Janney coupler

Last updated

Janney couplers are a semi-automatic form of railway coupling that allow rail cars and locomotives to be securely linked together without rail workers having to get between the vehicles. They are also known as American, AAR, APT, ARA, MCB, knuckle, Buckeye, tightlock (in the UK), Henricot (in Belgium) or Centre Buffer Couplers.



The diagram from Beard's 1897 coupler patent US patent 594059 diagram.png
The diagram from Beard's 1897 coupler patent

Janney couplers were first patented in 1873 by Eli H. Janney ( U.S. patent 138,405 ). [2] [3] Andrew Jackson Beard was amongst various inventors that made a multitude of improvements to the knuckle coupler; [1] Beard's patents were U.S. patent 594,059 granted 23 November 1897, which then sold for approximately $50,000, and U.S. patent 624,901 granted 16 May 1899.

In the UK, several versions of Janney couplers are fitted to a limited number of coaches, multiple units, wagons and locomotives.

Janney Type E, Type F Interlock, and Type H tightlock couplings are compatible subtypes, each intended for specific rail car types.

Prior to the formation of the Association of American Railroads (AAR) these were known as Master Car Builder (MCB) couplers. [4] In 1934, the MCB was renamed as the AAR.

Knuckle couplers of the 1880s and 1890s had a chaotic mixture of proprietary internal components, but all had the standard MCB external contour, making them compatible. There was a multitude of makes and models — Burns, Climax, Gould, Miller, Sharon and Tower. Some worked better than others.

In 1913, American Steel Foundries (ASF) developed the Janney "Type D" coupler, that was then made the MCB standard coupler for North America; new and rebuilt rolling stock had to be fitted with that coupler. That ended the market for knuckle couplers with proprietary components, excepting those exported from the US to other countries not complying with MCB standards.

The Alliance coupler, named after the ASF-owned foundry in Alliance, Ohio, was developed as a lighter build than the "Type D", and was marketed by the Amsted Corporation, parent of ASF, as the "Standard for the World". It is still the most-used knuckle coupler in the world. The modern Alliance coupler still uses the modern AAR-10 or 10A contour, but has a shorter thus weaker head length, and thus cannot be used on North American interchanged rolling stock.

Manufacturers of modern "Type E", "Type F Interlock" and "Type H Tightlock" couplers include McConway & Torley, [5] [6] ASF, and Buckeye, also known as Columbus Castings.

The external contour of Janney knuckle couplers was the first aspect to be standardized by the MCB in the 1880s. Prior to this, there was a chaotic variety of constantly evolving and proprietary external contours and internal components. In 1893, manufacturers standardized on the MCB-5 or Type C contour, then in 1915 on the improved MCB-10 or Type D contour, and again in 1932 on the AAR-10A or Type E contour. The 1893, 1915, and 1932 contours are measurably different with slight dimensional changes that improved performance, yet remain compatible. Janney couplers still use the 1932 contour, though tolerances, metallurgy and machining techniques have improved, resulting in notable reductions in coupler slack. Type H tightlock couplings used on passenger stock have a variation of the 10A contour that nearly eliminates slack during normal operation and minimizes the possibility of "telescoping" during a derailment.


The purpose of couplers is to join rail cars and locomotives to each other so they all are securely linked together. Major Eli Janney, a Confederate veteran of the American Civil War, invented the semi-automatic knuckle coupler in 1868. It automatically locks the couplers on cars or locomotives together without a rail worker having to get between the cars, and replaced the link and pin coupler, which was a major cause of railroad worker injuries and deaths. The locking pin that ensures Janney couplers remain fastened together is withdrawn manually by a worker using the "cut lever", which is operated from either side of the railroad car and does not require the person to go between the cars. The only time the worker has to go between cars is after they have been securely coupled, to hook up the air lines for the pneumatic brakes, and the head-end power cables in the case of passenger cars.

Modern Janney couplers typically mount to rail cars and locomotives via draw gear; early Janney couplers often had transitional shanks which mounted into legacy link and pin coupler pockets, or bolted directly to steam locomotive headstocks.

