I need help in finding information on changing the couplers on my
English Trains, I have hornby, Lima models they are about 15years old
and have that hook type coupler that hooks over the bar of the next car
Is they a way to change them to more realistic couplers? (The only
example of the coupler I have seen in hobby shops in the US is on
Thomas and friends sold by Bachmann's) I think I would have to
install some sort of conversion kit but not sure.
Any suggesting or web sites I might try to help with this would be
The only reaiastic coupling for most UK portotypes is a small hook
with a chain. This is only practical for simple layouts or larger
There are are number of articles on the web about converting UK
models to Kadee couplings. This is not a easy exercise on some
models as the base of the existing coupling has to be removed
and often the area where the Kadee is to be mounted restored
to a flat surface. There is also the problem that the buffers require
the Kadee to be mounted further out than on US stock.
If you put " UK kadee coupling conversion" or similar phrases into
Google you will find some good advice on how to do this conversion.
tThere are a few options open, one ofcourse is to stay with the traditional
british couplers which work :) Then there are link and hook couplers, which
are realistic, but require at the very least a bar across the buffers to
stop "buffer lock" on curves, Spratt and Winkle couplers which are a near
invisible coupler worked magnetically and are cheap are another option, look
in the British modelling press to obtain them, Kadee style couplers in my
opinion are not an option because except on really modern stock because they
look so wrong, the traditional coupler does the job very efectively they
keep the stock far enough apart to stop buffer lock,and keep them coupled
(!) but the kaydee is a prototypical type which looks totally wrong on any
but the most modern British types, buckeye couplings have been used on
coaching stock for many years but 3 link, Instanter and (on Victorian
period) 5 link and screw link couplers have been the standard on prototype
stock since the beginning, and a kaydee on any P/O wagon (Waggon) looks
just plain ludicrous a real anachronism, maybe its just me but the
usefullness of the kaydee disappears because it looks wrong , for some
reason for me (And others!!) its easier to accept the unprototypical
Walkley coupling ( because it is unprototypical?!) than the kaydees, Spratt
and Winkles magnetically operated couplers are probably the way for you to
go, they are near invisible and allow all the benefits that the Kaydee do
without the visual impact of a foreign bt of kit at both ends jarring the
imagination... The disadvantages of using links and hook is this, propelling
a rake of chain couple wagons, without a wire across the buffer heads will
cause buffer lock, you'll also need very easy curves to stop this happening
too, which is only a minor problem compared to needing the hands of a
neurosurgeon for uncoupling them(He may object to your sawing his mitts off
so you can couple and uncouple a rake of coaches or wagons !) as well as a
microscope to find the bloody things between each and every
As far as finding Spratt and Winkle types go try Hattons (of Liverpool) who
sell everything railwayee :) hope this harangue confuses you less than it
did me writing it.....oh yes there are alo the various couplers sold by
PECO in their catalogue.....oh yes lots of typs matey.. urk! oh yes British
modellers have been discussing this since the twenties when A.R. Walkley
invented HO and his coupler.....
Beowulf (now I'm going for a cup of char....)
Pre the NEM 362 coupler pocket Lima had snap-in couplers on many of it's
These have a vertical snap peg under the frame and the alternatives were:
- UK hook and loop.
- European loop and buffer.
- US horn-hook.
Bogie stock (including locos) did not have removable couplers, the entire
bogie was normally available with either European or UK couplers. In the
case of locos the coupler was a part of the sideframe moulding.
With the European coupler, there were two distinct types, the early very
clumsy type and then for a few years a much finer loop and buffer type much
like a Roco coupler in size. Once the NEM362 coupler pocket was added to
older models a snap-in loop and buffer coupler was produced. This was
slightly larger than the second generation vertical peg type.
Bottom line - you would need to order replacement bogies from Britain to
convert older European models to British couplers, bogies from Europe to
convert older British models to European couplers and from the US to convert
older models to US couplers. If you have models with NEM 362 pockets then
there are Bachmann hook and loop couplers (and possibly Hornby and Dapol)
which will snap in.
Lima only produced a limited selection of it's total range for the US market
but a surprisingly large selection for the UK market.
"Realistic" for British and European prototypes means drawhooks and
screw couplers. Not sure about HO but some UK manufacturers such as
Exactoscale make them in 4mm.
Even high speed trains have screw couplers. See for example the end of a
TGV La Poste half set and the new Siemens ES64U2, one of which recently
set a world record for electric locos of 357km/h.
Of course you could always put Kadees on them. Knuckle couplers aren't
common in the UK and even less common in Europe so they won't look
right, but they won't look any less realistic on a British/European
prototype than the Hornby or Lima types.
Much of Europe bypassed knuckle couplers completely and went straight to
multi-function couplers for multiple unit trains.
A problem with knuckle couplers on European stock is that when set at
"Kadee/correct" height they connect with the buffers. Because there is a
much greater disparity in length between the longest and shortest rolling
stock, the couplers need greater sideways movement than they would on US
stock. Add to that the smaller spaces generally available to European
modellers and the problem is compounded. Most European/British modellers who
successfully use Kadees have straight line layouts.
I've yet to see a worse looking coupler than the Hornby type, other than the
Lima variation of the same thing.
Isn't the Spratt and Winkle an etched brass loop/rising hook coupler?
There's another commonly used British coupler named for the inventor's
initials (won't come to mind just now) which used a wire hook under the
buffer beams and steel chain loops for a magnetic dropper. I tried it but
there is too much side play in HO NEM wheels for reliable coupling.
That's another problem in substituting Kadees, one ends up with 5 pivot
points in the couplings between wagons.
I rejected that option as it places limitations on operations.
That has been one of the reasons why European railways stayed with screw
couplings, in spite of the extra work involved in coupling and uncoupling.
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