Closecouplers.

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Closecouplers.

#1

Post by RSR Engineer » Mon Oct 15, 2018 10:22 pm

Not sure if this qualifies as a review; I'll leave that decision to Site Admin.

If I may be permitted to document my experiences with European closecouplers over the years on my old layout.

The purpose of closecouplers, i.e. running buffer-to-buffer round curves, is very desirable, as it improves the appearance of any train, but especially corridor coaches. One or two design principles have to be adhered to, namely: the coupler when joined must form a rigid drawbar, and must "lengthen" itself on a curve to keep the buffers safely apart. OK, we know all this. The earliest, originally developed by Röwa and introduced by Roco in the mid 1970s, created the drawbar from two parallel shafts that locked together when coupling up. Two years later pre-uncoupling was introduced. In 1985 along came Fleischmann with a sort of buckeye arrangement that incorporated pre-uncoupling from the start. Märklin joined the club in 1987, which was when I started building the old layout in Munich. The Märklin product was the only one at that time that was compatible with the European standard hook and loop coupling. When you have a load of older rolling stock with this earlier coupling, choosing the Märklin is a no-brainer. No way was I going to refit all the old coaches and wagons (not to mention the locomotives) to match either of the other two makes, nor was I going to run with a mixture of couplings.

OK, fine, rakes of corridor coaches look great without gaps between the connections. It didn't take long, however, for buried dogs (as the Germans call them) to poke their ugly heads up. These closecouplers won't do up on a curve, even one of 5 ft radius, let alone the various so-called "standard" ones. This is a consequence of the design. On a straight, the coupling is kept retracted on the centre line of the vehicle by a tension spring. When two vehicles are pushed together on a curve, the couplings are at angle to each other and kept apart by the buffers. This was why I toyed with the idea of the straight platform extensions on the new layout (that idea had to be abandoned). So I suppose I'll have to go back to standard couplings on the locos to facilitate changes of locomotive in the station. And as for shunting wagons...

In a futile attempt to counter this problem (I'd call it a conceptual design fault if I had a better idea myself, but I don't, unfortunately), Märklin have arbitrarily increased the "reach" of the coupling, giving us a gap of some 3 mm between bufferheads (and corridors) when pulling, thus throwing away the visual advantage the closecouplers were designed for in the first place. The matter of the angle of approach remains unaddressed.

Another thing I noticed is that the Märklin closecoupler does not form a rigid drawbar. There is a certain amount of play between two couplings when done up, allowing them to wiggle about a bit. When pulling a train round a curve, the couplings are pulled out against the straightening spring and drawn to the inside of the curve; the longer the train, the sharper the effect. When the train enters a straight, the straightening spring is not strong enough to retract the couplings completely and force them back to the centre line, and the drawbar gets stuck on that side of the curved guides. And because of that wiggle play, the drawbar gets kinked. When the curve goes the other way, the drawbar will not move across and the vehicles can get pulled off the track, especially on points and crossings. Most coaches can be kept in fixed rakes with the other makes of couplers, Roco and Fleischmann, which are not so wiggly, but the problem of goods trains remains unsolved.

My British rolling stock has no closecouplers (since there'll be no mixing of stock), so I'd be interested to hear of other members' experiences with them and any solutions found.

Cheers,
Artur

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Re: Closecouplers.

#2

Post by Mountain Goat » Mon Oct 15, 2018 11:01 pm

I only have one experience with a close coupling system and it was when Bachmann brought out their Mk1's. Lovely looking coaches but the close coupling with the nem pockets gave me so much flack that I decided to sell the coaches and stick to Lima and the newer Triang coaches for Mk1's as at least these either ran well or could be made to run well via changing wheels in regards to Triang.
Back in the early 1980's I bought three Hornby Mk2's from WHSmiths. Was the last time I noticed they sold Hornby. They didn't have a close coupling system as such, but they did bring their corridor con actions nice and close, and they ran OK as well.

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Re: Closecouplers.

#3

Post by RSR Engineer » Tue Oct 16, 2018 11:05 am

Thank you for your comments, MG. I'd be interested to know just what sort of problems your closecouplers gave you. Were the coupling heads able to form a rigid drawbar? Coz if not, I'm sure they gave you no joy. Was there no other way to keep those Bachmann coaches in service? They are very nice models, after all.

