This week I’ll be continuing my step-by-step build of an N Scale A-B-A Ready-To-Run set of Alco C-855 locomotives. And this post will be about the first details to be applied to the shells; the grab irons. You can find part one of the build here.
The grab irons or hand rails are small parts but form an important detail. For these models I’ve made them from etched brass rather than a part of the 3D printed shell. I could make them a part of the shell but they would be extremely fragile and probably couldn’t withstand being handled without breaking. The other option’s to make them a solid piece of the shell but I find that makes them look too bulky.
The grab irons are located in the etched brass frets as shown below. There are two sets for the A units and one for the B unit.
Each 3D printed shell already has the holes to locate all of the grab irons, and other parts. Below you can see the cab of the A unit with the various holes.
And the rear also has holes for the four grab irons which create the ladder to the top of the locomotive. Both ends of the B unit are the same as the rear of the A.
There are two types of grab iron. Straight and folded down and in the A unit fret there are eight of each, although you only need 7 of the straight ones.
The straight ones have half etched sections where they are connected to the main fret to allow them to be easily cut out with a sharp knife.
One thing I strongly recommend is to test fit each grab iron. If the hole is clogged or the grab iron is slightly bent the wrong way and you attempt to glue it right in, one leg will stick and the other will bend and you’ll be left with a wonky grab iron. Each grab iron fits into a pair of holes which are either all the way through the shell or just the right length. So if you’ve cut them out too close to the fret and they are too long they may stick out too far. This is another good reason to do a test fit.
The folded down version also has half etched sections on the rear just after the corner. This allows the grab iron to easily be folded down in the right place.
I find by using a pair of wide tweezers I can hold both the legs and simply bend the fold down section into place with my finger. When I tried it the other way round it was hard to get both legs in the right place.
I tend to get all the grab irons ready together, but I keep the two types separated.
To secure them in place I use superglue. This is a great choice, not only because it sets very quickly but it is a type of acrylic and so are the 3D printed shells so there’s no danger of a chemical reaction damaging the shell. I wouldn’t recommend trying to apply superglue directly to the shell; that normally ends in a sticky mess. The best way is to pour some onto an old box lid or something similar, then gently dip the tips of the grab iron into the superglue just before you place it into the holes. After you have test fitted it of course.
The straight grab irons fit in the A unit cab in six locations; I know there are only five shown below, I forgot one but it will appear shortly. There are two in the roof above the number boards, two in the face of the cab above the outer windows, one in the side of the nose, above the step area, and finally, although not shown yet, one on the top of the nose.
The seventh fits in the top of the shell at the rear. The last one is simply a spare.
Three of the drop down grab irons fit into the side of the nose under the straight one. These are the only three which don’t fit into two holes; the rear leg of each grab iron does but the front simply glues onto the front of the nose. There is small sections of the 3D printed shell which stick out to locate the grab irons which sit on top of them. There is a fourth fold down grab iron under one of the windows.
When complete the fronts look like this. The B unit front is the same as the rear.
And the rears look like this.
The B unit fret has eight fold down grab irons and two straight ones.
So why have I only fixed the grab irons and not the rest of the etched brass parts? Well these are the most delicate to do and also these need to blend in when the locomotives are painted. All the rest will be fixed after painting as they either fixed to several different parts or will make painting the shell harder to do if fitted first.
These shells will now go in for painting and while that’s happening I’ll turn my attention to the chassis which I’ll share with you next week.