Janney/MCB/ARA/AAR/APTA coupler

The Janney coupler is used in the Americas, Australasia, Africa, Asia, UK, Belgium and Spain (narrow gauge railway only).

Among its features:

Janney Type E

Janney Type E double-shelf couplers are yet another variety, typical on North American hazardous material tank cars. [13] [14] [15] The Janney coupler is commonly used on railway couplings, as it is strong and locks automatically. Janney coupler was patented by Eli Janney after the US Civil War. The Janney interlocking coupling system is much safer than the links before it. Janney coupler is like two curved human hand. [16] [17]

Gooseneck coupler

With gooseneck couplers or offset shank couplers, the horizontal centerline of the coupler head is above the horizontal centerline of the coupler shank, or shaft, and the draw gear. This arrangement is designed for use with low-floor freight cars, to lift the coupler head high enough to match the couplers on other rolling stock. [18] The large bogie boxvans for car parts, used on the Victorian Railways, were fitted with gooseneck couplers for that reason.

Henricot coupler

The Henricot coupler, a variation on the Janney coupler, was introduced by Belgian engineer and entrepreneur Émile Henricot  [ fr ] of Court-Saint-Étienne. It is used on certain electric multiple units of the Belgian State Railways, including the NMBS/SNCB class 75.

AM 174 Liege Guillemins cropped.jpg
Attelage Henricot.jpg NMBS 837.JPG
A Trainset 174 of the National Railway Company of Belgium Henricot Type D coupler on a Belgian EMU Close-up of Henricot coupler and separate air brake and head-end power connections on a NMBS/SNCB class 75

Development of the knuckle coupler

Janney was a dry goods clerk and former Confederate Army officer from Alexandria, Virginia, who used his lunch hours to whittle from wood an alternative to the link and pin coupler. The term Buckeye comes from the nickname of the US state of Ohio, the "Buckeye state" and the Ohio Brass Company [19] which originally marketed the coupling. [12] [20]

In 1893, satisfied that an automatic coupler could meet the demands of commercial railroad operations and, at the same time, be manipulated safely, the US Congress passed the Safety Appliance Act. Its success in promoting switch-yard safety was stunning. Between 1877 and 1887, approximately 38% of all railworker accidents involved coupling. That percentage fell as the railroads began to replace link and pin couplers with automatic couplers. By 1902, only two years after the SAA's effective date, coupling accidents constituted only 4% of all employee accidents. Coupler-related accidents dropped from 11,710 in 1893 to 2,256 in 1902, even though the number of railroad employees steadily increased during that decade. [21]

When the Janney coupling was chosen to be the American standard, there were 8,000 patented alternatives to choose from. The only significant disadvantage of using the AAR (Janney) design is that sometimes the drawheads need to be manually aligned.

During the transition period from link-and-pin couplers, knuckle couplers on many locomotives had a horizontal gap and a vertical hole in the knuckle itself to accommodate, respectively, a link and a pin, to enable it to couple to vehicles which were still equipped with the older link-and-pin couplers.

Changes since 1873

AAR Type F Interlock couplers, rigid version at right and rotary version at left. The one on the left lost its pin and was pulled out of its coupler pocket. AAR Type F coupler d.jpg
AAR Type F Interlock couplers, rigid version at right and rotary version at left. The one on the left lost its pin and was pulled out of its coupler pocket.

The Janney coupler has withstood the test of time since its invention, with only minor changes: [10]

Bazeley Coupler

Bazeley Coupler 1905-1918 M.C.B. D Type established as the Universal M.C.B. Standard, Adopted 1915

Arthur James Bazeley (1872-1937), railway couplings inventor/design engineer; was born in Bristol, England, in 1872, and worked for the Great Western Railway until the age of 34 when he immigrated to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1906, where he worked as a mechanical engineer for National Malleable Castings, Co., inventing and designing improvements in the function, strength, and durability of the (MCB/ARA/AAR/APTA) Janney, Knuckle, Alliance couplers and other coupling devices/draw gear for the evolving heavier demands by US railways, as well as, National Malleable Castings' international customers in the United Kingdom, India, and many other countries building and expanding their railway systems. A.J. Bazeley was directly responsible for over 90 registered U.S. patents for railway automatic coupler improvements through design, under the coupler type names which included the "Buckeye coupler", the "Sharon Coupler" PAT APP Nov. 10, 1910, 1911,1913, 1914, the "Simplex Coupler" PAT APP May 3, 1903, the "Climax Coupler", the "Latrobe Coupler", the "Tower Coupler", the "Major Coupler", the "Gould Coupler", the "Pitt Coupler", the "R.E. Janney Coupler", the "Kelso Coupler" and others.

