European H0 Couplers

It's been said that the wonderful thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from! That's very true for modellers of European trains, who face a dizzying choice of couplers available to them.

The main problem with couplers on European models is how to model realistic spacing between wagons while allowing the trains to easily negotiate curves. The limiting factor is the buffers at the ends of all rolling stock. To be realistic, the buffers need to be at least almost touching. To get around the problem, most manufacturers install the coupling mounts on a spring loaded leveraging system whereby the buffers are almost touching on straight track, but diverge slightly on curves.

Fortunately, almost all European rolling stock in H0 come with an NEM standard coupling mount that all couplings fit into. So it's generally easy to adapt to your own choice of coupler.

This page offers a summary of the various couplings available.

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Descriptions

NEM

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The NEM standard is provided by a number of manufacturers, including Sachsenmodelle and Piko.

Fleischmann hook

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Older Fleischmann models came with a hook style uncoupler. Today, it's generally seen only on older used models.

Fleischmann Profi

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For at least the past 15 years, Fleischmann has put the "Profi" coupler on all of its models. (A similar coupler is also available for N-Scale modellers.)

Märklin

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The Märklin close coupler is provided on all Märklin and many Trix models.

Roco Type II

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The Roco Type II coupler is offered on some Roco models, such as passenger coaches.

Roco Universal

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As far as I know, the Roco Universal (or Type III) doesn't come pre-installed with any Roco models. But like the Roco Type II, a set is often included with Roco locomotives.

The following photos show why the coupling is named "Universal". The left photo shows the Roco Universal coupled with an NEM coupler. The right, with a Märklin close coupler.

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Recommendations and Opinions

Shortly after I decided to move to H0 modelling, and had a modest collection of one locomotive and three pieces of rolling stock, I already had a good choice of couplers, and I was able to compare them and make my choice. For me, the only couplers realistically under consideration were the close couplers. Since they don't offer realistic separation, I had no interest in the non-close couplers. What follows are my observations about the others.

First, generally, all of the close couplers couple and uncouple best on straight track, but have a bit of difficulty on curved. All of the close couplers have a pre-uncoupling capability, where you can uncouple wagons before shunting them to their destination.

Since I used the Fleschmann Profi couplers on my N-Scale layout, I looked forward to seeing how the H0 version worked. They offer very close coupling. However, I was very disappointed with the force needed to couple. I found that the force needed to couple exceeds the force needed to push away a single freight van, which is unacceptable in my opinion.

The Roco Type II and Märklin couplers both offers a very close coupling. Of the close couplers, the Roco Universal has the widest coupling distance, but is still reasonably acceptable. Choosing between these three was difficult, but I found the Roco Universal to be the smoothest. It takes the least force to couple, and offers the most reliable pre-uncoupling capability.

What do I use on my H0 layout? For coupling between passenger coaches, a minimum coupling distance is needed. Since they don't need to be shunted as much as freight vans, I chose Fleischmann Profi couplers to couple passenger coaches. For everything else, I use Roco Universal couplers.

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