Front Coupler on E units

1464 views
27 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    August, 2009
  • 272 posts
Front Coupler on E units
Posted by BLS53 on Saturday, June 23, 2018 5:02 PM

My memory goes back as far as the late 1950's, and I recall the front coupler on E units appearing as on any other loco or car. I have recently noticed old pictures of E's, in which the coupler isn't visually present, and appears to be enclosed behind two doors, much like retractable landing gear on an airplane. Was this something done for appearance? I can't imagine the exposed coupler added much in the way of drag. Did this become a maintenance issue later, and they just removed the doors, and went with a conventional mounting of the coupler?

  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 8,740 posts
Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, June 23, 2018 5:43 PM

What you're referring to was called a "drop-down" coupler that was meant to be folded down (for lack of a better term) and enclosed on diesels or left visible on steam locomotives.  Some steamers had them too.

The idea wasn't streamlining, but safety.  The idea was in the event of a collision at a grade crossing the thing being collided with, car, truck, or whatever, wouldn't get hung up on the coupler but would be pushed aside minimizing damage to the locomotive.

I suppose it didn't work out as well as they hoped it would, which is why you don't see drop-down couplers anymore.

  • Member since
    February, 2005
  • 1,745 posts
Posted by timz on Saturday, June 23, 2018 7:01 PM

Anyone got a pic of a folding coupler, on any diesel?

Maybe early E's had some sort of extendable coupler, to reach beyond that long pilot?

  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 8,740 posts
Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, June 23, 2018 7:47 PM

Ask and ye shall receive...

https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/topic/emd-e-unit-builder-photos?repliesPerPage=20

Scroll on down and have fun!

 

  • Member since
    May, 2012
  • 3,461 posts
Posted by rcdrye on Sunday, June 24, 2018 2:11 PM

UP even had cast, steam locomotive style pilots on early E-Units, with retracting couplers.  A large version used on a PA1 was not a success. There are several photos in the old Model Railroader Cyclopedia.

  • Member since
    February, 2005
  • 1,745 posts
Posted by timz on Sunday, June 24, 2018 3:29 PM

Firelock76
Ask and ye shall receive...

Don't see any folding couplers there. Extendable, maybe?

  • Member since
    February, 2005
  • 1,745 posts
Posted by timz on Sunday, June 24, 2018 3:33 PM

rcdrye
UP even had cast, steam locomotive style pilots on early E-Units, with retracting couplers.

Guess he means some pilots had slots cut in them. Were they actually cast? How far did the couplers extend?

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 14,820 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Sunday, June 24, 2018 4:13 PM

Firelock76
Ask and ye shall receive...

https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/topic/emd-e-unit-builder-photos?repliesPerPage=20

Scroll on down and have fun!

Would like to see pictures of these engines with the doors open.  I don't believe the couplers folded down - the doors just covered the coupler.

         

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 8,740 posts
Posted by Firelock76 on Sunday, June 24, 2018 4:22 PM

Scroll wayyyyy down until you get to the photo of the B&O EA.  The front covers are open and there's the coupler.  It doesn't look like a drop-down but does seem to be extended.  So I'm probably wrong on the drop-down part.

Scoll a bit further and there's a photo of the preserved Burlington E-5.  The coupler doors are open but there's a guy standing in front so you can't see the coupler.  I'm assuming it's there just the same.

Keep going and there's a shot of a Seaboard E-4 with the coupler doors AND the front door open.

Sorry, I went looking for diesel drop-down couplers or similar and this is the best I could come up with.  Couldn't find anything else.

  • Member since
    August, 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 6,646 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Sunday, June 24, 2018 7:17 PM

Hello,

 

 

 NYC E7 Manual_1 by Edmund, on Flickr 

 NYC E7 Manual by Edmund, on Flickr

 

 NYC E7 Manual_April15-1945 by Edmund, on Flickr

 NYC E7 Manual_2 by Edmund, on Flickr

I seem to recall mention of the slotted pilots as being an aid to traction motor cooling. As far as I can remember the NYC only had the two E-7s (4002 & 4003, the "black units") with the slotted pilots so it apparently made no appreciable difference.

 NYC E74002_pilot by Edmund, on Flickr

 

I believe the short life-span of retractible/drop/pivoted/covered couplers were intended to deflect debris, and the occasional automobile, rather than impale it onto the coupler, as Firelock points out. It would seem the mechanical departments won out — probably after demonstrating the high maintenance and operating costs of the various mechanical apparatus required.

Regards, Ed

  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 8,740 posts
Posted by Firelock76 on Sunday, June 24, 2018 7:49 PM

Ahhhh, there we go!  That explains a lot, perfectly.

