As part of the post Sparsholt quest for improvements I promised myself I’d look at different couplings to try and improve reliability of operation.
Over the last week or two I’ve been looking at all sorts of couplings; DG, Alex Jackson, MBD, Dingham, Fleischmann Profi and even ways to modify the Arnold ‘Rapido’ design ‘standard’ N gauge coupling.
The issue I have is that, where I will be using a turntable to turn locos in between running into, and out of, Isle Ornsay, the couplings need to be identical at either end of an item of stock. This would avoid awkward moments where two hooks meet one another with no loop to couple up!
To date I’ve been using Greenwich couplings, a loop and hook at one end, and hook only at the other, obviously not suitable for use with a turntable. Some people have informed me they operate theirs with loops at both ends, but having tested that option I find it ends up being quite unreliable and doesn’t make for true hands off operation.
I’ve decided to test Micro Trains couplings following some discussion with both Michael Campbell and Colin Peak who both use them already. They are essentially a knuckle coupler which is widely used in American N scale, symmetrical at either end, and thereby potentially just the job for Isle Ornsay. They also resemble couplings that were used in real life in parts of the world, if not widely in the UK.
Clockwise from the bogies at the front are; two pre made bogies with wheels and couplings already fitted, two uncoupling magnets, a height gauge for the pin at the base of the couplings, some of the common body mounted variety of the couplings, some couplings designed to fit a Rapido coupling pocket, two packs of the bogies with pre-fitted couplings, a coupling height gauge, and an assembly jig.
The bogies with the couplings pre-fitted were something that Colin pointed out to me, they work out cheaper than buying couplings and bogies separately, and take away the hassle of having to build, well, anything! That’s partly why I didn’t get on with the Greenwich couplings, I am too hamfisted to get consistent results for something so important for reliable operation. The option to have pre-made Micro Trains couplings really appeals, but I’ve got the jig and some unassembled ones to have a go at them as well.
In comparison the MT couplings appear quite unobtrusive, and they have the added bonus of having a further flexible joint built into them to improve their ability to cope with curves.
I still want to be able to retain the ability for remote uncoupling, so the MT uncoupling magnets are important. They are much longer than those required for the Greenwich couplings, but they can be broken down to shorter lengths, like shown in the image below.
The smaller portion still seems to have enough power to operate the couplings from some crude testing. I’ll set up a small test track on some foamboard over the weekend to evaluate them properly. The strength of the magnets is very important, the Parkside Dundas Tralee & Dingle Wagons I’m planning on using extensively on the layout seem to have quite ferrous wheel tyres or axles as they are attracted to the magnets I currently have fitted, and therefore have a bit of a bumpy ride!
The Micro Trains ones seem a little less of an issue, but again the test will tell for sure.
I’ll report back once I’ve had a little more time to evaluate them.