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Unfortunately I worked quite a few over the years Iain and the quality of the ride was dictated almost entirely by the train driver no matter where the van was marshalled. My worst experiences were with unfitted spoil trains and I briefly mentioned the divided train scenario a few posts back. That was on a train of old 16t mineral wagons where the driver managed to yank the whole drawbar out of the wagon and continued on his merry way with half a train leaving me stranded in my brake van at the rear with the remainder of the wagons. I think they looked upon it as a form of amusement to see just how much they could shake the Guard up! In their day, long loose coupled trains were definitely the worst as there was so much slack in the couplings for them to play about with. After our divided train scenario I don't ever recall working with old mineral wagons again so perhaps someone took notice.
Today I decided to look at the Caledonian Sleeper coaches to see if I could change the couplings to Kadee's in order to standardise things. I knew they were fitted with old tension lock couplings but didn't know how much work would be required to change them. Here's an underneath view of a MK3 sleeper bogie and the large tension lock coupling.
And here's the bogie after removal from the coach.
I'm not keen on couplings fastened to the bogies and what was immediately apparent from the first photo was the amount of free space between the leading edge of the bogie and the rear of the bufferbeam - plenty of room to fix the coupling directly to the underside of the coach floor - but how to do it?
Well first of all we need to get rid of the old coupling so it was out with the razor saw.
Using a Parkside PA34 NEM coupling mount fitted with a Kadee coupler and temporarily taped to the underside of the floor I discovered that fitting it directly would result in the coupling being slightly too high and so a thin packing piece would be required. Dismantling the old tension lock coupling I noticed that there was a plastic fitment that looked just about right (seen in the centre of the following photo). It would require the ridges on each side cutting off as well as part of the central pip but it was worth a try.
Below: A close up of the plastic to be used as padding for the coupling mount. Only the bottom flat section is required so cut and file down the edges and central pip.
Below: On the left a Parkside NEM coupling mount and beneath it the plastic padding piece after removal of the waste sections. Above right of the photo is a coupling mount with the packing piece glued to its base.
And below is the finished coach complete with floor mounted Kadee coupling. If the wheels look a little rusty that's because the bogies and underframes had just been weathered with the airbrush
I now have a rake of 6 Caledonian Sleeper coaches fitted with Kadee couplings so that's another task crossed off the 'to do' list. Hopefully I'll be able to get some photos or videos of them in action in the coming days.
I'm not so sure about buying 'weathered' loco's and rolling stock because usually they've just had a quick blow along the chassis with an airbrush and it rarely looks convincing. I much prefer having a go myself in an attempt to recreate what I remember. I do agree with having small parts pre-fitted because the fiddly bits usually cause me problems.
I've almost completed my ballast set now although I'm not sure it will always run as a complete rake - maybe I'll just run a few of them at a time as 12 wagons is pretty long for my layout and I need to have a siding where I can back it in out of the way in order to run other trains. I decided that the two 'Dutch' liveried Seacow's would be permanently ballasted and they look much better for the extra ballast along the central section. I've ballasted one of the Sealion's using a full length piece of plastic as the support but I'm not quite so pleased with that one.
The two 'Shark' brakevans have been weathered and the whole rake is now fitted with Kadee couplings. This is the 'Dutch' liveried van...
And here is the complete rake of 12 wagons passing over Low Shott viaduct. I may alter the loadings at some point as there are still 4 empty wagons but for now I'll leave things as they are just in case I decide to run a shorter rake.
I find the Kadee's make handling stock much easier. If you want a wagon out of the middle of a rake you can simply lift it up and remove it without having to fiddle about with hooks and bars. The only problem is fitting them and getting them all at the same height, a task not made any easier by the differing heights in NEM sockets (where provided) from model to model. The Sealions/Seacows dealt with here have a flimsy plastic extension on the bogie holding the NEM socket which is very easily bent and can result in the Kadee being either too high or too low. Too low and the wagon derails when the operating pin catches on pointwork, so it's vital to get them at the correct height. If you can do that then they are excellent. I had to cut the coupling mounts on the Limpet's to get them at the right height.