Scratchbuilding Handrails

Discussion in 'Scratchin' & Bashin'' started by Chessie1973, Jul 4, 2004.

  1. Chessie1973

    Chessie1973 Member

    I am curious as to what the best techniques, Materials, etc. for scratchbuilding Scale Handrails on HO scale locomotives are.

    I want to replace the handrails on my Athearns with closer to scale wire handrails but I am not really sure how to do the vertical supports on the handrails. The main "beam" of the handrail is a simple matter of bending the appropriate sized wire to shape.

    That brings me to my next question. What size wire is closest to scale for the handrails? I have looked at the Tichy Train Group website for reference but they have wire all the way down to .080. Is this too thin for handrails?
  2. interurban

    interurban Active Member

    That seems awfully small!.

    If I remember , the higher the # the smaller it gets, right?

    Can you get a gauge to measure the original and go from there??

    I would have thought 1/32 would be about right. H O that is.
  3. Ray Marinaccio

    Ray Marinaccio Active Member

    I use .015" piano wire that I get at my LHS.
    I'm still trying to figure out a good way to make better looking stanchions and a spot-welder to attach them.
  4. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    Why limit yourself to wire. The new RTR Athearns have derlin plastic ones that look great, are strong and flexible, and can be ordered seperatly. :) Somebody else turned me on to this; it's amazing but they fit. Just order them to match the unit you are doing. Fred
  5. Ray Marinaccio

    Ray Marinaccio Active Member

    How is the price of the plastic handrail sets compared to metal ones.
    I might consider using a set on this RPP GP60.
  6. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    The locomotive cyclopedia has a figure showing nine designs for handrail columns, submitted in a 1925 AAR report. They all indicate a handrail diameter of 1-11/32". In HO this would be .015"
  7. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    From memory about $6.75 per set + 5.50 shipping per order Ray. You have to call them or email them. I got the part number i needed at the LHS by looking at the exploded view that came packed with the RTR. They come in colors too, like CSX gray, UP yellar, Fred
  8. Pitchwife

    Pitchwife Dreamer

    Hey Pete. For the sake of all us conversion dummies, what would that be in a wire gauge size? :confused: :confused:
  9. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    Hey Pitch, K&S sell it by decimal diameter. Fred
  10. Pitchwife

    Pitchwife Dreamer

    I'm with Chris on this. If we could get a gauge on the wire it would probably be a lot easiere to get. Too cheap :oops: to spend as much on some plastic when I could get (or possably already have) a whole spool of the right size of wire. Soldering is no problem to fabricate the handrails as well as using a little primer and paint. :thumb:
  11. NYC-BKO

    NYC-BKO Member

    20 years ago I could whip up a set of handrails in a half hour I don't know about now, but I used several types of needlenose pliers, smooth flat jaw, long skinny jaw w/ teeth and short fat jaw w/teeth I would mark the jaw teeth for specific lengths of bends as for an EMD with the multiple bends at the steps. It really isn't that hard I used .015 brass wire and mostly reused the stock stanchions.

    Ray, a resistance solderer works great for doing stanchions to handrails

    Pitch, spool wire probably is going to be good as it has the memory of being on the spool and won't be straight.
  12. Pitchwife

    Pitchwife Dreamer

    :confused: :confused: :confused: I'm not sure if you meant that it would or wouldn't work well. I have used copper and brass wire and sheets to build a lot of miniture items, bikes, wagons, even a revolving ferris wheel and while they wouldn't stand up to rough handeling they were surdy enough for a project like this. Just need to get the right size, dimensions and so forth.
  13. Chessie1973

    Chessie1973 Member

    So it seems that .015 is the correct size wire for handrails.

    I was getting the .080 fro Tichy Train Group due to that being the size of the grab irons I just bought and installed on a couple of my rolling stock.

    I though that .080 was larger than .015 though.

    I.E. .080, .090, .10 etc.


    I love the look of those plastic handrails you mentioned but with my budget I can't justify spending as much on one set of handrails as I would on a good quality rolling stock kit.

    Besdies, it is much more satifying, at least for me, to make it myself and see it running than to buy it. I like to buy kits and "improve" them by adding finescale parts etc and fabricating what I can for them.
  14. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    .080 is bigger than .015. Those are decimal sizes in thousanths of an inch. Wire (gauge) size is an old imperial measurement and in it the bigger the number the samller the size. A number 80 is .0315 so it is twice as big as .015 K&S brass which costs like $1.20 for 3 or 4 - 12 inch pieces (can't remember). Wire size table if interested . The K&S brass is work hardened and stays straight unless bent Clark, that's what NYCBKO was trying to say I think. The coils tend to stay coiled, but I have straightened it by hanging a really heavy weight with it for a few weeks. I have used brass to make chain link fence posts and ladders and to me the time is better off spent earning money to buying handrails than making them. But if that's what you like to do go for it. :D Fred
  15. Pitchwife

    Pitchwife Dreamer

    Thanks for the web address Fred, tables like that come in handy. I will add it to my rescourse list. I guess I was equating brass wire with copper wire. I haven't worked with brass wire, just brass sheeting which handles and solders the same as copper sheeting of the same thickness. The work hardening process must be what gives it it's rigidity. As far as building vs buying, aside the pleasure of creating the items, many of us unfortunately have more time than money. :D :D :D :D
  16. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    I didn't mean anything by that comment other than i don't like doing that kind of work, I would rather buy them than make them. But I build my structures from scratch because I enjoy working with wood and cardboard. Some buy plastic kits for the same reason, they don't like building houses. Some of us build houses, or locos , or rolling stock. Nothing wrong with any of it. It's suppose to be fun. Fred
  17. Pitchwife

    Pitchwife Dreamer

    Don't worry Fred. No offence was taken by me or I'm sure anyone else. