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Freight car part needed - are these my only choices?

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  • Member since
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Freight car part needed - are these my only choices?
Posted by dknelson on Thursday, May 10, 2018 12:26 PM

I find myself with a large number of plastic hopper cars where the stirrup steps are broken off, (remember this thread?

and/or have the very oversized steps as on Athearn Blue Box and AHM and similar hopper cars.

These are double steps, not the usual stirrup step you see on a flat car or  box car.  Two rungs, in other words.  And the prototype photos of say a B&O hopper car of the transition era show reasonably robust stirrup steps, with a supporting brace attached to the car end's bottom sill.

I have found two  2-rung stirrup steps but with an offset bottom mount: Tichy 3043 and Detail Associates 6413.  Not what I need for this project (but the way parts are disappearing from the Walthers catalog, and given that some cars I have probably do call for the offset mount, I bought them anyway).

Thus far the closest I can find is Tichy Double step bottom mount 3045:

But they seem much more delicate than the prototypes I seek to replicate (but again, with parts being in a precarious posture with the powers that be at Walthers, I bought a pack and am likely to buy more packs).

The Tichy 3045s have the general outline I seek but again just seem too delicate.  I guess the brace to the car's end bottom sill is up to me.

So far I cannot find any that really match the prototype photos.  I know there are many makes of parts that Walthers does not carry.  Anybody know of a double step stirrup step that is 1) not offset and 2) just a but more robust than Tichy 3045?

Or maybe the Tichy steps are exactly accurate and it is just 5 decades of looking at Athearn blue box 6 inch thick stirrup steps that is throwing off my judgment?  I cannot rule that out.  

I may have to do some styrene surgery to make my own or (shudder) break out the soldering iron.  But I have so many hopper cars that need nicer stirrup steps that a commercial product would be great if it exists.

Dave Nelson

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Posted by areibel on Thursday, May 10, 2018 1:33 PM

I wonder if you could convince one of the talented Shapeways designers to do a run of them?  In quantity they wouldn't be too expensive, design them with an added brace that can be trimmed off if not needed?  Attaching htem might be the only tricky part.

Cambridge Springs- Halfway from New York to Chicago on the Erie Lackawanna!
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Posted by NHTX on Thursday, May 10, 2018 2:15 PM

    If I remember correctly, Detail Associates made a double stirrup with vertical sides for an Amtrak material handling car that may be of some use to you. The stock number would be in the 6xxx series of car parts, probably under passenger cars.  As with everything else that is not RTR, good luck on finding them.

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Posted by mbinsewi on Thursday, May 10, 2018 2:29 PM

or (shudder) break out the soldering iron.

Thats what was I was going to suggest, as a last resort to make something sturdy.  Maybe try that silver bearing soldering paste that Frank (Zstripe) uses.  It might make it a little easier and quicker.


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Posted by doctorwayne on Thursday, May 10, 2018 5:30 PM

While the Tichy steps may appear fragile, they're cast in Delrin, so should stand-up quite well.
The downside to Delrin is that it's not great for good adhesion of most paints, and doesn't repond all that well to most of the cements which we use in our hobby.
If your hoppers are black, it'll at least negate the need to paint.
As for installation, I'd drill the bottom of the sidesills to match the diameter of the steps' mounting pins, or, if possible, use a bit slightly smaller (no more than .004" less than the pins).  Just before you install the step, use a small brush to apply a little solvent-type cement to both mounting holes, and after letting it sit for a few seconds, press the step into place, using either your finger nails or a suitable tool to apply pressure immediately to the points from which the pins extend.  The pins will displace some of the softened styrene of the car's bodyshell, and once the solvent evapourates and the plastic re-hardens, you'll have as close as is possible to a press-fit.
If the drill bit is sized exactly to the mounting pins or just slightly larger, install the steps, then use the tip of a #11 X-Acto blade to apply a minute amount of ca to the interface between the mounting pins and the holes in which they are inserted.
Neither method actually cements the steps in place, but should keep them from dropping out if handled carefully.

I was unaware of these double-rung steps until reading this post, but will definitely consider them when I get around to re-doing the grabirions and sill steps on my hopper fleet, about 50 or 60 cars at last count.

I did create some double-rung sill steps using Detail Associates .010"x.030" soft brass bar, soldered together, for this Train Miniature boxcar modified to better match a CASO boxcar....

