Fit Kadee cou­plers

Not a fan of ten­sion locks, CHRIS LEIGH ex­plores the pos­si­bil­i­ties of this US cou­pling sys­tem to bring re­al­is­tic, hands-free shunt­ing to ‘Pol­wyd­de­lan’.

Model Rail (UK) - - Content -

Chris Leigh ex­plores the pos­si­bil­i­ties of this US cou­pling sys­tem to bring re­al­is­tic, hands­free shunt­ing to ‘Pol­wyd­de­lan’.

Cou­plings have al­ways been an is­sue for me. I grew up with the Hornby-dublo/ Peco Sim­plex cou­pler which was OK when it was made of metal. Though it was prone to un­cou­ple un­ex­pect­edly, you could eas­ily ad­just it with a pair of pli­ers. When Hornby-dublo started us­ing plas­tic ver­sions, how­ever, these were more prone to un­cou­pling and im­pos­si­ble to ad­just. Worse still, with the switch to the mas­sive Tri-ang ten­sion lock cou­pling, it was only marginally im­proved when both Bach­mann and Hornby opted to re­duce the size of the ten­sion lock. How­ever, the cur­rent ten­sion lock, in al­most univer­sal use on Bri­tish out­line mod­els, is far from sat­is­fac­tory, in my view. It con­sists of a plas­tic loop to which a ver­ti­cally piv­ot­ing pressed metal hook is at­tached. The cou­pler may be clip-fit­ted into an NEM pocket on more re­cent mod­els, but on older tool­ings it may be at­tached with a self-tap­ping screw or even moulded as part of the chas­sis or bo­gie. In the­ory, this should op­er­ate cor­rectly with the smaller ver­sion, but in prac­tice it doesn’t. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, the metal hook of the mod­ern ten­sion lock is usu­ally loose on the pivot and fre­quently falls off, ren­der­ing the cou­pling use­less. As I write, I have one such hook ly­ing on my desk. I’ve no idea where it has come from - prob­a­bly a re­view sam­ple. Un­cou­pling re­quires the use of a ramp ar­range­ment to lift the hooks, but on my lay­out I found that the stan­dard Peco ramp fouled the low-hang­ing gear cov­ers of my Bach­mann diesels. I con­sid­ered home-made ramps us­ing clear ac­etate, with a lever ar­range­ment to raise and lower it, but re­alised that I don’t have the me­chan­i­cal skills to make some­thing that would ac­tu­ally work. Of course, the tra­di­tional Bri­tish full-size cou­pling, a hook and three large chain links, is cou­pled and un­cou­pled by hand. In model form it’s im­pos­si­ble to au­to­mate. On my ‘Black Dog Halt’ lay­out, I used scale three-link and screw cou­plings be­cause I wanted au­then­tic ap­pear­ance. It was also a largely straight lay­out so there was no prob­lem with buf­fer-lock­ing on curves. Try­ing to cou­ple three links, at arm’s length, while lean­ing over the backscene, proved near im­pos­si­ble. The re­sul­tant fid­dling and curs­ing, in front of

an au­di­ence, was acutely em­bar­rass­ing. There are other cou­plings which have been de­vised by mod­ellers to over­come some of the prob­lems. I have no de­sire to man­u­fac­ture my own cou­plings and I dis­like the wire-across­the-buf­fers ar­range­ment, which ru­ins the look of lo­co­mo­tives and stock. An al­ter­na­tive is the minia­ture buck-eye made by kadee. It em­ploys a sim­ple un­cou­pling ar­range­ment which uses a mag­net mounted be­tween the run­ning rails. The big­gest prob­lem with kadee cou­plings has been that in­ge­nu­ity was some­times re­quired in or­der to mount them in the cor­rect po­si­tion on cars that were not de­signed to ac­cept them, and which still had the rem­nants of a much more cum­ber­some cou­pler in place. over time, kadee pro­duced more and more ver­sions of the same cou­pler, de­signed to be mounted in dif­fer­ent ways. The un­cou­plers, too, were de­vel­oped to in­clude elec­tro-mag­netic oper­a­tion and hid­den mag­nets, along­side the orig­i­nal con­cept. of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est to me were Nos. 17, 18, and 19 cou­plers, be­cause these have the ‘swal­low tail’ to en­able their use as di­rect replacements in the euro­pean NEM cou­pler pock­ets. I be­gan to won­der if kadee cou­plings would suit my needs on ‘Pol­wyd­de­lan’. I’ve seen them used suc­cess­fully on Bri­tish-out­line mod­els, but I had al­ways dis­counted them on the grounds that they did not look very Bri­tish, and that buf­fers (which are ab­sent from Us equip­ment) might in­ter­fere with their oper­a­tion. As I reached the point where the cou­pling is­sue on ‘Pol­wyd­de­lan’ needed to be re­solved, I no­ticed some kadee items on sale in my lo­cal model shop, Train­s4u in Peterborough. An af­ter­noon spent with a screw­driver and a ra­zor saw was suf­fi­cient to change the cou­plings on all the stock I need for ‘Pol­wyd­de­lan’. only two trains, a pas­sen­ger train of BR Mk 3 coaches and a china clay train, will ac­tu­ally have lo­co­mo­tive changes, and these will be sim­ple se­quences de­signed to demon­strate dcc con­trol. only the cou­plings on the ends of the rakes will be changed, ten­sion locks be­ing re­tained within each train. The rel­e­vant lo­co­mo­tives will have kadee cou­plers on both ends. kadee buck-eyes don’t look re­motely like Bri­tish three-link cou­plings, but nor do ten­sion locks. I think the kadee items look marginally less ob­tru­sive than ten­sion locks, but that may be be­cause I’ve be­come ac­cus­tomed to them on all my cana­dian stock. The great ad­van­tage of ve­hi­cles fit­ted with NEM pock­ets, how­ever, is that you can give kadee cou­plings a try and, if you don’t like them, you can sim­ply re-fit the ten­sion locks. Ini­tially, I equipped a lo­co­mo­tive and one clay wagon, and in­stalled one un­cou­pler. It worked first time, and that con­vinced me I had done the right thing. start by equip­ping your­self with one pack each of kadee Nos. 17, 18 and 19. These are the three dif­fer­ent lengths avail­able to fit NEM pock­ets. you can use trial and er­ror to find the best length for each par­tic­u­lar item of stock.

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