Grumpy about grabirons?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by doctorwayne, Sep 11, 2005.

  1. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Just wondering if anybody else is disappointed with so many manufacturers offering plastic grabirons on freight cars. For years, many of us complained about the cast-on grabs on cars from Athearn and MDC and what a chore it was to shave them off and replace them with wire. Eventually, the die work improved, as seen on cars like Accurail's USRA doublesheathed boxcars. Even so, many of us continue to carve them off. Now the car manufacturers are trying to impress us with free-standing plastic grabs, as seen on Proto 1000/2000, Intermountain, and Red Caboose. While impressive examples of the die-maker's art, they still fall short with regards to durability and fidelity to prototype. And they're a lot more trouble to replace with wire than the old cast-on type. Because they are oversize, the holes in which they are mounted are also oversize, which means that you first have to refill the hole with styrene rod and then drill it out to accept the wire. Simply shaving off the plastic grab and leaving the mounting pin doesn't work very well if the grab is made from engineering plastic, like Delrin. The stuff doesn't glue and trying to drill a hole in it usually results in it falling out. I recently purchased 6 Proto 1000 Fowler boxcars, bodies only, for $1.29 each. A good deal for a good looking car that fits my era (late '30's) and up until now has not been available other than as a craftsman kit. The complete cars, RTR, were out of my price range at between $30.00 to $40.00 each, especially considering the multitude of plastic grabirons to be replaced. For a buck-twenty-nine, the problem looked more manageable. 36 grabs per car, plus the roofwalk corner grabs, plus 6 dropsteps per car (Canadian prototype) plus replace the brakestaff on each car. (I wouldn't have bothered with the latter, but they all broke with all the handling.) I also discovered that the roofwalks are too short, but that's a different subject. Making new frames and floors is fairly easy as is the brake gear, and re-lettering is my choice. As was the decision to purchase the cars in the first place: so what's my complaint? Well, cast-on grabs would've been easier to replace, and they probably could have been rendered closer to scale. Not only would the cars have looked better but they would have been cheaper to produce and the model could have been offered as a kit, which would have pleased a lot of us reasonably capable but financially challenged modellers. And while some of us would have preferred no grabirons, just dimpled drilling guides, that would have shortchanged the majority of purchasers who want detailed cars, ready to roll. Does anybody else out there share this viewpoint, or am I just being a grumpy old guy again?[​IMG]
  2. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    Doc have you though about using a piece of brass tube as a shim instead of fill and drill.also agree with you on the plain sides ( might be a grumpy old man too) :)
  3. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    I'm not aware of brass tube with an inside diameter of .012", but it's not so much the drilling that bugs me; it's the fact that removing the plastic grab often results in the loss of the nbw detail. On the Fowler cars mentioned, the mounting pins for the plastic grabs on the sides were actually behind the nbw detail, so it was relatively simple (but tedious) to drill new holes for the wire grabs. However, the mounting pins for the end grabs, so as not to interfere with those on the side, were situated behind the point were the grab entered the car...slicing between the grab and its nbw detail resulted in the nbw flying off into the nether regions of the workshop. I don't think that I'm the buying public that these manufacturers have in mind and that's probably a good thing niggardly buying practices would soon put them out of business. And in spite of all I've said above, not my intention.
  4. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I belong to a modular club. I really enjoyed building my "craftsman" kit cars by P2k, Intermountain, Red Caboose, etc. I've since discovered that I can't transport these cars to meets without loosing the detail to breakage. All of those cars are being moved to my "rip track" to have the details replaced. I've given up on complaining about car kits for any reason. Out here in Ca. kits of any kind are almost extinct. I talked with one of the guys from Athearn at a show out here about the limited availability of "blue box" kits. He told me they would prefer to drop the kits entirely. They get a bigger profit on ready to run. Most of their hobby shops want ready to run because people don't want to build models anymore. The biggest problem for them is that when a modeler buys a kit; and then finds a truck missing and orders a new one, they assume the truck was really missing and send a new one. My local hobby shop opens all of the kits they stock and nest the box bottom in the cover, then they shrink wrap everything. That way the customer can look at the kit before they buy it, but all of the parts are sealed in it. Some other hobby shops put the boxes out on the shelf as received without sealing. You buy the kit, take it home, and parts are missing.
    The Athearn rep told me that every time they send out a truck to someone whose kit was missing the truck, it costs them more than the profit they made on the kit to start with. So far the only parts I've found made of delrin are trucks. IF I ever bought a kit or rtr car that had a body made of delrin, that manufacturer would be on my '"do not buy list" forever more.
  5. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    I agree. On a typical HO layout, one needs a great many freight cars. That means, I don't have the time to detail all of them, nor want to spend too much on them. I'd rather have 6.50$ blue-box cars with cast-on details than pay 15-20$ for a RTR car with crude, separate, plastic grab irons. If I want a more detailed car, i'd much rather start with a cheap one than an expensive one.

  6. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    Doc use .010 wire for grabs cause i got a lot of it the brass tube i have will take the .010 wire as long as the cut is clean will have to see if i can find where i got that tube had it for 20+years.
  7. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    I think that most people are satisfied with the plastic grabs. Realistically, only a small minority of the modelling public replaces with metal grabs, so there isn't much attention to making their life easier unfortunately.

    There is also a great deal of difference in quality and approach between the various makers of rolling stock. My advice is to find the brand that best suits what you want to do with it, and then stick to that brand. Other than that, you're basically stuck with what is a pretty picky, sometimes frustrating, and fairly repetitive task. Oh well - that's the price of greater realism, right?

    As for me, I'm still at the point where I'm satisfied to change the couplers to Kadee #5s and the wheels to metal. I've looked at the replacement roofwalks, and at the metal grab irons... but so far haven't felt the need. But good luck!! I admire what you're doing!

  8. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    I only do it on special models, prefering to use cast grabs on my traveling trains when we set up for a show. The stirrup steps are hard enough to keep in place without adding grabs to the equation. My P2K lokeys are all showing signs of travel abuse, ultimately they will be shelved for more durable Athearns and AHM/Rivarossis. As I look back, I remember longing for the skill to shave, drill and remount wire grabs---now I'm too ornary/lazy(? :p ) to do it to all but the most special projects. I guess it's enough for me to know I can do it when it suits me and simply enjoy tinkering and running my pets thither and yon without the fuss.
  9. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Like Russ, my cars can/will be subject to a lot of handling in the process of transporting and running at a modular club. I prefer the "older" soild style of ladders and grabs for this reason.

    I put together a P2K 8000 gal tanker a while back, and broke virtually every grab in the kit. I did another recently and found that either a) they had improved the plastic grabs, or b) I had gotten somewhat better at doing it.


    PS - doctorwayne - glad you found us here at The Gauge! :)

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