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Purpose of extra coupling chains on vintage locos & stock


Brit70053

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Hello All,

 

             Apologies if this has been discussed previously, but none of my search key words has produced a result after several attempts.

 

             Friends and I were looking at vintage locomotives - Fletcher NER 2 - 4 - 0 etc. in the under threat 'Head Of Steam' museum in Darlington recently.

             We noticed, but none of us could think of a logical purpose for,  the chains mounted on the bufferbeams either side of the coupling drawbar.

             The chains were shorter in total length than the central coupling, so we thought these could not be intended to restrict lateral movement on curves or similar.

             The only potential use any of us could think of, was perhaps to facilitate shunting by Horse or Rope mechanism, but even this doeas not seem likely  

             (Horse towing locomotive !?)

             Can anyone enlighten a bunch of 'Old Gits' (our joint and several identity) please ?

 

            Regards,

 

                          John 

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Quite simply for safety. With good reason, they were not entirely confident in a single coupling chain. Early couplings varied in style, some with hooks on the end. Your safety chains should probably have hooks as, being shorter than the main coupling, they would be hooked onto the corresponding chain on the next vehicle.

 

Nick

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Side chains served as an extra level of safety in the days before continuous brakes. Should the main coupling break, then the side chains might hold the vehicles in place. I believe the hooks on one chain engaged on the corresponding hooks on the adjacent vehicle.  Whilst they dropped out of use in the UK a long time ago, they were still to be found on mainland European stock until much later, so that British stock intended for use on the Continent was fitted with them in 1944 and after.

Here's an example which retained them:-

http://paulbartlett.zenfolio.com/warwell/h17369015#h17369015

These wagons still had them when I saw them at BSC Landore in the early 1970s.

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Possible Answer No 1.      If you were to take a trip to a narrow-gauge railway, such as the Welshpool and Llanfair, you would see that stock has chains such as you describe.  In addition to the centre "chopper" coupling, the chains are linked between locos/coaches/wagons as a safety measure should the main coupling fail.  Each chain stretched halfway across the gap between the items of stock.  I don't know for sure, but it may be that North Eastern rolling stock had this safety measure too.

 

Possible Abswer No 2. Given that North Eastern collieries used chaldrons (small wagons with flared sides and wheels exposed, towable by a horse), it seems reasonable to suppose that the couplings used for chaldrons would be compatible with a horse's harness and that goods engines 

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Many thanks to you all for such prompt and informative replies.

I'll be able to set some ageing minds at rest - until the next imponderable confronts our feeble grey cells.

 

Regards,

 

                  John

 

Edit for syntax

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For some reason they seem to have lasted longer on NG railways and are still widely used today.

 

I've just been checking my pictures from the Baie de Somme over several years and, despite screw couplings and all their trains being fully air braked,  they are strict about always attaching both chains. The only photo I could find where they weren't in use was between the locos engaged in double heading but between carriages and the loco and its train they're always to  be seen.

 

post-6882-0-08043000-1398787251_thumb.jpgpost-6882-0-66952600-1398787253_thumb.jpg

 

OTOH most standard gauge preserved lines don't have them at all  (though some older tractors and ex industrial tank locos do) .

 

I wonder if this was perhaps a regulation that was abolished for main lines but was never rescinded for most minor railways.

 

 

 

post-6882-0-08043000-1398787251_thumb.jpg

post-6882-0-66952600-1398787253_thumb.jpg

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OTOH most standard gauge preserved lines don't have them at all  (though some older tractors and ex industrial tank locos do) .

 

I wonder if this was perhaps a regulation that was abolished for main lines but was never rescinded for most minor railways.

 

Nope - as far as i am aware their use in legislation has never been specified for railways of any type - though as has been noted they certainly were helpful in the days before continuous brakes and stronger couplings came along. As for why they don't tend to get used in preservation - its quite simple. The number of heritage locos fitted with such chains is small and the amount of passenger stock fitted (which is what most locos on heritage lines haul these days) being even less as they generally had fallen out of use by WW1. Put together it means that chances to use them are fairly few and far between, not to mention its yet another thing for the crew to fiddle with when attaching and detaching the loco (another thing that goes on regularly on heritage lines)

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Thanks for the additional informative input Phil_259B and Pacific 231G. Your pictures are worth the proverbial thousand words.

Talltim, I didn't know whether to 'Like' or 'Laugh'. Thanks!

 

Regards,

 

              John

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Nope - as far as i am aware their use in legislation has never been specified for railways of any type - though as has been noted they certainly were helpful in the days before continuous brakes and stronger couplings came along. As for why they don't tend to get used in preservation - its quite simple. The number of heritage locos fitted with such chains is small and the amount of passenger stock fitted (which is what most locos on heritage lines haul these days) being even less as they generally had fallen out of use by WW1. Put together it means that chances to use them are fairly few and far between, not to mention its yet another thing for the crew to fiddle with when attaching and detaching the loco (another thing that goes on regularly on heritage lines)

Hi Phil

Are you referring to the UK or France where local railways were subject to regulations imposed by the prefectures on top of any national legislation?

 

This is actually a fiendishly difficult question to get a definitive answer to as photos that reveal whether side chains were actually connected are very rare. Almost all photos of trains seem to be the same boring front three quarter views and the only thing they reveal is whether side trains were fitted to the buffer beam: not whether they were used. However, from what photographic evidence I do have it seems that most metre gauge and some 60cm gauge railways did have side chains on locos and loco hauled rolling but almost never on railcars. Where side chains were fitted they were usually but not invariably used and this applied until the end on railways such as the Correze Tramway- the last steam tramway in public service in France.

 

Some local SG railways also had them far later than the main lines and seem generally to have used them at least with their own passenger stock well into the 1950s by when continuous brakes were universal.

 

AFAIK all the major metre gauge preservations in France including the Baie de Somme, Bas Berry (Blanc-Argent), both preserved section of the Vivarais and the Train des Pignes that runs on part of the CF de Provence have loco hauled stock fitted with side chains and all seem to be diligent about using them. So evidently is the IofM

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Side chains were in use on the Foxfield Railway during preservation until the early 1980s as the railway had dispensation to run without continuous brakes from '67 until the late 70s when vacuum brake systems were fitted to the locos.

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Hi Phil

Are you referring to the UK or France where local railways were subject to regulations imposed by the prefectures on top of any national legislation?

 

This is actually a fiendishly difficult question to get a definitive answer to as photos that reveal whether side chains were actually connected are very rare. Almost all photos of trains seem to be the same boring front three quarter views and the only thing they reveal is whether side trains were fitted to the buffer beam: not whether they were used. However, from what photographic evidence I do have it seems that most metre gauge and some 60cm gauge railways did have side chains on locos and loco hauled rolling but almost never on railcars. Where side chains were fitted they were usually but not invariably used and this applied until the end on railways such as the Correze Tramway- the last steam tramway in public service in France.

 

Some local SG railways also had them far later than the main lines and seem generally to have used them at least with their own passenger stock well into the 1950s by when continuous brakes were universal.

 

AFAIK all the major metre gauge preservations in France including the Baie de Somme, Bas Berry (Blanc-Argent), both preserved section of the Vivarais and the Train des Pignes that runs on part of the CF de Provence have loco hauled stock fitted with side chains and all seem to be diligent about using them. So evidently is the IofM

 

I was referring to standard gauge UK practice - and the C class on the Bluebell has them, but I have never seen them used (The P & H tanks don't have them, but they were mixed traffic designs as opposed to freight)

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