffer beam detail. Of course you have to make them yourself, and they can be a little fiddly to set up. Will uncouple but won't couple on tight curves.

These look quite good and work very well, they are a little fiddly to make. They work as well as Alex Jacksons, but are single ended so you can't turn your stock.

3 links (+ screw & instanter)
They look great, but require a steady hand and patience when coupling and uncoupling.

Umm, I think that's every coupling on the market isn't it?
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Lisa, we have spoken about this before elsewhere, but I am generally dissatisfied with Hornby tension lock couplers (looks, functionality and compatibility), and I am intending to do a mass overhaul of the couplers on my running stock (about 15 locos, 20 coaches and 25 waggons) that are mainly British with some continental steam, based on your experience, what would you recommend?
A great list and some I don't know - a little research may now keep me occupied the rest of today!

Do the Fleishchmann Profi couplings fit into that list anywhere?
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It is a good list and should be added to the resource section.

Now that many of the new Hornby locos and rolling stock have the NEM sockets than it would be useful to have a reference so that visitors can see what the alternatives forms of couplers are.

Clearly a consideration for many is how simple couplings are for juniors to use. How about rating them on a scale of 1 to 10 for ease of coupling and unhooking. Can they unhook automatically with appropriate help?

And of course price is a factor. You can pick up Hornby couplers for 25p or less in bulk.

I am only used to Dublo claw and Triang Hornby tension couplers. The issue with the Dublo couplers is that they do have a tendency to uncouple at random on uneven track. (there we go again - uneven track!

Happy modelling
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QUOTE Lisa ... I am generally dissatisfied with Hornby tension lock couplers (looks, functionality and compatibility), and I am intending to do a mass overhaul of the couplers on my running stock ... based on your experience, what would you recommend?

Couplings are quite a personal thing really, as what suits one person may not suit another. At present I'm using 3 links, but am looking at changing to an auto coupling soonish, so like you I'm considering the best option, except I've used them all before so know the good and bad points of each. I think you need to look at what you want in a coupling, for me that's reliable/works well, type of magnet required, unobtrusive, easy to fit/make, low maintenance, able to be used on curves down to 18" radius.

Just to show my thought process I'll break that down a bit.

Reliable/works well
I want a coupling that couples/uncouples smoothly, this means I should be able to couple up to a wagon without it rolling away, or needing a hefty thump at speed. For uncoupling I want to be able to stop in the right place and it's uncoupled, no shuffling back and forth to uncouple. A delay action is usefull, but not essential, if it does have a delay action again I don't want to be shuffling back and forth to get it to work, ultimately simply backing a train over a magnet should be alll that is required to uncouple and set the delay.
Couplings which meet these criteria are; Alex Jackson, Lincs, B&B/DG, Dingham.

Type of magnet required
I have also taken into consideration what type of magnet is needed to operate the coupling, most couplings can be uncoupled with an ordinary bar magnet or electromagnet between the rails or under the track, others require their own special magnets sold by the manufacturer, which are costly compared to a magnet from the local supermarket/hardware/electronics store, and I don't want to be paying a fortune for magnets.
Couplings which meet these criteria are; Alex Jackson, Lincs, B&B/DG, Dingham, Spratt & Winkle.

This means one of two things, it either has to look like a prototype coupling, or be difficult to see (you don't have to see a coupling, that's why it's automatic, so you don't need to see it!). I'd also consider the ability to have a fully detailed bufferbeam to be important here, I don't want to loose details or have to carve out the bufferbeam in order to have auto-couplings.
Couplings which meet these criteria are; Alex Jackson, Lincs, Dingham. Kadee's are OK on BR and LNER coaches and some loco's (and US prototypes), but look awful on wagons and tank engines, so I don't consider them an option.

Easy to fit/make
I don't want a coupling which is too fiddly to make, likewise I don't want to have to make major modifications to my stock to fit it, and that includes removing details.
Couplings which meet these criteria are; Lincs.

low maintenance
Unless it gets damaged I don't expect to have to do anything to a coupling once it is fitted, perhaps a dab of lubricant now and then if needed but that's all.
Couplings which meet these criteria are; Lincs, Kadee, Spratt & Winkle.

