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Buckeye couplers in Britain ..when?


Pacific231G
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Does anyone know when Buckeye (AAR but likely MCB then ) couplers were first introduced into Britain. I'm pretty sure it was the LNER ,possibly followed by the SR, that started using them for express passenger coaches and later on some locos (to pull said coaches) but I've not been able to find out exactly when. Was it during the 1920s or the 1930s and how far behind were the SR or anyone else? I don't think any of the pre-grouping companies used them but that could be wrong.

Many thanks for any verified facts.

 

 

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Someone will know for sure. But I'm pretty certain the Mersey Railway electrics had them from new at about the turn of the century (1900ish).

 

They were very "American" vehicles though. Not really typical of the UK.

 

Maybe the GNR? This says 1906.

 

https://www.ssplprints.com/image/412906/great-northern-railway-coach-1906

 

 

Jason

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The SECR Continental stock had them from new in the early 1920s. 

 

Buckeyes were adopted as a UK standard in the mid-1920s, which meant in practice that all Pullmans, LNER and SR loco hauled corridor stock built from that point had them, the GWR tried them for a year or two and reverted to British Standard gangways and screw couplers, and the LMS never bothered. 

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The buckeye couplers used in the UK weren't identical to the US types (AAR or MCB) and in particular weren't designed to take all the buffing forces.  They relied on Pullman gangways to do that.  So Southern Region non-corridor electric units that used buckeye couplers between units (EPB and HAP) had a sprung block mounted above the coupler which corresponded to the bottom of a Pullman gangway.

The Vestibuled Cars built for the South Eastern Railway in 1897 by Metropolitan Railway Carriage & Wagon for the Folkestone Car Train had buckeye couplers within the set which were supplied by W S Laycock of Sheffield.  I'm not sure if they were totally identical to the later ones, but they were certainly on the same principle.  Laycock patented the arrangement where the buckeye could be hinged down to reveal a conventional hook for use with conventional screw couplings, in conjunction with buffers which could be extended.

I wouldn't claim these were the first use of buckeye couplers in the UK but they were pretty near.  I seem to recall there were other uses on the Great Northern but experts in that line will no doubt give details.

Later, Southern Railway carriages with buckeye couplers and Pullman gangways generally didn't have side buffers within sets, as sets weren't intended to be split in normal service.

The Southern Railway did experiment with actual MCB couplers for within unit couplings for batches of 3-car suburban electric units in 1925-6 (1285-1310 and 1401-1534).  There were quite a lot of problems with them, and trains became divided in traffic on more than one occasion, so they were all replaced with centre buffers and a screw coupling in April-June 1926.

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The GNR 12 wheeled clerestory stock had knuckle couplers from the mid 1890s as did the GCR Parker stock from roughly the same date. NER arc roofed non-corridor stock bogie stock were also built with them, an interesting unique example of  their use on non-corridor stock. 

 

These early examples were described as Gould couplings, which differed from the later Buckeyes by their uncoupling mechanism. Goulds had a lever on the headstock, which when pulled would release the coupling. 

 

The GCR and NER stock had these couplings remove in the early years of the 20th century, about the same time that Gould coupling were replaced by Buckeye more generally. 

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1 hour ago, Tom Burnham said:

The buckeye couplers used in the UK weren't identical to the US types (AAR or MCB) and in particular weren't designed to take all the buffing forces.  They relied on Pullman gangways to do that.  So Southern Region non-corridor electric units that used buckeye couplers between units (EPB and HAP) had a sprung block mounted above the coupler which corresponded to the bottom of a Pullman gangway...

 

The Southern Railway did experiment with actual MCB couplers for within unit couplings for batches of 3-car suburban electric units in 1925-6 (1285-1310 and 1401-1534).  There were quite a lot of problems with them, and trains became divided in traffic on more than one occasion, so they were all replaced with centre buffers and a screw coupling in April-June 1926.

The standard UK buckeye is a 3/4 size version of the American MCB pattern and, as Tom says, uses a sprung buffing plate (usually incorporated in a Pullman gangway) to take some of the buffing forces.  The buckeyes fitted within units to the SR 1925 electric stock were full size MCB pattern without buffing plates.  