A.J. Bazeley related railway inventions, U.S. patents and railway coupler mechanical drawings and illustrations filed and assigned to National Malleable Castings Company can be referenced by a patent search under "Bazeley, railway couplings" or "Arthur James Bazeley, railway couplings patents" which have been drawn/filed and provided by Roger Bazeley-USA, MSTM, MSID, CHSRM Mineta Transportation Institute, Transportation Industrial Designer. A.J. Bazeley Railway Coupling, Construction/Design Improvements and Draft Rigging related patents include: US 1193222, US 124622, US 1932719, US 1518299, US 1932503, US 2235194, US 1932440 and others.

National Malleable Castings in 1891 absorbed the Chicago Malleable Iron which was founded in 1873 by Alfred A. Pope and John C. Coonley, who operated similar companies in Ohio and Indiana. By the late 1880s, the company employed nearly 1,000 men at its 26th and Western Chicago works, which manufactured various railroad couplers and steel products for the railroad industries. In 1891, Chicago Malleable became part of the new National Malleable Castings Co., the Cleveland-based company, where Arthur J. Bazeley was employed as a senior design engineer, had additional manufacturing plants across the Midwest. National Malleable purchased the Latrobe Steel & Coupler's plant in Melrose Park, Illinois, in 1909. In 1923, when it had begun to supply the automobile industry, the company changed its name to National Malleable & Steel Castings. Its stock was listed on the New York Stock Exchange beginning in 1936 [27]

The National Malleable Castings Bazeley Coupler 1905-1918 M.C.B. D Type as Universal M.C.B. Standard Adopted 1915

At a joint M.C.B. Coupler Committee meeting on July 15, 1913, out of numerous studied competing railway coupler manufacturers and designs two couplers were selected for the new proposed universal U.S./Canadian coupler design standard, adopted, June 15, 1916 by the M.C.B. The two couplers accepted were the Malleable Castings Company Bazeley Coupler, and the American Steel Foundries No.3 modified Alliance Coupler, out of nine couplers submitted to the committee as embodying the joint specification of design, The TYPE D coupler design based on The National Malleable Castings Bazeley Coupler patented designs and improvements was selected as the standard M.C.B Association's standard from 1918., after M.C.B. performance tested it along with the Type C designs.

The Type “D” Experimental Standard M.C.B. Coupler was unanimously recommended by the Master Car Builders Association and its Coupler Committee for adoption as the National/International (United States/Canadian) standard for coupler design and manufacturing specification uniformity by the M.C.B. Master Car Builders’ Association on June 15, 1916 after its 1915 Convention. This resulted in the sharing of U.S. Patent improvements and agreed to by The National Malleable Castings Company, Henry Pope President; The Buckeye Steel Castings Company, The Gould Coupler Company, American Steel Foundries and The Monarch Steel Castings Company, and to be the active standard M.C.B. D Type forward from January 1, 1918. Buckeye Steel Castings Company was founded in 1881 as the Murray-Hayden Foundry before changing to The Buckeye Automatic Car Coupler Company and in 2002 after filing bankruptcy was reformed as Columbus Castings.

