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Roof grab irons

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Roof grab irons
Posted by tstage on Friday, December 28, 2018 12:38 PM

Greetings,

I've been doing some bottom stirrup repairs on a few HO Proto 2000 boxcars lately and have enjoyed the learning process.  (Thanks, Wayne!)  Given the narrow width of the shell along the bottom edge, drilling a parallel hole to the wall so it does NOT poke out the sides can be challenging and shouldn't be rushed.  It is rewarding though when you've done it correctly:

This 50' auto boxcar won't suffer from another broken stirrup anytime soon. Stick out tongue

My query is about roof "corner type" grab irons: Were there variations of them on boxcars and cabooses?

The reason I ask is that I have some Tichy #3028 roof grab irons that only have two end points to drill.  Would that type generally use an eye bolt to secure the center or corner of the "L"?  (I've seen these on cabooses.)  Were there cases or eras where securing the roof grab iron with only two ends brackets (no corner bracket) was preferred or advantageous?

Thanks for the help and understanding...

Tom

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Posted by doctorwayne on Friday, December 28, 2018 3:56 PM

Tom, I don't recall ever seeing a real corner roof grab with only two legs supporting it, but it's not something I really looked for when roofwalks/running boards were still in use.

The Tichy corner grabs were, I believe, originally created for the Tichy boxcar kits, the roofwalks of which had a moulded-on peg which acted as the middle leg - basically just a support, with perhaps of drop of ca to secure the wire to it.

Some kits, such as Intermountain and Red Caboose, along with Proto and likely others, include one-piece plastic roof grabs with three support legs, but I build my own using Tichy .012" phosphor-bronze wire or similar size brass wire.
To that end, I created a small jig from hardwood, which allows me to build four at a time, and I'll often devote a complete work session just to that task, making three or four dozen in one sitting.

Here's the jig, a small block of maple, with a smaller and thinner block glued on top....

I drilled a #79 hole (completely through) the bottom block at each corner of the thinner block, then used a utility knife to remove the corners of the thinner piece.  This allows room for the middle leg's partial loop and for the tip of the soldering iron.
The two piano wire (.060") pegs at each corner have just enough space between them and the thin block to allow the pre-bent wires to be placed in the jig. 
The two thinner pieces (.015") of piano wire sticking out of the upper piece are used, with a small pair of smooth-jawed pliers, for bending a partial "eye" in the short piece of wire which forms the middle support leg.
The four partially pre-bent wires are longer than Tichy's, as I prefer, where possible, to drill through not only the roofwalks' laterals, but also right through the car's roof. 
Many of my cars don't use commercially-available roofwalks, but rather are built-up, "board-by-board" (strip styrene) and assembled on the car.  Then, I place the soldered-on middle leg in its designated hole, then align the pliers to the points on the wire which correspond to the other holes, in order to make those bends.
When the finished grab is inserted into those holes and a temporary spacer slipped between the grabiron and the roofwalk, the legs sticking through the car's roof into the interior can be bent-over and secured with ca, with no mess at all on the outside of the car.
If you're working with a car that has a separate pre-made roofwalk, you could install the fabricated grabs onto it, then install it on the roof, as shown below.

A couple of suggestions:  clean the wire you're using before cutting it to length.  To do so, grasp one end with smooth-jawed pliers, then draw it through a folded-over piece of fine sandpaper - wet/dry (use dry) works well, then flip it to grasp the other end and repeat - this ensures that the entire wire has been cleaned, so you don't need to worry about from which end you make the cuts.
I never cut this type of wire with anything other than the heel of an old #11 blade -  pliers and side cutters deform the ends where the cut is made, necessitating clean-up with a file, while the blade (a utility knife works, too) but my #11 blades have multiple lives, first as decal cutters, then plastic cutters, decal nudging tools, ca applicators, epoxy mixing and applying tools, shim brass cutters, small brass bar cutters, and wire cutters (soft brass up to .040"-or-so...using the blade to roll the wire back-and-forth on a hard surface.  For smaller wire, also on a hard surface, restrain both the stock piece and the portion being cut off, then press down firmly using the heel of the blade.

The photos below show the process for making the roof grabirons. 

Use the smooth-jawed pliers to form a partial curve in the wire....

...then place it between the two wires in the "eye bender"...

...use the pliers to squeeze the bend tighter...

If, like in the photo above, the short end of the loop formed is a little longer than necessary, use the knife to snick-off the excess, as it may prevent the finished grab from sitting at the proper distance above the roofwalk.

Next, place the pre-bent grabs in the jig, then use the pliers or suitable tweezers to place the formed middle legs onto the grabs....

