I have a long work commute. Two and a half hours of each day is spent driving. That gives me a lot of time to think. And lately I've been thinking about couplers.
It started with the recent release of the N scale McHenry. Roughly the size of a standard Micro-Trains N scale coupler, it looks like a Kadee HO coupler. Appearance is what got me cogitating: the McHenry has a rather unsightly spring on the side of the knuckle. I began spending some of my commuting time thinking about a whole new design...
But it's hard to stay focused on just one topic when you're alone in a car on a long drive; the mind invariably meanders, and after a while I began applying my thoughts to the problem of Eishindo's T Gauge coupler—otherwise known as a miniaturized Rapido N scale coupler.
The coupler is one of the bigger problems with T Gauge. Getting cars coupled is a 1:450 nightmare; keeping them coupled is likewise troubling. I've "imagineered" many potential solutions, only to discover their complete impracticality once I got home and reacquainted myself with the actual size of the rolling stock—which is always smaller than I'd imagined while I was on the road.
After my last "failure," which involved magnetic bars that just stick together, it finally struck me: why bother with couplers? These are passenger sets, which—ideally—would be close-coupled and feature some kind of diaphragm between cars. Why not make a magnetic diaphragm that keeps the cars together?
Up to this point, it was all just an academic exercise for me, since my intention from the outset has been to permanently MU the cars together, with electrical connections between them to improve performance. But the more I thought about the design, the more I realized that it might provide a solution to one problem of permanently MUed cars—that being the awkwardness of handling them.
So, here's the deal: the "diaphragm" couplers would also provide electrical connectivity. Their flat faces would be split in two, each half carrying one leg of the circuit. (This is not unlike the couplers of real mass-transit trains, which pass electrical circuits and even pressurized air between cars, all through the coupling.)
Magnetic coupling does impose some limitations, the most significant one being that they "polarize" a car such that it cannot be turned end-for-end and still coupled to another car. But with the kind of passenger sets involved, I don't see this as a show-stopper by any means. Magnetic couplers would also make it quite difficult to remotely uncouple cars, but given the limitations of the existing couplers, it's highly doubtful there was ever any intention to offer remote uncoupling anyway.
The couplers would require double articulation in order to allow their faces to remain in full contact while the cars negotiate curves. Combined with the necessary wiring, this would probably make them too costly to manufacture, so I don't see this as a viable option for Eishindo to actually pursue. But I'm up for the test. Actually, the biggest challenge of all for me will be finding the time to do any of this...