Cheers,
Artur

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Re: Closecouplers.

#4

Post by Mountain Goat » Tue Oct 16, 2018 12:59 pm

What was happening was that the tension lock couplings were so flexible in the vertical plane due to the close coupling combined with the nem pockets that there was no way one could push a rake of coaches through pointwork or curves without buffer locking, or having one coupling dive beneath another. To be honest, I had enough issues with the coaches in the forward direction if the loco has a slight shudder or if I tried to slow down.
There was a solution and that came in the form of buying new commonwealth bogies which were available as an option for £5 a pair. However I'd already paid the very high price of around £20 a coach which in those days was a lot as most coaches were £8 to £12.50 each, and one could buy a all wheel pickup and dual drive Bachmann class 46 for £45 back then, so to pay an extra £5 per coach to bring them up to around £25 each was just not on. The commonwealth bogies had the couplings mounted on them. There wasn't an option of another bogie which would fit that had the couplings on the bogie.
I was left with a choice. I'd paid around £160 for a rake of eight. I could either pay a further £40 for bogies (If I could get enough of them!) or I could work on them myself or sell them. I didn't want to work on them myself as I could have potentially lost all my investment. I decided to sell them and got £80 for them which is the highest offer I could find. I didn't have them long!
That was the last time I ever purchased new coaches in 00 gauge. I decided that I'd only buy secondhand because I could guarantee that I knew they would work well.
I do like the close coupling idea, but to me the good running abilities of coaches are the most important aspect of a model railway, as it just doesn't look right to have derailed coaches.
I was told that Bachmann coaches run well if I'd run them as fixed sets with the fixed replacement coupling, but I found that I had just as much issues with the coupling of the coach to the loco as the coach to coach issue I was having, and besides, I had bought a rake of eight coaches which I had in mind that I could run them as an eight coach express or two four coach ordinary services etc, so fixed rakes wasn't practical.

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Re: Closecouplers.

#5

Post by Mountain Goat » Tue Oct 16, 2018 1:05 pm

I have an advantage with 7mm narrow gauge in the couplings I make are closely coupled (Closer then if I used tension lock) and they allow for very sharp curves. I appreciate that they wouldn't look the part for 00 gauge use.
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Re: Closecouplers.

#6

Post by RSR Engineer » Sun Oct 21, 2018 4:37 pm

Thank you again for your comments, MG. If I understand you correctly, the couplers wobbled up and down. They're obviously no use like that and I suspect that even if you'd used "proper" closecouplers they'd still have given you aggro. Actually, the NEM mounts on my Liliput Baden express coaches are also quite sloppy, good thing I keep the rake permanently together (using Roco's couplers, which stay in line the best) with standard couplings at the ends. Seems to be an issue with Bachmann's NEM mounts rather than with closecouplers per se.

Cheers,
Artur

Of course, on narrow gauge with its centre buffers you really can't go wrong...

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Re: Closecouplers.

#7

Post by Mountain Goat » Sun Oct 21, 2018 6:47 pm

Yes. The couplings were definitely a little too flexible. Thanks RSR. Yes. Narrow gauge centre coupling has a huge advantage in its ability to take sharp curves. I did initially try using a hook in the centre of the buffer like the chopper type couplings but they didn't like the sharp curves and also didn't like heavy loads. Instead, I used a loop to drop over the buffer and it worked.

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Re: Closecouplers.

#8

Post by raetiamann » Thu Nov 08, 2018 8:11 am

I have had European layouts in the past and have used Fleischmann profi and Roco couplings; I think the visual benefit of close coupling is huge. Now I model British outline and have found the European couplings simply won't work.

What I have done is to use Bachmann semi permanent close couplings, which look good on straight track and allow me to get around a quite tight curve into the fiddle yard. One point is the Mk2 coaches seem to handle curves better than Mk1s (all Bachmann coaches).

The one drawback is the lack of flexibility, which means I have 'fixed' rakes running.

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Re: Closecouplers.

#9

Post by Maz066 » Thu Nov 08, 2018 10:58 am

Has anyone any experience with the Keens coupling system
http://www.keen-systems.com/Couplings.html
Peter

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