Thanks Ed!

  • Member since
    August, 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 6,646 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Sunday, June 24, 2018 8:09 PM

Firelock76
Thanks Ed!

Glad to help any small way I can. Cool

Cheers — Ed

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 14,820 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Sunday, June 24, 2018 9:48 PM

gmpullman
I seem to recall mention of the slotted pilots as being an aid to traction motor cooling. As far as I can remember the NYC only had the two E-7s (4002 & 4003, the "black units") with the slotted pilots so it apparently made no appreciable difference.

 NYC E74002_pilot by Edmund, on Flickr

 

I believe the short life-span of retractible/drop/pivoted/covered couplers were intended to deflect debris, and the occasional automobile, rather than impale it onto the coupler. It would seem the mechanical departments won out — probably after demonstrating the high maintenance and operating costs of the various mechanical apparatus required.

Regards, Ed

 

I see the 4002 has been equipped with chains and hooks that were sometimes used with heavyweight cars that were not equipped with tightlock couplers.  Belt and suspenders for a broken knuckle or draftgear back in the day.

         

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

  • Member since
    August, 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 6,646 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Sunday, June 24, 2018 11:24 PM

BaltACD
I see the 4002 has been equipped with chains and hooks that were sometimes used with heavyweight cars that were not equipped with tightlock couplers.

I'd really like to find out exactly what the "back-story" is on safety chains. They often were applied to lightweight cars, too.

I believe most, if not all, of the cars in the 1948 Century and 1950 Chessie Pullman order had safety chains and tightlock type H couplers:

 NYC_1948_Pullman by Edmund, on Flickr

'48 Century above and one of the 1950 (delivery date) Chessie cars below:

 C-O_1950_Pullman by Edmund, on Flickr

It seems to me that the safety chains on the NYC E-7s (I don't believe E-8s were so equipped) were only applied as needed as nearly all the on-coming photos of these locomotives I recall seeing had the chains removed but a small "socket" evident above the anti-climber.

BaltACD
Belt and suspenders for a broken knuckle or draftgear back in the day.

And an effort to keep cars aligned in the event of a derailment. This is also the theory behind locking (bolster) center-pins and safety chains on the trucks.

Thank You, Ed

 

  • Member since
    August, 2008
  • From: Calgary AB. Canada
  • 2,224 posts
Posted by AgentKid on Monday, June 25, 2018 4:42 AM

gmpullman
safety chains on the trucks

Oh man, you guys just made not being able to sleep worthwhile!

I had forgotten about the chains on the trucks. The Combines that came through Irricana had both the truck and end chains. They had a distinctive sound when the train would come to a complete stop.

I don't know the backstory behind them, but thanks for reminding me of them.

Bruce

 

So shovel the coal, let this rattler roll.

"A Train is a Place Going Somewhere"  CP Rail Public Timetable

"O. S. Irricana"

. . . __ . ______

  • Member since
    February, 2005
  • 1,745 posts
Posted by timz on Monday, June 25, 2018 12:25 PM

Next question: were all E7s built with retractable couplers? Did any later Es have them? Or other 1948-and-later diesels?

No freight diesels ever had them?

The RME article on the Rock Island DL109s mentions a "swivel" coupler on the front-- that means it pivots around a vertical axis?

  • Member since
    June, 2002
  • 14,201 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Monday, June 25, 2018 12:48 PM

Going back to the origianal question, some J3a New York Central Hudsons had drop-down couplers, and not only the Dryfuss streamlined ones for the Century, but some non-streamlined ones as well.  Perhaps all, originally.

J1s also!

Ditto the four streamlined K4s PRR Pacifics.

  • Member since
    August, 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 6,646 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Monday, June 25, 2018 2:34 PM

An interesting catalog page:

 Pilot_0001 by Edmund, on Flickr

 

 Pilot by Edmund, on Flickr

 

An amazing amount of design and development was going on in the railroad industry through the War years and shortly after.

Cheers, Ed

  • Member since
    August, 2009
  • 272 posts
Posted by BLS53 on Monday, June 25, 2018 9:54 PM

I'd like to see some documentation on the grade crossing collision/debris theory. My own thoughts are they wanted the entire train to look as seamless as possible. Note in many publicity photos and paintings of the era, the lash-up is nearly always an "A" lead unit, with the trailing unit(s) all "B's". Under that operating philosophy, there would seldom be the need for using the front coupler on the "A" units. Also, there were still a good number of turntables in existence, which further enabled this philosophy. 