...but, as you can see, the CASO used a double step only at the side ladders of the car. 

I created similar steps for three of these Pennsy express cars, still only two per car, although they're on the opposite end to those on the CASO car...

I've also added similar double steps to three TH&B flatcars currently under construction, and they're at all four corners of the car.  The narrowness of the steps make it fussy work, so I'm thankful that the Tichy steps will be available for all those hoppers.

I do a lot of double steps for baggage and postal cars using the Detail Associates brass bar, and they're relatively easy to make, since most are wider than those on freight cars.  I made a jig for building them en masse, but don't seem to have a photo of it.  If I remember, I'll take one later and add it to this post.
Here are a few of examples...

EDIT:  Here's the jig, made from some hard maple scraps that I had laying around.  It provides set-up for four different size steps.  The pins help to align the inserted step, and the cut-away corners on the aligning blocks to each side allow easy access for the tip of a 25 watt soldering iron....

I have a chart which shows the lengths of material required for each size.  The uncut strip of brass bar is dragged through some folded-over fine wet/dry sandpaper to remove any oxidation, then, working on a sheet of glass, the individual pieces are cut-off to the needed lengths, using a well-used, but re-sharpened, #11 blade.  Blunt-tipped smooth-jaw pliers bend the pieces as needed, then they're fitted into the jig.  Once the pins are in place, I touch each area to be soldered with a little flux.  After soldering, the steps are then removed from the jig and tossed into a Floquil bottle filled with lacquer thinner - this is to remove any remaining flux.  If needed, any excess solder is touched-up using needle files.

If I were going to make a lot of two-rung sill steps for hoppers, I'd make a jig that would accept multiples of the same size, and alter the width of a pair of smooth-jawed pliers so that one size would be right for bending the basic step-width, and a stepped-down width, near the nose of the jaws, would be sized to the necessary width for the intermediate step.
Once the jig has been constructed and the pliers modified, you should be able to mass produce the needed steps fairly quickly - it'll likely take more time to drill mounting holes for one step than it'll take to create the step.




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Posted by bogp40 on Thursday, May 10, 2018 6:18 PM

If you are OK with soldering bend brass wire to shape and fit the mid step and solder in place. Did this many times for some broken hard to find stirrups.

I actually peened the brass to flatten to get closer to the prototype one. This made the mid step actually easier to fit as the small ends were bend 90 degrees to sit agiast the vertical sides.

Modeling B&O- Chessie  Bob K.

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Posted by "JaBear" on Friday, May 11, 2018 5:58 AM
The Maine Central prototype for this kit bashed covered hopper had double stirrup steps so I felt obliged to give them a go.
on Flickr
on Flickr
Though I only needed eight, for two cars, if I were to do them again, I would make a jig, a la Doc Wayne, and learn to solder properly!
I used .020” brass wire as I guessed that 1 ¾ inches in 1:1 would be about right.

...looking at Athearn blue box 6 inch thick stirrup steps...

Now there’s the rub, perhaps I should have replaced the ladders as well!Sigh
Cheers, the Bear.Smile

"One difference between pessimists and optimists is that while pessimists are more often right, optimists have far more fun."

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Posted by dknelson on Monday, May 14, 2018 10:22 AM

Thank you all for the advice, suggestions, and examples (and tutorials!).  The Tichy double rung stirrups are clean and even looking, nicer than my soldering skills would permit.  I may end up using them.  (and I am aware of the double rung stirrups for passenger cars but they are a different animal entirely -- having said that, as I said earlier, with the way parts are disappearing from the Walthers catalog i should probably stock up and buy some since eventually I'll be paying attention to my passenger car fleet as well)

To get the stirrup steps I want for my transition era hopper cars I will either have to build the jig and solder, or try some plastic kitbashing.  The mention that the Tichy steps are Delrin is helpful because I was assuming they were styrene which is a joy to modify and kitbash, Delrin not so much so.  

If something else arises (or if I have a triumph to report!) I will update the posting.  Thanks again fellows.

Dave Nelson

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Posted by j. c. on Monday, May 14, 2018 11:59 AM

i would try the tichy ones to see if they are to your liking . in reality they have very little slant on the sides , i used them to replace sturps on some reefers . after cutting from the sprue they strighten . you can also order derect from tichy .

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