I use the tip of a small screwdriver to apply a minute dab of paste resin flux on each corner, then, using a 25 watt iron with a "wet" tip, touch each joint, soldering the two pieces together...



I use the tip of the X-Acto blade, slipped under the wire, to lift each grab from the jig, and usually continue repeating this process until I have the amount needed.

Here, the grabs will be install in a stock roofwalk...

...first to determine the points at which the bends need to be made in the two legs...

After all of the legs have been bent to fit, the grabiron can be removed, and any excess, beyond what is needed to bend-over in order to secure it to the roofwalk, trimmed-off, using the knife. 
As mentioned, most of mine extend right through the roof , and seldom require trimming.

Next, re-insert the grabiron into the holes, then slip a spacer (I use .030" or .040" strip styrene) between the roofwalk and the grabiron, and bend-over the protruding legs".  Keep the spacer from touching the uprights - if not, the ca, applied to the bottom of the roofwalk where the wires protrude, may wick-up the wire, cementing the spacer to the roofwalk.



I'm uncertain as to which car got the roofwalk shown above, but here's a roof-grab applied to an Accurail reefer...

This is the usually process I use for roofwalks...

I hope that this info will be of some use.

Wayne

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Posted by tstage on Friday, December 28, 2018 4:25 PM

Man! - More of these kinds of how-to's should be in MR.  Great stuff as usual, Wayne! YesYes  I love the scorched marks in the maple jig where you soldered the center vertical support to the L-shape roof grab iron.  Looks like it's been well-used. Big Smile

Tom

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, December 30, 2018 6:56 AM

I was going to reply to this, then I read Wayne's reply, and now I need to build one of those jigs. That is amazing.

.

I will probably use Tichy corner grabs and 0.012" eye pins, but the idea of soldering them before assemblylooks like a real frustration reducer.

.

Thank you Wayne!

.

-Kevin

.

Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by dknelson on Sunday, December 30, 2018 11:35 AM

tstage
Man! - More of these kinds of how-to's should be in MR. Great stuff as usual, Wayne!

Not the least of Wayne's skills and not the least of the virtues of his tutorial posts here, is the very clear prose -- it is not easy to write so clearly about technical matters.    

Dave Nelson   

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Posted by 7j43k on Sunday, December 30, 2018 11:38 AM

I found this fantastic photo:

 

 

You can see the very typical method of tying down that irritating grab iron corner.  Considering how sturdy that bit of metal is, it seems very unlikely that it was ever left off of freight cars after the early years of using such grabs.

I believe he is either setting or releasing brake retainers.  And that the location is on the SP or Santa Fe, down near LA.

Note also the curved roof of the car the photographer is standing on.

 

Ed

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Posted by doctorwayne on Sunday, December 30, 2018 1:08 PM

Thanks for the kind words, guys! Embarrassed

Ed, that's a great shot of the guy setting the retainer. 

As for radial roofs, Northern Pacific favoured them, and CPR used them on some Fowler boxcars and on their long-lived "Mini-boxes", too.

A cursory look in one of Ted Culotta's books also showed a 50' Missouri Pacific automobile car so-equipped.

When I re-built some 40' Tyco reefers into 36' truss rod cars, I opted for radial roofs, too...probably fairly unusual for reefers, although many express reefers sported such roofs, too.

Wayne

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Posted by tstage on Sunday, December 30, 2018 1:35 PM

7j43k

I found this fantastic photo:

 

Yea - great photo, Ed!  Thanks for posting it! Yes  There's so much to absorb - even from just one photograph.

And given that the roof grab was secured to the wood slats, I would think that having the corner secured would help keep the securing brackets on the ends from working loose due to oscillation.

Tom

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Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

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Posted by 7j43k on Sunday, December 30, 2018 4:46 PM

tstage

 

And given that the roof grab was secured to the wood slats, I would think that having the corner secured would help keep the securing brackets on the ends from working loose due to oscillation.

 

Hold on there, pardner.  If you look closely at the various hardware bits in evidence on those wood slats, you'll see a rather neat and straight row of what looks like carriage bolts.  You can also see there's a good bit of air underneath the slats.  From this, I claim that there's a bit of angle iron underneath.  It's side is attached to a long strip of wood that's going left to right.  The carriage bolts go through its top.  The two grab iron mounts that you can see ALSO have bolts through this angle iron.

That's how it looks to me.  So the mounts aren't just attached to the slats.  They are attached through the slats to a chunk of steel that ties the whole assembly together.  Much safer that way.

 

Ed

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