Five Generations of Couplers

Over the years, Gilbert made four different kinds of couplers, three of which are common and familiar to most American Flyer owners: link, knuckle, and Pike Master.  The fourth, the so-called "solid knuckle coupler," was short-lived and not used on very many cars.

Lionel later came up with its own version of knuckle coupler.  American Flyer has therefore gone through five generations of couplers, each of which had variations.

The four common genertions from above.
On the right is the Link Coupler, made from 1946 through 1953.
Second from the right is Gilbert's Knuckle Coupler, introduced in 1952 and sold into the eaarly 1960s.
Third is Gilbert's Pike Master, introduced in 1960 to reduce manufacturing costs.
On the left is Lionel's redesigned Knuckle Coupler.

From below.

From the side.

In addition, Greenberg's Guide lists four variations of the link coupler:

I. Thin shanks with no weight, made only in 1946.  These had the patent number 2240137 embossed in the plastic.

II. Thick shank with no weight, and no patent number, made only in 1947.  I'll have to find a picture of these.

III. Thick shank with brass weight, made only in 1948.

IV. Thick shank with black weight, made from 1949 through 1953.

In 1952 the earliest knuckler couplers were screwed or riveted on to a truck that resembled the old link coupler trucks, but had the new sintered iron sideframe.  They were sold only in two sets, #K5206W and #K5210W.  Gilbert very soon came up with the crimped design that became their standard.  The following cars are known to have had these couplers:

#K325 Hudson locomotive
#K335 UP Northern locomotive
#925 tank car
#928 Pressed Wood Log Car
#929 Stock Car
#930 Caboose
#931 Gondola
#944 Crane Car
#945 Work Caboose

Riveted knuckle coupler on my #930 Caboose (above and below).

#K325 Hudson engine with screwed-on knuckle coupler.
(Photo courtesy of Don Hasenzahl.)

Gilbert's fourth coupler, called the "solid knuckle coupler," appeared on the back of the 21158 Docksider in 1960 (see pictures below, courtesy of Chuck Smith).   It looks a bit like a Pike Master coupler, but without the slot for expansion, and it is made of a harder plastic.  As a result, cars could only be coupled and uncoupled by hand.

The only car listed in the TM Guide as having these couplers is the rare Simmons Reefer in 1958, but I'm learning there were others as well.  Rhett George has a #24610 caboose made with them in 1958-1960, and Chris Harding sent the following picture of his #24320 Deep Rock tank car made with them in 1960.

And I've seen the #24310 and #24325 tank cars with them on ebay.  Greenberg's Guide says the 24603 and 24610 cabooses also had them.  I myself have since acquired a
#24110 PRR gondola, #24325 Gulf Tank Car, and #24630 AF Caboose with them.  If you have a car with these couplers, please email me at  Include the number and type of car.

I'm trying to find more information on it and will post it as I get it.

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