A while ago now the US P48 manufacturer Protocraft released what I feel is probably the best prototype coupler available to the O-scale modeller. It was a Type E coupler and, while 1:48, it was a good fit for the needs of an Australian modeller working in 1:43.5 who needed a coupler that was closer to the prototype than KD’s but was reliable and easy to install. The coupler box provided with these couplers was a drop in fit for a space provided by a piece of rolling stock to suit a KD.
I was very happy with these couplers: they came pre blackened, assembled, had self centering and were supplied with a coupler box that dropped into a slot intended for a KD. In addition they can be either magnetically operated using a wand available from Protocraft or using a coupler lever attached to the body of a wagon. I was in Heaven and thought these couplers were the bees knees.
However I have found they have a couple of small issues and I’ve been doing some thinking and experimenting to overcome these. Firstly these couplers are designed to be bottom operated, a situation that is fairly rare on NSWR rolling stock, examples can be found, but not too often. As I had every intention of using the magnetic feature I had decided not to worry too much about this and not hook up the coupler levers. Secondly the shank on these couplers is exactly to prototype length and while they look great nice and close to the body of a wagon this causes real problems with rolling stock that has buffers installed. We may like the look of the prototype but our layouts have far tighter curves than the real railways and this can’t be scaled away. So I’ve been avoiding the issue by not putting buffers on my rolling stock with auto couplers. Eventually this was going to become a problem as I would want to put a coupler on a piece of rolling stock or a loco that had buffers. This is a problem unique to NSWR modellers BTW as the Americans don’t use buffers so I’m not blaming Protocraft, they design their products for the US modeller.
Today Protocraft announced a new auto coupler that may address some of these issues.
On initial viewing of the photos from the Protocraft web site it would appear that there isn’t a great deal of difference between this new coupler and the older one. This is not a replacement of the previous coupler BTW, it simply extends the range. For me the differences apparent in the photos make it a likely candidate to address some of the issues for NSWR modellers trying to utilize these couplers. The first and most obvious difference is the narrower draft gear box. This should allow easier installation into rolling stock that has narrow, closer to prototype coupler pockets. The box also appears to be a much easier candidate to shorten, thus allowing the modeller to push the coupler head out and away from the body of the wagon. This is essentially the same effect as the coupler having a longer shank. While I would love to have all my rolling stock fitted with couplers that have their couplers nice and close to the body, in the real world (and in the prototype I work in) I really need to be able to push the coupler out from the body slightly to overcome the effect of buffer lock on less than prototype tight curves. Another difference is that this coupler is specifically designed to be bottom operated for those who want to use coupler release levers. I have tended to avoid these as I’ve found they interfere with the magnetic coupler action, but for those determined to install working levers, this should be a bit of a boon. Finally the self centreing design appears to have been improved. Norm from Protocraft agreed that the earlier type of coupler could be slightly sticky at times and the spring needed to be shortened somewhat. Still, a slightly sticky self sentring mechanism is better than none.
I’m going to order some of these couplers to see how they stack up and assess whether my initial reactions to them are borne out. Look to a future issue of 7th Heaven to see the results of these researches.