When were Horn-Hook couplers invented?

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by CNWman, Sep 17, 2007.

  1. CNWman

    CNWman CNW Fan

    I was running my newly upgraded BL2 when I thought about the horn hook couplers it came with. I've actualy come into contact with them within a few weeks now, starting with the discovery of the Hustler in a S.F. hobby store junk box. I know the Hustler could have been made at least as far back as the 60's probably, but my increased encounters with them (a few TYCO cars and the old P2K's) have made me more curious about them. What I have gathered about them is that they were said to be a great idea, but they failed for a reson unkown to me. Can anyone help me learn more about them?
  2. alexbnfan

    alexbnfan Member

    I think there was 2 main reasons why they failed.

    1, they were unable to be uncoupled
    2, they didnt look good
  3. CNWman

    CNWman CNW Fan

    I agree, both are true, IMO. However, if horn hook couplers didn't look good, then why were they put on P2K models? I replaced the horn hook couplers on both of my P2K engines with better Kadee's.
  4. CCT70

    CCT70 Member

    When trying to back up a cut of cars with horn hooks, 7 times out of 10, you'd go on the ground. They were pure cheez!

    They came about in the 60's from what I can tell and were standard on RTR and kits until McHenry and Accumate came out with their Kadee knockoffs in the mid nineties. Do yourself a favor and stick to Kadee brand only. The knockoffs are very unreliable. I have had nothing but bad luck with them and have found that Kadee #58's are the best choice by far in my warped opinion.
  5. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    I know for awhile, the newer Athearn Blue-Box kits were coming with both horn hooks and Bachmann E-Z Mates. Lately though I have noticed that the BB's kits are coming only with the EZ Mates.Didn't matter to me though, I always replace them with Kadees.
  6. jimh

    jimh Member

    Most likely because they were/are cheap and found on the engines and rolling stock that comes in most train sets thereby making the "standard equipment."
  7. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    In the 1950s, couplings were as much a hot-button issue as DCC vs DC is today. Couplings that looked realistic didn't work; couplings that worked didn't look like couplings.
    The NMRA set up a committee to develop a reasonable coupler. The committee produced a design known as X2f (eXperimental, 2nd design, variation f). This was submitted but never approved by the membership as a Standard or Recommended Practice.
    However, the NMRA being the generous body that it is, the design was released with no design charges or licensing fees and it was immediately seized upon by the train set manufacturers and the plastic kit makers. Unfortunately, these people did not all conform to the design principles, notably in the mounting (draft gear box) and in the shape of the coupler head. So we ended up with "standard" couplers that didn't work together and also had problems with uncoupling.

    About this time, Kadee started making some smart marketing decisions -- the first being the drop-in Athearn compatible K10 (now the #5) and a few years later, magnetic uncoupling.
    I think the Hustler was made in the 50s. I remember plastic Athearn cars from about 57 with "NMRA" couplings. I also remember buying plastic streamline coaches in the early 60s with cast dummy couplings.
  8. CNWman

    CNWman CNW Fan

    That's what I was thinking, too. My P2K engines must've been designed to work with their toy line. I have an old Life-Like toy line refer w/ truck mounted horn-hooks probably made around the same time I think.
  9. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Guys,When body mounted and correctly adjusted the X2F worked quite well even pushing long cuts of cars in yard switching.
    How many knows the coupler came with a brass spring that was attached to the back of the coupler?
    How many know there was a metal X2F coupler?
    When the subject of the X2F coupler comes up many modelers conjure up images of truck mounted couplers and not the body mounted type.This due to many modelers starting the hobby with Tyco,Bachmann,Model Power etc so who can blame them for not knowing the X2F worked and still works today.Yes,there are few modelers that still uses X2F couplers.

    Herea a tib bit of information.
    Ever wonder why KD has a large mounting hole?
    Manufacturers made their coupler boxes to accept the X2F coupler.KD had to copy the mounting hole of the X2F coupler so their coupler would work in all brands of cars.Also the KD coupler was not widely accepted till the late 70s as the de facto replacement coupler.
  10. Kanawha

    Kanawha Member

    Decent plastic knuckle couplers hadn't been invented in the early years of Proto 2000, or life like would have put them on. They figured most people would just convert to kadees. Kadees are far better than any plastic knuckle couplers.
  11. D.R.Rosser

    D.R.Rosser Member

    Those nasty Hornhooks!

