Drop Grabs for the Branchline Berwick and Athearn Sieco Boxcars -Mike Rose
The issue for me was the grab irons. To my eye there is a big visual difference between straight grabs and drop grabs, so if you are interested in having the drop variety for your prototype, here’s a fairly easy way of doing it.
If you have to build one of something, just build it. If you have to build many of something, by all means build a jig! Then you can mass-produce them and not go crazy doing it. While at first glance it may seem easy to make a
drop grab, getting consistent-appearing ones is another matter entirely.
The above shows the tools you'll need, along with the jig.
The first thing I did was to determine the correct spacing. As it turns out, the correct width of the grabs for a Branchline Berwick is 30". I know of no commercially available part for this dimension. So the first task is to make a piece of plastic to use as a bending jig as shown above. I used a piece of .030 styrene about an inch and a quarter long. The length is not critical, just something long enough to hold easily will suffice. I raided my scrap-box for most of the pieces of this jig. I made the jig a bit wider than needed, then tapered the last half inch of it so that at its’ narrowest point, it was less than the width I was looking for. Therefore, it was a simple matter to find the proper point on the taper, and cement a cross piece as shown at that point, slightly longer than the width of the strip. This serves as the bending point.
The jig being used to bend .010 wire to form the basic grab iron. Note the small clamp to help hold the grab in place while bending.
The jig being used to bend .010 wire to form the basic grab iron. Note the small clamp to help hold the grab in place while bending. Other side being bent. (Note: For the Sieco car, the correct 24" width grabs are available from
Tichy, so you can skip the above step when making grabs for the Sieco car)
The basic grab being placed into the bending jig.
Once the basic grab is formed, the next step is to form the drop portion of the grab. The trick is to do this accurately so they all match, not as easy as it sounds. When I tried doing this just with needle nose pliers, they were off
enough that they didn’t look right. Time for another jig!
I took another piece of .040 plastic out of the scrap bin as a base, approximately 1-3/4" by 2-1/4", but again the dimensions are not critical. What is critical is that the thickness of the next two pieces equal the amount
of the drop you wish to create. I based mine on the Details Associates SY-2202 drop grab. I judged this dimension to be .080, so I cut two pieces of this material, sized to fit on the jig base. I spaced these on the base just
slightly wider than the wire I was using, not measuring, just using a couple of the DA grabs to get the right spacing. I found it easier to glue down one piece securely with Pro Weld liquid cement, then glue the other one in place
with Testor’s to get some “wiggle time” and get it exactly where I wanted it.
Once the jig has set up, preferably overnight, it’s ready for use. Meanwhile take the time to make up a total of 17 grabs with the bending jig. The car only needs 16, but I can almost guarantee that if you make only 16, one will
fly out of your hands never to be seen again! As shown in the next photo series, place the already made 30" grab all the way down into the slot in the jig.