Couplers and Draft Gear

 

 

PASSENGER CAR COUPLERS UPDATE

 

 

Purple is 6 July '04 update.

Red is 28 January '04 update.

 

Please note, this page was originally generated to support full size railroad passenger cars operating on the standard gauge General Railway System (GRS) of North America. There are some models identified below that should not be used in such service, even though they were in the past, and are so designated. HOWEVER, some of these same models are very acceptable for other lighter duty types of service such as underground mining, some industrial, and amusement park rides. These models are designated by asterisk (*) with a minor discussion about these alternatives following below.

 

We can state that we are still in the coupler business. We are still providing engineering to support coupler conversions and replacements, and now can obtain some versions of the products we had before.

The shake-up in who is still producing, who could produce, and those remaining wanting to support low volume orders is still slowly being sorted out.

The passenger car manufacturers are hurting, as are the commuter agencies, Amtrak and Via for spare parts.

One thing is certain, the prices WILL GO UP.

 
As production is (and will be) at best cyclic, at least near term questionable for a while, it is best that you place your orders early. It would also be very prudent to "pool" your orders to get the volume up.
This recommendation is valid for private car owners, excursion operators and freight carrier biz fleet managers all! It wouldn't hurt the car builders and commuter agencies to join in also. A large order gets the attention of the 2 remaining manufacturers where small or individual orders from private car owners don't.

GLR is still available for engineering and support, and we are now able to source new couplers domestically. From time to time we do come up with used units.

We have been approached by manufacturers from 5 countries that claim the capability, quality and capacity to cast and heat treat couplers suitable for passenger cars on the GRS. At this time, we do not consider this to be a viable alternative, because the cost of transportation/communication and intermediaries who know the customs and speak the language required to maintain the level of quality required for US domestic main line passenger hardware approaches or exceeds the savings from production in such other countries. This seems especially true with the depressed US Dollar against world currencies. Hower, things have a habit of changing. Although this is not our most desired method, we are about as die hard 'buy American' as any, if we can not maintain support from the domestic manufacturers this may become a requirement.

At least as of this time, Columbus Steel is talking to us, with limited production of some type H couplers available, and as they continue to increase their capacity this should improve, and a willingness to do some special configurations with reasonable production volume requirements.

We have had a couple of conversations with ASF-Keystone about what they obtained from Meridian, and what they intend to do with it. Unfortunately, they have used up the stock they obtained ready to go, and are now therefore not a viable supplier because of their agreement with M&T.

McConway&Torley has not yet discussed with us their intentions with respect to the type H and type F couplers they obtained that had been formerly designed and produced for GLR by NACO. We are still attempting to work this out.

 

Ne and used hardware will be displayed on the "Market List" page of this web site as it comes available.

 

The following is still technically correct data and information to help people evaluate their options.

Please keep in mind that changing couplers and the associated hardware is not a minor task. It could involve work on the basic structure of the car, to include the center sill, end castings and coupler carriers, as well as pulling and replacing the couplers. Some of these long shank units can approach a ton in weight with the yoke, they are unwieldy, and some require that the draft gear be compressed to install it. If you are unsure about what you are looking at or doing, please get professional help. Remember that Rule 1 in many RR rule books was, "When in doubt, the safe course must be taken." The life you save may be your own.

 

COUPLER BASICS:

Couplers NOT allowed on the General Railway System include:

 

Sharon side and bottom operating *

 

 

AAR type D

 

 

also, ARA type D, MCB type D and earlier, Malco, Melrose, Latrobe, Munton, St. Louis, Climax *, Willison **, and

 

 

Simplex *

 

Henricot, Atlas, and the first really interchange compatible unit, the

Janney

 

The units marked * are still in use in light load non-General Railway System (GRS) of North America applications such as amusment parks, mines and industrial applications. Note that the Sharon came in two sizes, a full size unit that is obsolete but still acceptable, and an undersized unit that is not acceptable on the GRS. GLR may be able to provide support for these coupler types IF enough interest is demonstrated.

The unit marked ** is still in heavy non-GRS industrial and mining use, and is supposedly still protected by patents and in domestic production. Until resolution of the patent protection and real production capacity is made, GLR can not provide support for this model. We are investigating further whether any license agreement is possible.

There are also many more from prior to the start of the all steel car era, and prior to the standardization of couplers by the Master Car Builders (MCB) committee followed later by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) Mechanical Committee.

You will note as you look at the couplers above, many look very similar to the allowable couplers illustrated below. It is easy to be confused! And to the credit of the manufacturers, ALL of the couplers illustrated here will properly couple with any other coupler illustrated here and any new ones! So it is not like one of the not allowable pieces above will be highlighted to train crews because it won't couple to the consist. You need to know what you are looking at, especially because the coupler head and shank are not the whole story. And because most of the units shown above have no where near the strength of the new products, it is not a good idea to put them into modern trains!