Railway couplers were manufactured in accordance with the Standard Specifications of the AAR covering the purchase and acceptance of couplers, knuckles, locks and other working parts as shown in their "Mechanical Division Manual of Standards and Recommended Practice". Specifications as of March 1939 required that the fabrication casting material be of open hearth or electric furnace grade "B" steel with specific metallurgic requirements to insure proper tensile strength and reliability of the coupler and its moving parts. In order to govern uniform standards for the interchangeability and the proper relation between fitting parts, the A.R.A. Committee on Couplers and draft gears designed and distributed templates, gauges, and master guides to assure the proper interchangeability and fitting of parts to maintain the proper operation of various multi-source manufactured railway couplers. [28]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">N scale</span> Modelling scale of 1:160, 1:150 (Japan), 1:148 (UK)

N scale is a popular model railway scale. Depending upon the manufacturer, the scale ranges from 1:148 to 1:160. Effectively the scale is 1:159, 9 mm to 1,435 mm, which is the width of standard gauge railway. However the scale may vary to simulate wide or narrow gauge rail. In all cases, the gauge is 9 mm or 0.354 in. The term N gauge refers to the track dimensions, but in the United Kingdom in particular British N gauge refers to a 1:148 scale with 1:160 track gauge modelling. The terms N scale and N gauge are often inaccurately used interchangeably, as scale is defined as ratio or proportion of the model, and gauge only as a distance between rails. The scale 1:148 defines the rail-to-rail gauge equal to 9 mm exactly, so when calculating the rail or track use 1:160 and for engines and car wheel base use 1:148.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Multiple-unit train control</span>

Multiple-unit train control, sometimes abbreviated to multiple-unit or MU, is a method of simultaneously controlling all the traction equipment in a train from a single location—whether it is a multiple unit comprising a number of self-powered passenger cars or a set of locomotives—with only a control signal transmitted to each unit. This contrasts with arrangements where electric motors in different units are connected directly to the power supply switched by a single control mechanism, thus requiring the full traction power to be transmitted through the train.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Railway coupling</span> Mechanism for connecting rolling stock in a train

A coupling or coupler is a mechanism, typically located at each end of a rail vehicle, that connects them together to form a train. The equipment that connects the couplers to the vehicles is the draft gear or draw gear, which must absorb the stresses of the coupling and the acceleration of the train.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tank car</span> Train car for holding liquids and gases

A tank car is a type of railroad car or rolling stock designed to transport liquid and gaseous commodities.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eli H. Janney</span>

Eli H. Janney, aka Eli Hamilton Janney or simply Eli Janney, was the inventor of the modern knuckle coupler that replaced link and pin couplers on North American railroads.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rotary car dumper</span>

A rotary car dumper or wagon tippler (UK) is a mechanism used for unloading certain railroad cars such as hopper cars, gondolas or mine cars. It holds the rail car to a section of track and then rotates the track and car together to dump out the contents. Used with gondola cars, it is making open hopper cars obsolete. Because hopper cars require sloped chutes in order to direct the contents to the bottom dump doors (hatches) for unloading, gondola cars allow cars to be lower, thus lowering their center of gravity, while carrying the same gross rail load. Cars are equipped with rotary couplers to allow dumping them while they are still coupled; a "Double Rotary" gondola or hopper has rotary couplers on both ends to allow it to be unloaded while it remains coupled to stationary cars at each end.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tow hitch</span> Hard attachment point on a road vehicle, used to tow a trailer

A tow hitch is a device attached to the chassis of a vehicle for towing, or a towbar to an aircraft nose gear. It can take the form of a tow ball to allow swiveling and articulation of a trailer, or a tow pin, or a tow hook with a trailer loop, often used for large or agricultural vehicles where slack in the pivot pin allows similar movements. Another category is the towing pintle used on military vehicles worldwide.

Type H Tightlock couplers are a variety of Janney coupler, typically used on North American mainline passenger rail cars. They have mechanical features that reduce slack in normal operation and prevent telescoping in derailments, yet remain compatible with other Janney types used by North American freight railroads.

Buckeye Steel Castings was a Columbus, Ohio steelmaker best known today for its longtime president, Samuel P. Bush, who was the grandfather of President George H. W. Bush and great-grandfather of President George W. Bush.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scharfenberg coupler</span> Automatic railway coupling

The Scharfenberg coupler is a commonly used type of fully automatic railway coupling.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">SA3 coupler</span> Automatic coupler for railway use

SA3 couplers or Willison coupler and Russian coupler are railway couplings used primarily in Russia and states influenced by the former Soviet Union, such as Finland, Poland, and Mongolia.