    I may have a unique perspective here. In the 50's I was a student at Ursinus College, and we had a language prof, Dr. Allan Lake Rice. The college once had an exhibit of his HO scale passeneger cars, scratch built, with astounding detail and finish. I had started in HO in high school and still had some scratch built cars at home in a box. Dr. Rice's cars were not just on another level, they were from another world! It is my understanding that he not only built these awesome models,he was also the guiding force behind the creation of the "Hornhook". Why would a builder of that skill create those awful hornhooks. My guess is that the goal of a universal coupler that would connect kit models, and scratch builts, and ?, was worth the obvious scale appearance shortcomings. Many years later I was able to get back to HO railroading, and in what would seem to be anti-progress, I pulled the old delicate, fussy, realistic couplers off and standardized with the hornhooks. They matched the new kits, they worked, they still do! Dave
  12. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Kadee had a plastic version of their couplers by the mid-or-late-'70s, at the latest. These were very useful for installation in the pilots of metal locos, both brass and cast Zamac, as they allowed an insulated mounting without having to find room for the plastic draught gear box.
    Kadee's early couplers were mechanically uncoupled by use of a knuckle-mounted pin, and the draught gear boxes were cast metal.

  13. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    The horn hooks are not entirely junk. As previously stated, many of the problems were truck mounted couplers and cheap cars that were too light and with low-quality trucks.

    From my experience - the horn-hooks had a few advantages - they were one piece and didn't break a knuckle or lose a spring. Once the cars were coupled in a train, I think they stayed coupled more reliably.

    Other than that, they looked awful (I can't get past that) and coupling required a little more force from the locomotive, sometimes ening in a derailment.

  14. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

    I still have a number of freight cars with horn hook couplers. Many were from my teen years and some came in a big box from an uncle who gave me his stuff when he changed to N scale. While I'm gradually acquiring more equipment with magnetic couplers I still use the horn hooks and have outfitted some loco lash ups so they can pull either horn hooks or magnetics depending on which unit is forward.

    I solved the uncoupling problem by trying various little tools until I experimented with a three sided mini file that perfectly seperates the horn hooks for set outs. Slip it into the couplers and give it a gentle twist to make them come apart.

    I have had problems with derailments with SOME cars during switching moves, especially when backing through turnouts. I've "bad ordered" the offending cars or else assigned them to "through" trains only that won't be switched.

  15. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    D.R. Rosser: I'm delighted to hear from someone who knew Dr. Rice. He wrote in the magazines as Eric LaNal and was a legend even by
    the time I started. He'd developed earlier the coupling with the big loop and hook beyond it (similar to current British coupling) which worked but was huge and unprototypical. (John Allen used these to the end; Kadee wouldn't spring for 2000 free sets even for publicity.)

    The X2f has a problem with the side pressure from the spring. This pushes wheel flanges against the rails and the tend to pick at less than perfect rail joints. This is made worse by 1) truck mounted couplings -- the trucks skew -- and 2) flanges so thin and deep that you can shave with them.
  16. D.R.Rosser

    D.R.Rosser Member

    HornHooks cont'd

    Glad to hear from someone who is also familiar with the work of Dr. Allan Rice. You can imagine my reaction, at age 18, when I saw what he had created! Maybe part of the reason I do not convert to Kaydee is an odd sense of loyalty to my old Alma Mater; I would not want to hurt the memory of Dr. Rice. More likely is the mechanical reason. At this point a complete change to "real" couplers would require that I open and work on 518 coupler boxes......no thanks! Dave
  17. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    What you say had merit until the introduction of RP25 wheels in the early 60s.This really help operations..Another trick was to take a small rat tail file and ream out the mounting hole with 2-3 turns of the file.In doing so you smooth the hole and the coupler operated more freely.
    As a side note even in the 50s modelers knew the need for smooth track work especially at the rail joints because of steam locomotives.Again the X2F work flawlessly as intended and was the standard coupler use by the majority of the modelers...They still work today when properly mounted and adjusted.
  18. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Brakie: the unfortunate thing is that even after the RP25 wheel became available, cheap train sets continued to combine sharp flanges, talgo trucks and X2f couplers.
  19. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    And all to sadly they still use talgo trucks with crappy couplers.

    Last week I visited a local club and stood there watching a train equipped with X2F couplers run endless loops..That brought back a lot of memories of years gone by..I did find it unusual that a club still allows members to use X2F couplers as a coupler choice.

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