 

What doesn't seem to have been fully appreciated at the time is that the buffing forces imposed within an electric unit with two motor cars, each independently under automatic acceleration control, were rather different from those experienced within a locomotive hauled train.   Hence the rash of broken couplers and the reversion to centre buffers/rubbing plates and link (not screw) couplings.  The pre-War corridor electric stock used screw couplings and (rather massive) side buffers within units.  

 

The 1951 and subsequent EPB stock was fitted with standard size buckeyes and rubbing plates at unit ends although the centre buffer arrangement between cars remained on non-corridor stock.  Mark 1 corridor units (CEPs, CIGs etc) used buckeyes throughout in line with the Mark 1 standard, as did the DEMUs which I think must have been the only Mark 1 non-corridor stock so fitted. Presumably this was done to facilitate splitting units for maintenance purposes although at one time Eastleigh used to routinely split them to provide a pool of 2 car units for the Mid-Hants line.

 

Keith.

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Thanks everyone. This is information I needed to check for an article I've been sent and it does appear that they were being used at least ten years earlier than I'd thought.

They got their name of Buckeyes from the Buckeye Steel Castings company of Columbus Ohio who specialised in casting couplings and I've often wondered whether the 3/4 size supplied was based on that supplied for 3ft gauge railroads in the USA. 

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The non-gangwayed ( some later gangwayed ) Hampshire, Berkshire & Oxted DEMUs did, indeed have buckeye couplers - but the Hastings units were also DEMUs, of course, and had gangways within unit. 

The majority of non-gangwayed Mk1 electric units off the Southern also had buckeyes between and within sets ( 501s the obvious exception ).

Pete wasn't quite right to say "the LMS never bothered" as the three wartime Royal twelve-wheelers were fitted with buckeyes and Pullman gangways. Like the GWR trial, many years earlier, these coaches had buffers that hinged down rather than retracting as we're used to. ( I wonder if Mr.Stanier had found these in the back of a Swindon store room ? )

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Not all Pullman cars in the UK had Pullman gangways and knuckle couplers.

Those built for the Caledonian Railway, delivered just before grouping in 1923, had British style gangways and screw couplings.

 

Some of the early cars (1908 on) had drophead buckeyes within rake, but screw couplings on the outer ends of the brake cars

Edited by melmerby
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The LMS did bother.

 

As I pointed out above the Mersey Railway units had them as did the (BR classification) 503 units. The question was the first use rather than what had them so I didn't start quoting lists of types that are known.

 

The Class 502 didn't have them though. They had conventional buffers and couplings.

 

 

 

Also don't forget that some LNER tenders also had buckeye couplings. Quite possibly the only example of mainline steam locomotives using buckeye couplings in the UK.

 

 

Jason

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3 minutes ago, Steamport Southport said:

 

 

 

Also don't forget that some LNER tenders also had buckeye couplings. Quite possibly the only example of mainline steam locomotives using buckeye couplings in the UK.

 

 

Jason

And a Pullman gangway!

image.png.d9fd44fd603d3543bbcf054617cf8f6b.png

 

 

 

 

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7 hours ago, Tom Burnham said:

The Southern Railway did experiment with actual MCB couplers for within unit couplings for batches of 3-car suburban electric units in 1925-6 (1285-1310 and 1401-1534).  There were quite a lot of problems with them, and trains became divided in traffic on more than one occasion, so they were all replaced with centre buffers and a screw coupling in April-June 1926.

ISTR reading that the problems with these couplers resulted in the mainline EMUs having side buffers and screw couplers, rather than buckeyes and Pullman gangways. There's a suggestion that Raworth, who was responsible for EMUs, disliked auto-couplers after the problems with the suburban sets. 

 

30 minutes ago, melmerby said:

Not all Pullman cars in the UK had Pullman gangways and knuckle couplers.

Those built for the Caledonian Railway, delivered just before grouping in 1923, had British style gangways and screw couplings.

Were those built on recycled Ambulance car underframes? ISTR that some of the Pullmans from around that time were. 

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45 minutes ago, melmerby said:

Not all Pullman cars in the UK had Pullman gangways and knuckle couplers.

Those built for the Caledonian Railway, delivered just before grouping in 1923, had British style gangways and screw couplings.