The railcar couplers or couplings listed, described, and depicted below are used worldwide on legacy and modern railways. Compatible and similar designs are frequently referred to using widely differing make, brand, regional or nick names, which can make describing standard or typical designs confusing. Dimensions and ratings noted in these articles are usually of nominal or typical components and systems, though standards and practices also vary widely with railway, region, and era. Transition between incompatible coupler types may be accomplished using dual couplings, a coupling adapter or a barrier wagon.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gangway connection</span> Flexible passageway between train cars

A gangway connection is a flexible connector fitted to the end of a railway coach, enabling passengers to move from one coach to another without danger of falling from the train.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">South African Class 25NC 4-8-4</span>

The South African Railways Class 25NC 4-8-4 of 1953 was a class of steam locomotives built between 1953 and 1955 for the South African Railways (SAR). The Class 25NC was the non-condensing version of the Class 25 condensing locomotive, of which ninety were placed in service at the same time. Between 1973 and 1980, all but three of the condensing locomotives were converted to non-condensing and also designated Class 25NC.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">South African Class GCA 2-6-2+2-6-2</span>

The South African Railways Class GCA 2-6-2+2-6-2 of 1927 was an articulated steam locomotive.

The South African Railways Class GE 2-8-2+2-8-2 of 1925 was an articulated steam locomotive.

From time to time, a railway decides that it needs to upgrade its coupling system from one that is proving unsatisfactory, to another that meets future requirements. This can be done gradually, which can create many problems with transitional incompatibilities, or overnight, which requires much planning.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dual coupling</span>

Different types of railroad rolling stock have different couplers depending on the purpose and type of equipment being used and its intended destination. European rolling stock tend to use buffers and chain couplers while American rolling stock uses a Janney coupler or "knuckle coupler". These are incompatible with each other, but where some railroads have obtained older, less expensive used rolling stock from different countries or regions, instead of having to standardize on one form of coupler, it may be useful to be able to use either type of coupler on a piece of rolling stock without having to remove anything.


  1. 1 2 US patent 594059
  2. Eli Janney — The Janney Coupler
  3. Inventors: Eli Janney - The Janney Coupler. Railroad Car Couplers / About, Inc
  4. 1 2 MCB
  5. "McConway & Torley". Archived from the original on 2015-03-15. Retrieved 2014-07-07.
  6. McConway & Torley
  7. 1 2 AAR Manual of Standards and Recommended Practices, Section S, Part I:Casting Details, Issue 06/2007
  8. 1 2 AAR 2011 Field Manual
  9. AAR Manual of Standards and Recommended Practices, Section S, Part III: Coupler and Yoke Details, Issue 06/2007
  10. 1 2 3 "NATIONAL MODEL RAILROAD ASSOCIATION DATA SHEET" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-08-20. Retrieved 2013-11-15.
  11. "Bottom operated". Archived from the original on 2011-12-13. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
  12. 1 2 3 Buckeye coupler (scroll down) [ dead link ] Archived September 26, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  13. Type E double shelf
  14. "Columbus Castings Couplers and Yokes". Archived from the original on 2013-05-30. Retrieved 2013-05-26.
  15. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-03-10. Retrieved 2013-05-26.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. "Knuckle Couplers". RMI Railworks.
  17. "The Janney coupler - ASME". www.asme.org.
  18. Offset or gooseneck couplers
  19. Ohio Brass Company
  20. Ohio Brass company
  21. Clark, Charles H. (1972). "The Development of the Semiautomatic Freight-Car Coupler, 1863-1893". Technology and Culture. 13 (2): 207. doi:10.2307/3102610. ISSN   0040-165X.
  22. "Link and Pin Couplers".
  23. "Type E and Type F couplers". Archived from the original on 2013-05-30. Retrieved 2013-05-26.
  24. "Safety and research" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-03-10. Retrieved 2013-05-26.
  25. Tedrail
  26. "Double Shelf Couplers Tank Cars - Bing images".
  27. Wilson, Mark R. "Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago". www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org. Retrieved 30 June 2014.
  28. The A.R.A. STANDARD Type "E" COUPLER March 1931, page 9