The coupler butt configuration, yoke, any shank to yoke connectors, and how they are mounted in the draft pocket and carried under the car are actually more important than the coupler itself in determining what can be used as a replacement! This is why GLR developed the "effective length" dimension, because yokes and coupler shanks can vary from car to car, or even from one end of the same car to the other! This is why we request that inquiries include the GLR Coupler Measuring Sheet (down loadable at the bottom of this page) for reference to the car characteristics independent of the coupler installation.

Please note, if your car has any of the couplers listed and/or shown above, you need to check that your car is all steel if you want to run it on the General Railway System.

With most of the older than the type D coupler types, it is very possible that the car is not, as a railroad would probably not put a coupler/draft system from a wood car onto a steel car. This can be a bit troublesome to determine, so it is best to call in qualified personnel if you really need clear identification and definiton, because MANY wood frame cars received steel underframes and steel sheeting during rebuilds in the 1920's and 1930's. Even if the centersill is steel, and the car is metal sheathed, it is not legal to run if the car body structure underneath that sheathing is wood.

Back to the couplers, there are now only two generic and one cross breed type couplers that should be utilized for passenger car installations. The "Titelok" or Type H coupler, the interlocking or Type F coupler, and a cross breed, the Type 'H/F' coupler.

 

Type F

Type H

Both of these couplers provide the 'interlocking' feature recommended for all passenger cars by the National Transporation Safety Board (NTSB), the Federal Railway Administration (FRA), and the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Another coupler that has interlocking features, the type CS coupler, is no longer domestically produced and is not supported with spare parts. It is inherently a weaker design than the Type H and F, and under tight curving, can actually come out of 'interlock' with the mated coupler due to the significant angling allowed between the heads. Under the new rules promulgated by AAR, APTA, and FRA, the CS coupler may be used until it no longer meets the requirements, e.g. goes 'out of gauge' or is damaged beyond repair.

The Type T coupler , where the term 'Titelok' originated, also has the interlocking features, but has been obsolete for many years. The Type T preceded the Type H by a few years, starting in some of the earliest lightweight trainsets. Because of these first applications, the Type T is not a full size and full strength unit. It should not be used in any main line passenger car applications.

Note that a double shelf , or sometimes referred to as 'hooded', type E coupler (shown below) does not comply with the interlocking or 'Titelok' coupler requirements for passenger service.

Double shelf or hooded type E

 

 

Also, you really don't want to be coupled with one of these, because the top shelf tends to cause a lot of damage to the diaphragms and buffer plates of your passenger car!

 

These couplers are derivatives of the standard and ubiquitous AAR type E coupler (shown below) most prevalent on all freight cars except some tanks and other specialty cars.

AAR Standard type E

 

 

AAR type E couplers were installed on passenger cars as new equipment as late as 1954. Many Canadian cars are still operating on short lines with long shank type E couplers in car sills and draft pockets designed for the type H.

 

Couplers for Passenger cars:

 

If the car is intended for heavy Amtrak or commuter service, especially if push-pull in long trains is involved, and particularly if dynamic or regenerative braking is used, GLR recommends consideration of a fully bushed traditional Type H (shown below) coupler installation.

APTA (former AAR) standard type H

 

 

As long as the draft gear has been properly installed and maintained under preload and the pins and bushings are not worn, the Type H coupler design provides the least amount of free slack of all current designs in such direction reversal service. This configuration is also the most expensive.

Having said this, the Type F coupler (shown below) and associated draft equipment can provide acceptable service in non-commuter (i.e. excursion) operations, including push-pull if the draft gear is properly specified and installed under pre-load.

AAR standard type F

 

Note the similarity of the type F above to the 'Titelok' type H shown above it, with the interlocking features on each side of the head. But also note the bottom shelf on the type F that the type H 'Titelok' does not have. This lower shelf provides additional safety in that it will hold a pulled knuckle or even a complete coupler head and shank of any coupler model, so that it does not drop to the ground and possibly cause a derailment. The type H can only hold a complete coupler if it is also an interlocking type, a broken or pulled knuckle or type E body may drop to the right of way.

As the manufacturers improve their near net casting processes, the amount of free slack will continue to be reduced, making the type F couplers even more competitive on a performance basis.

If the car is intended for mostly excursion type service, or will see large amounts of operation in freight service, the Type F coupler is very appropriate, and significantly less costly to obtain, install and maintain, because it uses standard lower cost high volume parts that are available on all freight railroads. It also provides a significant improvement in the slack compared to the original type E or even older couplers it replaced.

There is some confusion with respect to the type F coupler being allowed in passenger service. APTA, the American Public Transit Association, is responsible for the specifications, rules, standards and recommended practices for cars built new for passenger service. The AAR, Association of American Railroads, stopped supporting passenger cars many years ago.

APTA has taken over the type H coupler requirements, while still referencing the AAR standards with respect to quality control and system design standards. The AAR still controls the type F coupler because it is used extensively in freight service.