 

 

12 minutes ago, pete_mcfarlane said:

 

 

Were those built on recycled Ambulance car underframes? ISTR that some of the Pullmans from around that time were. 

They appear to be all new and were 63' 10" over vestibules.

They were a more or less standard K type but the Gangways were to Caledonian specifications, as were the buffers.

 

(I'm quoting Ford)

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The Metropolitan Railway used a half-sized version of the AAR coupler in conjunction with a centre buffing plate back in 1905 and retained that arrangement for almost all their subsequent electric stock. The exceptions were the three pairs of MV stock motor coaches that were built to run with adapted steam stock carriages, and the motor coaches that were created out of Bogie Stock carriages.

 

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2 hours ago, melmerby said:

 

They appear to be all new and were 63' 10" over vestibules.

They were a more or less standard K type but the Gangways were to Caledonian specifications, as were the buffers.

Yes and no - the mention of 'just before grouping' would refer to earlier Cars operated by the Caledonian whereas the 'K' type ones arrived in May '23 just after grouping.

Beware the drawing I've seen published a couple of times and purporting to be a typical 'K' type underframe : it's from one of this series so has 'conventional' buffing and drawgear together with Westinghouse brake fittings - definitely atypical !

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3 hours ago, Wickham Green too said:

Yes and no - the mention of 'just before grouping' would refer to earlier Cars operated by the Caledonian whereas the 'K' type ones arrived in May '23 just after grouping.

Beware the drawing I've seen published a couple of times and purporting to be a typical 'K' type underframe : it's from one of this series so has 'conventional' buffing and drawgear together with Westinghouse brake fittings - definitely atypical !

The Caledonian became part of the new LMS group on 1st July 1923 not 1st Jan 1923 as often reported, so the May '23 deliveries were "before grouping" and K type.

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25 minutes ago, Wickham Green too said:

OK, I know some of the independent Companies were latecomers to the party - but I think most people would accept the date of "grouping" to be 1st January.

I'm only quoting what I would call reasonably trusted parties.

The Caledonian Railway Society & Anthony Ford's Pullman guides

 

Both say the grouping wrt The Caley was 1st July 1923

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23 hours ago, melmerby said:

Not all Pullman cars in the UK had Pullman gangways and knuckle couplers.

Those built for the Caledonian Railway, delivered just before grouping in 1923, had British style gangways and screw couplings.

 

Some of the early cars (1908 on) had drophead buckeyes within rake, but screw couplings on the outer ends of the brake cars

Ditto the four GSR Kitchen Third Pullmans delivered in 1926, neither Pullman gangways nor buckeye couplers but then those cars were planned to run as one individually within a train and not as a full rake.

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The EPB for the SR were going to be fitted with buckeye between coaches, but the extra length of the sets meant they would not fit into some sidings, so reverted to centre buffer and links between coaches, but retained the buckeye between sets. The first few EPB were equipped for buckeye, the later ones were not. When the 2EPB driving coaches were used with the Hastings coaches to make th tadpole units they were refitted with them at the inner ends, and resulted in some sets being reformed to release the early build driving coaches.

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20 hours ago, Wickham Green too said:

Sorry, I'm only stating that most people would take 1st January to be the date of "grouping" even though the Caley joined its group at a later date ....................... perhaps we should start a thread on 'The True Meaning of Grouping' ??!? :stop:

Good idea that.  As far as the GWR was concerned there are at least four dates which related to the grouping that I have traced so far.  Two are in respect of grouping legislation and the other two are dates on which the actual grouping of companies into the GWR took place - one each in 1922 and 1923.

 

Back to buckeyes.

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23 minutes ago, The Stationmaster said:

Good idea that.  As far as the GWR was concerned there are at least four dates which related to the grouping that I have traced so far.  Two are in respect of grouping legislation and the other two are dates on which the actual grouping of companies into the GWR took place - one each in 1922 and 1923.

 

Back to buckeyes.

Still OT:offtopic:

Of course in reality the GWR was somewhat different to the other "groups" in that rather than several large and a lot of small companies were amalgamated to make one large new company, the GWR effectively just 'hoovered up' the other companies in it's area.

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