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Model Railway Coupling

Author "Henry's grandad" (forum member)

Cheap DIY Model Railway Uncoupler

Uncoupling of Hornby rolling stock


Starting with a Thomas Playmat layout, I quickly became aware of the damage that a 5-year-old can do when trying to disconnect a loco from its train, or indeed any uncoupling activity. The lifting and twisting involved resulted in rolling stock being scattered in all directions.


So a look at the Hornby uncoupler track length caused some problems, first the cost, second the size (which limits the positioning possibilities) and third it seems to me to be particularly ugly!


Not having modelled for many years, I searched the internet for alternatives, without success. I did find an electrically operated device at www.hmrg.co.uk/techtopics/tlock.htm , but this seems to be an advanced modellers option, and quite expensive anyway.


So I thought back to my modelling days in the 1970s and an idea which was current then. I claim no responsibility for originating this idea and can’t remember when or where it came from. Basically it consists of a short bit of thin plastic strip being inserted in any section of the track, although it works best on straight sections.


I only have an ancient test track, about 2ft of Peco streamline (I think), since Henry’s Thomas layout is 130 miles away, and I get there only about every 8 weeks or so.


I cut a 10mm wide strip of PET plastic 0.010”thick (0.25mm) about 85mm long, and threaded it under the sleepers at each end, so that it went under two sleepers and over 8 sleepers, in the centre of the track, checking that it did not foul the backs of the rolling stocks wheels. Depending on your make of track and its sleeper spacing it may be necessary to adjust these details.


Model Railway Uncoupler / Uncoupling  Ramp

It formed a raised hump, which was carefully adjusted for height by pushing items of rolling stock over it to ensure that the coupling hooks lifted clear of the bar. Pulling the stock over the ramp just depressed it and does not lift them as they passed by. Once adjusted it can be fixed simply by inserting a track pin at each end.

Below are some photos of this test rig showing the strip in position, and with stock in push and pull mode.


Model Railway Uncoupler / Uncoupling  Ramp

Model Railway Uncoupler / Uncoupling  Ramp

In operation the rake of stock is pushed over the ramp and stopped with the couplings disengaged, the loco then draws away leaving the rake behind.


To assist the spotting exactly of the couplings, it may be necessary to have some sort of marker alongside the track.

Oh, yes, where did I get the PET plastic from? Mine came from the base of a supermarket pack of small tomatoes! At 10 thousandths of an inch thick it had just the right flexibility for the job. If you ignore the cost of the tomatoes, the only cost is your time and a couple of pence for the track pins.


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