Janney Coupler Named an ASME Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark

Sep 24, 2018

Railroad device cited for improving industry safety and productivity

NEW YORK, N.Y., Sept. 24, 2018—The Janney coupler, a staple of railroading and major contributor to increased safety and productivity in rail travel since its invention 145 years ago, has been cited for historic significance by The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

The Janney has been named an ASME historic mechanical engineering landmark, recognizing the role of the coupler in rail safety and its significance in the progress of engineering.

“Here during Rail Safety Week, as the nation focuses on the prevention of railroad fatalities and injuries, ASME looks back on the great heritage of the industry to recognize a device that brought increased safety to rail workers and passengers alike,” said Said Jahanmir, president of ASME. “The Janney is a worthy addition to our roster of engineering achievements.”

Invented in 1873 by Eli Janney, a Civil War veteran, the coupler replaced the problematic “link and pin” coupler, which required trainmen to step between moving cars to make connections, a dangerous practice that caused injuries and death to countless workers. Janney’s coupler, which resembles two hands with fingertips linked together, automatically engages without intervention. It also holds train cars together without slack, thus eliminating a source of shocks that previously affected both passengers and freight.

The United States Safety Appliance Act of 1893 mandated that all rail lines conducting interstate commerce needed cars that coupled and uncoupled without the manual assistance of a worker standing between cars. That regulatory boost, tied to the inherent advantages of Janney’s design, made it the industry standard by 1916.

Once the Janney was accepted as a standard, it allowed rail cars to interchange across different lines, speeding the movement of goods and people to faraway destinations. Still in use today in rail operations worldwide, the updated Janney coupler is rated for 32,000 metric tons.

Including the Janney coupler, 267 artifacts from around the world have been designated historic mechanical engineering landmarks, heritage collections or heritage sites. The ASME History and Heritage Committee selects these artifacts based on their engineering attributes, role in the evolution of the mechanical engineering profession, and significance to society in general.


About ASME
ASME helps the global engineering community develop solutions to real world challenges. Founded in 1880 as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, ASME is a not-for-profit professional organization that enables collaboration, knowledge sharing and skill development across all engineering disciplines, while promoting the vital role of the engineer in society. ASME codes and standards, publications, conferences, continuing education and professional development programs provide a foundation for advancing technical knowledge and a safer world. www.asme.org


Media contact:
Mel Torre
Manager, Corporate Communications The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
torrem@asme.org
(212) 591-8157

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