NSW Steam Locomotives With Knuckle Couplers

I Search My Archives For Clues

Let’s face it, when building a model railway, especially with DCC, it is a matter of time before you will want to do some double heading.

That got me to thinking, while there was lots of double heading back in steam days, most locomotives were attached using link couplers. On my model railway, I use knuckle couplers, and those engines without them on the front don’t currently get to double head.

It is obvious from my research, that the switch to auto couplers is a fairly recent phenomena. When I was in South Africa, virtually all locos had auto couplers on the front and the bumper bars removed. In Australia, I distinctly remember the buffer stops at Sydney and Newcastle stations to prevent locomotives overunning the dead end platforms.

When I was photographing steam trains here, there were a substantial number of 4 wheel wagons, including non air coal trains from the South Maitland Railways to Port Waratah. Passenger trains were all link and hook couplers due to the need to move between cars. I must admit with the tight curves on my payout, this was rather impractical, so I have auto couplers on all my rolling stock. It is simply too cumbersome to hook and unhook those tiny manual couplers.

Here is my list of NSW steam locomotives which had knuckle couplers fitted up until the early 1970s.

6002 belches out smoke as it reaches the summit of Hawkmount on a mixed freight. The backdrop for this area now is the enormous Eraring Power Station.


Most of us know that Garratts have knuckle couplers on both ends, so we can certainly attach something to one of those, operating in either direction, unless, of course, you have a single cab Garratt like 6040, now sitting at Trainworks.

So, I got out my slide collection and started looking for what was historically accurate for other locomotives, based around 1970.

In December, the caliopsis provided a beautiful display of yellow. Here a 59 rounds the top curve at Hawkmount, probably with 269 pickup consisting mainly of 4 wheel wagons.

Going back in time, the most recent locomotive before the Garratt was the 59 class, built by Lima Baldwin in the early 1950s. The pictures I have all feature knuckle couplers on the front, so this seems quite acceptable. Mind you there is a Eureka model of a 59 which has been due for a few years. There were a couple of brass versions in the past, but getting a new one will have to wait a while.

It would appear that none of the 36 class, 35, or other earlier passenger engines had knuckle couplers on the front. The exception were 3801 and 3813 which were fitted with them and had their bumpers removed for the trip to Perth in 1970.

3813 after its run to South Australia in 1970, complete with no buffers and knuckle coupler accelerates a stopping passenger out of Warnervale. Dec 1970

So now we can have a 38,59 or 60 class as the second engine and still be OK.

What I found interesting was that I discovered a couple of standard goods engines had knuckles on the front in regular service. 5408 which was the Dubbo shunter for some time, and 5439, a Broadmeadow engine both had them. The Port Waratah locos all had link couplers as they had to haul 4 wheel coal wagons.

5439 heading north from Wyee with a front auto coupler clearly visible.

The real question is, should I be concerned, or just fit Kds to the front of my 32,35 and 36, and do you have examples of other engines with knuckle couplers on the front.

Here is a rare video I discovered of operations around Broadmeadow in 1966.

Any advice is welcome, as are comments.


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