Eli H. Janney

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Diagram of the top view of Janney's coupler design as published in his patent application in 1873.

Eli H. Janney (November 12, 1831 – June 16, 1912), aka Eli Hamilton Janney or simply Eli Janney, was the inventor of the modern knuckle coupler that replaced link and pin couplers on North American railroads.


He was born in 1831 to Daniel Janney and Elizabeth Avis Haines in Loudoun County, Virginia. He studied briefly at a seminary. He married Cornelia Hamilton (1833-1889).

In the American Civil War, Janney achieved the rank of major for the Confederate States of America, and served on the staff of General Robert E. Lee.[1]

After the war, he was a dry goods clerk in Alexandria, Virginia; he spent many of his lunches whittling his concept out of a block of wood for a replacement to the railroads' link and pin couplers that were in wide use. On April 1, 1873, Janney filed for a patent titled "Improvement in Car-Couplings" describing the knuckle style couplers that are in use on railroads today. He was awarded U.S. Patent 138,405 on April 29, 1873.

He died on June 16, 1912 in Alexandria, Virginia. The City of Alexandria named one of their streets in his honor, Janney's Lane.[2]

Janney's coupler and the Westinghouse air brake are generally regarded as being the two most significant safety inventions in U.S. railroads between the end of the Civil War and 1900.


Patents awarded[edit]

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