Because the type F coupler is controlled by the AAR, APTA is "silent" about it in their procedures and publications, just as the AAR is 'silent' about the type H in the AAR Standards and Recommended Practices and the Field Manual. The type F is very legal to use on passenger cars, and it is applied to many of the passenger locomotives currently being produced. They have type F couplers installed from the factory. There are also many private passenger cars in operation with NRPC 800xxx numbers that have type F couplers. The type F coupler meets and exceeds all intents of the NTSB recommendation for a tightlock or interlocking coupler on all passenger cars operating on the General Railway System. GLR has generated the physical properties for which the original manufacturers obtained AAR approval on 5 type F couplers specifically for the conversion of passenger cars with older type couplers.

The preferred Type F installation uses properly specified draft gear under preload. Preloading the gear takes the free slack out of the coupler butt and pin, providing superior ride quality through elimination of free slack at the butt pin. The Type F coupler has a nominally larger amount of free slack at the head than a type H, but still less than 1/2 of the older Type E couplers. Type F couplers are significantly less expensive than type H, because the type H has a fully machined contour, as well as the machining for the bushings between the yoke, radial connector and shank. This adds significant cost to the unit. But the real savings are in the engineering and installation for retrofit of the draft pocket in cars requiring major changes, and the very lower cost of unitized freight type draft gears compared to the traditional "Waughmat" types.

There is a cross breed coupler available known as the Type H/F coupler. These utilize type H head with a type F shank butt and yoke. This type of coupler configuration is less expensive than the traditional fully bushed Type H coupler with Waughmat installation, but provides a slight improvement in slack over a proper Type F installation due to the fully machined head. The cost is still incrementally higher than a Type F unit due to the machining required on the head. The advantage is that the yoke and draft gear are now high volume freight equipment, with the attendant significantly lower hardware costs associated with the integral freight style draft gear versus the Waughmat plate type units. And a very significantly lower cost is associated with the installation, due to not having to build up draft pockets if a Waughmat compatible pocket does not already exist! Therefore, this is a third REAL alternative for private passenger car conversions, and is utilized in many new commuter cars.

 

The GLR COUPLER SYSTEM:

GLR still provides AAR or APTA approved type F and type H couplers to upgrade passenger cars equipped with Types CS, T, D and E , Sharon and the old commuter types such as the ASF model F, or to replace broken or non-repairable couplers.

With these parts properly mixed and matched, we cover over 99% of all passenger cars built since the start of the all steel car era!!

The "System" comprises 42 combinations resulting in 16 type F and 8 type H and 18 type H/F (H head F shank) couplers to cover passenger car coupling system effective lengths from 33 inches to 81 inches!

These combinations include mixing and matching various types and lengths from all the domestic manufacturers with yokes, and radial connectors if needed, to provide the effective length range.

We have a new interlocking coupler configuration AAR approved to replace both "long" sizes of the obsolete CS type coupling / draft system, WITHOUT having to move and rebuild the draft pocket and/or modify the buffer position!

This coupler also makes conversion of the ex-CPR Angus, NSC and CC&F light weight cars very much simpler. These couplers are very good for replacing long shank type D and E original, and later retrofits with CS couplers in early heavyweight cars with long overhangs, as common on some of the x-ATSF cars.

We also currently have shorter Type F and H couplers to replace the short and medium length CS coupler configurations.

We have a short type F to replace the ASF model F used in older Long Island and other commuter cars. This is a relatively straight forward remove and replace operation.

Buckeye (now Columbus Steel) has reinstated production of the Y50 yoke for the Type H coupler. This is a fully bushed yoke similar to that used on most Type H couplers with Waughmat style draft gear, except that it is a full length yoke accepting freight style unitized draft gear in a 24-5/8" pocket. This allows less pocket modification than required for Waughmat draft gears, but it does still require the same outer draft lug upgrades and other end sill/carrier modifications that a Waugh equipped Type H does to retain the horizontal pin in the radial connnector and yoke.

All GLR special type "F" couplers for passenger car applications are cast in AAR Grade E steel for strength and durability. Long type "H" couplers are also specified in grade E steel, while the shorter units usually are specified in grade C steel, but we recommend grade E steel for all.

GLR can also provide new and/or rebuilt draft gears and complete car set "kits" if desired. These gears are sourced from AAR approved OEMs such as Miner or Keystone, or AAR approved rebuild provider such as IDG.

For those cars in or destined for Amtrak service, every special coupler component GLR offers has a drawing package on file with Amtrak. This way, Amtrak and their inspectors have internal access to all the products, as well as being able to contact us directly in reference to installation questions.

We now have available:

GLR can also provide:

To evaluate your coupler installation requirements, all of the information on the GLR Coupler Measuring Sheet needs to be filled in for both ends of your car(s).

You may use "Snail Mail", or just click on the link below to reach us:

 

 

 

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