At some point, the RR's figured out the operational limitations of these couplers, and did away with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Member since
    December, 2017
  • From: I've been everywhere, man
  • 946 posts
Posted by SD70Dude on Monday, June 25, 2018 11:58 PM

Some railroads operated A-A or A-B-A sets right from the get go.

While a A-B-B-... set looks nice, it requires extra effort to keep it that way and creates operational headaches, like not fitting on a turntable and having to switch or wye the power at the end of the run.  From the number of early pictures of A-units and roadswitchers mixed up in passenger consists I'd say that operating employees clued in very early.

Drop couplers were found on many regular (non-streamlined) steam locomotives, before diesels or streamlining came along.

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

  • Member since
    May, 2012
  • 3,461 posts
Posted by rcdrye on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 2:01 PM

A lot of A units, both freight and passenger, had "through the nose" MU.  Most that were built without it and lasted into the late 1960s and beyond had it retrofitted, though Soo Line's F7As and FP7As only had MU on the rear until they were retired.

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 14,820 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 3:37 PM

In looking at pictures in the late 60's & 70's of F units on the head end of trains, I am amazed at how many of those pictures show the streamlined door coverning the MU connection is open and showing the MU connection with its own cover.

I also noticed a number of F units with the streamlined door on both sides of the top (where more than 1) headlight.  Were both of the sides MU equipped?

         

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

  • Member since
    May, 2012
  • 3,461 posts
Posted by rcdrye on Thursday, June 28, 2018 8:51 PM

E- and F-units factory equipped with nose MU got a 27-pin socket (early units had a 16-pin socket) behind one of the flaps.  Photos seem to show most E-units with two flaps or a single flap on the left (fireman's) side, while most F-units had the flap on the right (engineer's), though it was probably up to the customer.  If there's a second flap, it has a 16-pin socket which was used for HSC brakes, steam generator controls and any other passenger-only function.  Units with "aftermarket" nose MU could have anything - some had sockets on square boxes with flaps like road-switchers.  Rock Island added similar sockets to ex-UP E9s in the 1970s for HEP.

  • Member since
    December, 2017
  • From: I've been everywhere, man
  • 946 posts
Posted by SD70Dude on Thursday, June 28, 2018 9:17 PM

Very early on (it may have been factory-installed) CN's units got a additional plug on the front Engineer's side, not far above the plow.  It's main purpose was to power the removable ditchlights that they were starting to use in the Rocky Mountain region, although I believe it could also be used to provide electricity to a snowplow. 

It looks like a inverted triangle, or a "pointless arrow" with all 3 ends of equal length.  It can be seen directly above the MU hoses on this FP9:

http://locomotive.wikia.com/wiki/General_Motors_FP9?file=North_header_648_%281%29.jpg

A higher-quality shot, on our preserved F3A that never received front MU connections:

http://www.railpictures.ca/?attachment_id=7976

 

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

  • Member since
    May, 2012
  • 3,461 posts
Posted by rcdrye on Friday, June 29, 2018 6:44 AM

Soo Line equipped its F7s and FP7s assigned to plow duty in the 1980s with a similar plug to power the plow's lights and other equipment.

Here's a photo of UP's PA1 with the cast pilot:

http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=520257

  • Member since
    February, 2007
  • 140 posts
Posted by 3rd rail on Saturday, June 30, 2018 1:15 AM

Since we are talking Passenger Couplers, I have seen photos of "Mainly A.T.&S.F." Passenger F-7's and E-8 Am's. with a "Tight-Lok" coupler that also has a center section that seems to be moveable... I was wondering if that piece was some sort of "Anti-Slack" device. I drove LTL  28-foot double pups for years, and we had similar anti-slack devices on the converters. Air pressure activated. ( half the time they didn't work). But I thought they looked familiar. 

Todd 

  • Member since
    August, 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 6,646 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Saturday, June 30, 2018 3:54 PM

3rd rail
I was wondering if that piece was some sort of "Anti-Slack" device.

Sure enough...

 AAR_coupler by Edmund, on Flickr

Again, the amount of research and "advanced technology" to help give the travelling puiblic a smoother ride is exceptional.

Regards, Ed

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 14,820 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Sunday, July 01, 2018 11:30 AM

gmpullman
Again, the amount of research and "advanced technology" to help give the travelling puiblic a smoother ride is exceptional.

Regards, Ed

And the amount of complexity for trainmen to replace a broken knuckle grew.....

         

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

SUBSCRIBER & MEMBER LOGIN

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

FREE NEWSLETTER SIGNUP

Get the Classic Trains twice-monthly newsletter