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Part 120/120a: Buffers

120aSpring Buffer1922194146n/a
The standard buffer (left) and spring buffer (right)
Loading picture Trainbuffers

The parts

On the right are examples of the standard Buffer (part 120) and the slightly later Spring Buffer (part 120a).  The Buffer was included in the Inventor's Accessory Outfit B (1920-1923), but not in any other outfits.  The Spring Buffer was included in outfit 7 from 1925 (containing four, and then six from 1930), and the later outfit L, but was dropped in the new numeric outfit 10 from 1937.  Both parts appear in the November 1941 parts list, but not after that.

The four components of the spring buffer, part 120a
Loading picture Trainbufferparts This picture shows the component parts of the very neat Spring Buffer, part 120a.  Only one nut is used to attach the buffer, and thus it is the spring itself that holds the part in place.  The body is loose on the shaft, pushed against the nut by the spring.  After a suggestion in the Meccano Magazine, the spring used inside this part was sold on its own from 1927, and given the name "Spring for Spring Buffer".  It was almost immediately renamed to "Compression Spring", and is the only reminder of the Spring Buffer.

Chronological variations

Thin, thick, and small versions of the Buffer (part 120)
Loading picture Trainbuffersizes There appear to be three different versions of the standard buffer, shown in the photo to the right.  These are (I believe) in sequence of date.  You will note that the first two are larger, around 9.6mm (3/8'') diameter at the head and 17mm in length overall, and the last one is considerably smaller at 7.8mm (5/16'') diameter, although very nearly the same length.  However, there are two clearly different versions of the larger type, which will be described as "thinner" and "thicker".  In my experience the thinner variety is more common, but not by much.  The smaller third type is much less common.

In attempting to date these, I note the following issues:

There don't appear to be any variations in the Spring Buffer, part 120a, during its UK production from between 1922 and 1941.

Variations and oddities

There are other variations on this part, but they are believed to belong to other systems rather than Meccano.  Until we get more pictures and information, we can't be certain.

Dealer spare parts boxes

Unusual box of a dozen buffers, part 120
Loading picture Trainbufferspareparts The boxed spare parts shown to the right are probably quite late ones, in a white cardboard box.  It is interesting to note that the picture on the box label is clearly of the smallest third type of buffer (although we all know that this can't be taken as a certainty).  Without an X-ray machine or the inclination to open this packet, we don't know for sure which parts are in it.  On the other hand, we don't know the date for sure either, although it is likely to be after 1931 when the boxes of a dozen were announced to the trade.

Individual part numbers

Part numbers for the parts on this page are as follows:    Unique part numbers
For identification, each variation has been given a suffix to the main Meccano part number. These suffixes consist of a two-character code for the colour, and if there are many variations, a further number and sometimes letter code to identify each variation. See the bottom of the 'Parts' page for further details.

You don't need to worry what the codes are, just click on any one for a photograph.

The button above turns on and off the display of DMS numbers (where they are known). The DMS (Development of the Meccano System, Hauton and Hindemarsh) published in 1972 and added to in 75 and 82, suggested part numbers for every variation of every Meccano part. These numbers aren't perfect, but they are recognised and also referenced in the EMP (Encyclopedia of Meccano Parts, Don Blakeborough).

More about bosses More about stampings More about paint colours
Solid brass, 3/8'' diameter head, thinner body19.br 
Solid brass, 3/8'' diameter head, thicker body??.br1 
Solid brass, 5/16'' diameter head??.br2 
Brass body with nickel plated head, nut, and spring22 .xx

Please send us pictures of missing parts! Hints and tips for pictures
Take a picture of the part in very good light, preferably on a plain yellow background, without a flash but with a tripod.
Ideally, trim the picture to about 150 pixels per inch of the Meccano part (unless the part is particularly big or small), save it as a reasonably good quality jpg file with a filename of exactly the part number, for example 19b.ni1.jpg, and email it to us by clicking on 'Contact us' at the top of the page. Thanks!

Further information

Keith Burston      (at 1:47pm, Sat 27th Mar, 10)

I notice this page is shown for 120 120a, b and c on the main "pick a part". Did something happen to the springs (b and c), or is there a subtly I missed?
Cheers, Keith

T Gant      (at 3:28pm, Sun 6th Sep, 09)

I had always understood the smaller version of the buffer came from the Hornby train system, wherein for a time they sold an engine and possibly some of the rolling stock in component form. This may help date and sequence the part. Also, the finish on the one you show looks overly bright - perhaps having been polished up? I'm sure Clive or Jeff know the answer to this one!

Douglas Carson      (at 3:52pm, Thu 16th Apr, 09)

A small typo in the first sentence in the Chronological variations section: these are standard buffers, not spring buffers.

Reply: Thank you... I'm glad someone's watching!

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