This page provides links to reports that show all of the current and previous production S couplers, and coupler-related products.
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In the reports above where the term Scale is used, it indicates the scale for which the product was intended to be used; see the Notes field for how the item is used within S-scale.
In the 1800s the link-and-pin coupler was really the first method of coupling engines and cars together. These were extremely dangerous to use, as the crew member had to stand in between the cars being coupled. Eli H. Janney patented the knuckle coupler in 1873. In 1877 the Pennsylvania Railroad was the first to try the knuckle coupler. They found it to be safer and cars could be coupled much faster than doing so manually. In 1893 the U.S. government passed the Federal Safety Appliance Act making it mandatory for all railroads to use knuckle couplers on any locomotive or car in regular service. In 1916 Janney designed the type D coupler. Note that if you model narrow-gauge, this is the coupler type that is generally used. In 1932 the type E "clasped-hand" design was created. The lack of a vertical interlock led to the development of the type E shelf couplers (top- or bottom-shelf), and the type F and H couplers (machined interlockings). The bottom-shelf type E was adopted as the industry standard following extensive testing in the 1970s. Type F couplers are commonly found on hazardous-material tank cars. These have both a top and bottom shelf to make it very hard for them to uncouple should an accident happen. The even more complex type H "tight-lock" is standard on modernday passenger cars, which prevents cars from jack-knifing during an accident, which was when most injuries occur. All tourist railroads now use these type H couplers. The type E, F, and H couplers are all compatible. FYI, a National Model type E coupler sells for about $300 and a type F coupler for about $400.
Forgot how to install a coupler correctly? Janney couplers are always right-handed, i.e., their shape resembles the human right hand with fingers curled, as viewed from above.
The required coupler height from the top of the rail in North America is 33.5" +/- 1" (851mm +/- 25mm) for empty cars, and one inch lower for loaded cars.