Re: Another X29 Question -- Coupler Operating Release Levers

Tim O'Connor


Was it just a matter of a rapid change from top-operated to the bottom-operated couplers
for NEW freight cars, and then the gradual retirement (or rebuilding) of older cars? I have a scan
of a 1977 photo of an SP O-50-10 tank car (built 1925) with its original Carmer lever, and top
operated coupler.

Was there any mechanical advantage (i.e. leverage) that favored bottom operated uncoupling?
Or maybe it was just a cost advantage? (This seems more likely to me, given this is the railroad
business, after all.)

Tim O'Connor

On 5/12/2021 11:42 AM, Schleigh Mike via wrote:
Hello Group!

Contemplating the details of the historic Pennsy X29 boxcars it is not easy to overlook the initial application thereon of the Carmer operating lever.  This was surely a popular option for the PRR on many of their cars but by the early 1930s, with the last of the X29 production, the RR switched to bottom operated coupler release and the very different rotary operating lever so associated.  Thereafter, many but not all X29 cars were converted to the same style of bottom operating couplers and levers.

Is there an established reason for this conversion?

It is easy to speculate that the more modern 'rotary' style of lever is of less cost and material and that there could be safety and ergonomic reasons to move away from continuing use of Carmers for both new and retrofit applications.  So, was there a policy or 'program' promoting this?  Photo evidence of X29s in the late 1950s show some Carmers still in place and I believe I saw them well into the 1960s.  (I don't recall the details.)  No photos have been found of PRR X29 Carmer conversions to top operated couplers seemingly keeping the old coupler so perhaps the coupler change-out was the real driver in those cases of Carmer removal.

It could also be speculated that the operation of the Carmer was so different from the rotary that Labor and/or Regulators at least recommended replacement on rebuilt or refurbished cars.  This also begs the question of top versus bottom operated couplers on freight cars.  Was there an industry move away from the top somewhere back there in the post-Carmer time frame?  Obviously top operated couplers continued to be applied for many applications but did they fall from freight car favor at some past time?

Writing from Grove City in western Penna.....Mike Schleigh

Tim O'Connor
Sterling, Massachusetts

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