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Text Box: Keep Your Eye on Your “Pockets”

Now don’t get me wrong, I think N.E.M. pockets are a good idea in principle.


The idea of swapping a coupling quickly for different type if you have mixed stock or if a problem is experienced in coupling or if a shorter or longer coupling is required to improve look or performance of a train is  “manna” from heaven; but (there’s that word again) what has been your experience in their use? I do hope it is better than mine.

Does anything here ring a bell with you:

1. Couplings are rarely a snug fit. They are “floppy” when connected, which frequently means coupling is unreliable.

2. Pockets have no real strength in locking units with-in them, which allows trains to part during haulage.

3. Pockets are delicate in construction and often self-destruct in use.

4. Despite the specifications laid down, manufacturers seem to vary the design/position of the pockets on their models, which seems to me to defeat the object of the whole exercise.


My question is “why”?  Is it poor construction,  poor quality material, poor design,  poor quality control?  If dimensions are laid down giving specific heights, lengths, widths etc. surely a problem of linking a wagon or coach should not exist.


Is it that manufacturers announce and produce products stating that they are NEM “compliant” when they are not.  If so why are producers allowed to mislabel their products and get away with it? Surely getting good sound coupling which is fit for purpose is quite important in our hobby.


I wonder if an independent manufacturer could produce a whole coupling of sound construction that could be fitted to an existing model. This sounds easy but given the variations seen in design and construction in the supposedly “standard” product I can personally see no quick and easy way of creating such a standard product without taking a knife to what is now an expensive and delicate item (given the detail now seen).


The answer, I don’t have the faintest idea, but then I regard myself as not being the smartest tack in the box and the problem, given the existing precise outlines, surely should not exist! How do you solve a problem which should not exist?


Given the fairly exact dimensional requirements laid down I can only think that it must be the manufacturers “interpretation” of the rules which leaves much to be desired. I have rummaged about on the internet trying find out exactly what the dimensions are for N gauge systems; without any success, but I did find something on the OO Gauge Association which at least gives some indication of the requirements (below). I regret that the “horse’s mouth” only produces it’s requirements in French and German! Nuf said and God bless the EEC.

Information:Normen Europäischer Modellbahnen (German) or Normes Européennes de Modélisme ferroviaires (French) are standards for model railroads, issued by the MOROP.

The German and French both translate to European Standards for Model Railways. The phrase 'Normal European Modelling Standards' or simply 'NEM Standards' is used among European rail modellers in the UK. The NEM standards are defined and maintained by the Technical Commission of the MOROP in collaboration with model railroad manufacturers.

The NEM standards define the model railroad scales and guide manufacturers in creating compatible products and assist modellers in constructing model railroad layouts that operate reliably.

If it is assumed that the pocket must be mounted centrally to avoid pulling and connectivity problems, the main and most important measurement is, I assume, the height above the rail top. If pockets themselves are to be created equal i.e. a standard size over all dimensions both internal and external there only remains the problem of attaching the pocket to a plate provided on the model. If the base of this plate is placed at an agreed height and position on the model there should be little problem in attaching the pocket of your choice. If the one provided by the manufacturer is proving troublesome, swap it for one of your choice, if the coupling proves a problem swap it for one of your choice.


I can hear muttering out there, “how do we connect the pocket to the plate”?


Must I think of everything? Glue it, screw it, solder it, braze it, weld it, clip it, have a piece of electrical shrink tubing and a hair dryer.

Now that’s an idea.

Base plate attached to bogie/frame


Shrink-wrap tube.

Push over pocket and base plate and then apply hair dryer;


This is not something which must affect only N scale, I wonder if anything could be done if modellers of all scales came together in a concerted effort to obtain a good sound coupling system which worked for everybody. Manufacturers would surely see the advantage of providing such a system rather than the thought of “I wonder if it will work with rest of my stuff or if it will hold a long consist without parting?”                                     MPT