Able to be used on curves down to 18" radius
My layout doesn't have curves tighter than about 2'6", but I have a circular test track of 19" radius which I expect all my stock to negotiate, I also don't want an unsightly gap when the vehicles are on straight track. Whether a vehicle can couple or uncouple on these curves isn't overly important, but is prefered.
Couplings which meet these criteria are; Lincs, Spratt & Winkle, Alex Jackson.

So looking at that the main options are Lincs or Alex Jackson, Lincs meets all the criteria but doesn't have a delay action, while Alex Jackson has a delay action but can be fiddly to make. There isn't a lot in it really so I'm still unsure.

The only other thing I might consider is using a DCC function in my loco's to uncouple, and in this case the Lincs coupling is the better option, making the coupling DCC controlled would also negate the need for a delayed action.

I'm still thinking about which of the two I'll go for though.

The only thing I haven't included in my reasoning is NEM pockets, as I always cut them off as I think they spoil the appearance of a model which usually has a quite open and "skeletal" look to its underframe.

Gary, you're welcome to add that list to the resource section of the site.
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Unfortunately, again and I feel absolutely unavoidably, we meet this very hard to bridge divide between childrens' toys and adults' models.

I think the Hornby couplings are just fine for kids.
Doug seems not at all impressed with their function, where my limited experience is that they function as well as anything else and maybe better than many but do look absolutely horrendous! I have at least three other types of couplings on various models (four incuding N gauge) and none look quite as horrible as Hornby but, other than the N gauge, none actually work any better either. Hence my deep interest in the subject.

Also again, this is one of those areas where there is a big overlap between gauges and scales - this subject could be of interest to many people, no matter what or where they model.
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Rail Rider, I tend to agree with you that the Hornby/Bachmann couplings are fine for kids and beginners, replacing with for something that looks and works better is best left to the individual modeller IMO.

Also, here's some links for various couplings.
Spratt & Winkle
Alex Jackson
Thanks for the links Lisa.

Unfortunately it looks as though Lincs Auto Couplers, (Richard Tarpey, Billingborough, Lincs) don't have a web site, but I might find info on them on someone else's site.
In the meantime, here is a neat animation of how Kadee couplers work.
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There's an article on the Lincs autocouplers in British Railway Modelling Vol. 2 No.1, if you can get a copy it's worth a read.
I managed to find a page on a Canadian site that contains some very reasonable photographs of variations on European HO couplings, together with some useful opinion on them. These probably won't interest British modellers, though will be useful to others.
Well . . . . That certainly answered my question regarding couplers but now the alternatives appear to be more numerous than I have time to try. The only way would seem to find a local club and see some of the systems in operation. The reason I was impressed with the Kadee system was because they took the trouble to explain it on their website. Thanks Lisa for the list.

If I keep posting at this rate I might get promotion to timetable compiler.

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NMRA has standards for couplers and in the US most try to be Kadee compatable because that's what everybody uses. With N-Scale it depends on what prototype you model. Most of the US continental modelers that I know stick with Rapido couplers because they're too lazy and their corners might be to tight and they need the extra daylight between cars. Also with passenger cars there's usually less switching

My personal opinion regarding Kadee couplers is as follows ... if they had a Nobel Prize for Model Railroading then this company should get the first one. In the US it's all about realistic operation and with freight being king there is a lot of switching and yard work. For that you need dependable couplers (No we don't fiddle about with our hands
). Kadee came to the rescue and the rest is history. If you decide that you wish to convert some of your rolling stock get one of these:

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Kadee's are fine on US stock, but look totally wrong on 95% of British models, if you use that height gauge your couplings will be 2-3mm too low for 00 scale, and IMO they don't work that well anyway.
I might beg to differ on how well they work based on the fact that they are so well regarded in the U.S. but I also understand that people tend to get pretty attached
to their choice of couplers.

The jig shown is for HO but I assume you could either modify or build one that would work. Is there an equivalent coupler that is more prototypical for British Models?
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They do mostly work as they are intended to, but I don't consider shuffling back and forth to uncouple then set the delay action good policy.
The best prototype coupling for British models is the 3 link type, but these aren't automatic, if you want an automatic/magnetic coupling the closest to prtotype is the Dingham which resembles a 3 link but is an auto coupler with magnetic and delayed uncoupling.
The more common option though is to use a coupling which is unobtrusive to the point of being almost invisable, and this is where the Lincs and Alex Jackson types come in to play.
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