The X2f Coupler

No discussion of North American model railroading would be complete without mentioning the oft maligned X2f Coupler. Not that there isn’t due cause to slam the X2f, which was designed to be a common car and locomotive coupler for the products of many different manufacturers.  The manufacturers loved the X2f since it was a standardized design, cheap to manufacture and allowed their rolling stock to be on an equal footing with all the other manufacturers.  The illustration above is from a Lionel H0 catalog, and Lionel was trying to establish itself in the H0 market after many years of eschewing it.  Having a well established coupler, the “N. M. R. A. Coupler”, was further proof that Lionel H0 trains could be trusted.  Not that such footing was all that great.

The train operators, the end users if you will, hated the X2f once they were in the hobby for any length of time.  The beginners did not know better, but experienced model railroaders quickly discovered that not only was the X2f ugly and unrealistic in appearance, it was equally ugly when it came time to actually operate trains connected together with this coupler. Coupling cars equipped with the X2f required pressures that are usually associated with nuclear fusion. Once joined together, the X2f was determined to not be rent asunder. Coupling on curved tracks was out of the question, and many uncoupling operations resulted in derailments.  Clearly, it was an example of something designed by committee.

That committee was from the National Model Railroad Association, a group of train modelers who felt that having a common design would help the model railroad hobby grow in numbers.  This is yet another example of “No good deed goes unpunished”. But during the 1950’s and early 1960’s, the X2f reigned supreme. Subsequently, the Edwards brothers, of Oregon, would design their Kadee coupler, which saved the world from the X2f.  The Kadee quickly became the defacto standard coupler for the H0 model railroad hobby.

One surefire way to agitate today’s NMRA member is to refer to the X2f as an “NMRA Coupler”.  What once was a point of pride has devolved into a point of derision.  Meanwhile, after the Kadee patents expired, a host of similar couplers flooded the market and once again the manufacturers were happy.  So too, the modelers were happy. Well, as happy as model railroaders can get.

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