Yes, a page about couplings. Not the most exciting of subjects I grant you, but with many different varieties available, most of which are incompatible, it is a subject which frustrates many people starting out in the hobby. The problem affects most scales, but HO / OO in particular. And it is especially prevalent in Australia. - Why is this? - Please read on.
While most brands of HO and OO scales trains will happily run on the same tracks with each other, there can be problems when you try to couple them to each other. The four most popular kinds of couplers used on trains sold in Australia are those shown above. The couplers are often referred to by the brand, but the different types are usually common to a particular country or region.
The Hornby coupler shown on the left of
the photos is more accurately known as a tension-lock coupler. The type is
common to most OO scale models made for the UK market. It appears on almost all
Hornby trains, Bachmann Branchline models and the Lima UK models made in OO
scale as well as various other brands.
The European coupler, second from left is usually known as a Lima coupler, although again, it is in use by many other companies. Most Australian prototype models come with it fitted as the first plastic, ready to run Australian models were introduced by Lima in the early 70's. When properly adjusted it operates quite well. Unfortunately in practice, it's usually one of the more difficult couplers to use if you like shunting trains.
The USA coupler, second from right is known as the X2F or Horn hook. Until recently, the majority of USA prototype trains had these fitted, and they are still very common. In Australia, they are mostly seen by beginners on Life-Like brand train sets. They are simple and cheap to produce. It's just a pity they don't always work all that well. They are generally mounted on the bogie and rely on side pressure to stay coupled. Unfortunately, this side pressure can cause derailments, especially when reversing.
The Kadee type coupler on the right is
rapidly replacing the X2F on the better quality US trains and is the preferred
coupler of many hobbyists. Although there are a number of manufacturers, the
type is often called 'Kadee' as this company had manufactured (and invented) it.
Only they made it, so it was an aftermarket product. In recent years others have
been able to make their own versions and as such, models are now sold with
them already fitted. The main advantages of the type is that it looks like the
real thing and can be uncoupled magnetically. E-Z mate by Bachmann is another
There are also other kinds of couplers, but these are either older types now obsolete or new ones purchased separately and fitted by the modeller. European modellers for example have quite a number of old and new choices regarding couplers.
This coupler problem isn't so noticed in America or England for example, because if you went into a hobby shop there, you'd probably be struggling to find model trains from another country. In Australia, most hobby shops need to cater for all tastes, as until recently, there were few Australian models to choose from. The easiest thing for the newcomer to the hobby to do is to stick to the trains of one country. If you do end up with a mixture, you can either have a train of each type or make up a wagon with a different coupler at each end.
Note: The metal wheels are blackened. The white base I photographed the models on makes the wheels appear silver.
In N scale, the majority of models come
with a plastic block (above) known as a Rapido coupler, introduced by Arnold in the
early 1960's, it rapidly became the standard of N scale around the world. I have
seen a few non-standard N couplers on early models, including a version of the
tension lock coupler on a Trix train set and I still have an early Lima N wagon
fitted with half-size versions of Lima's HO European coupler.
I shall be covering some other couplers and scales later.
Page updated 16/10/2012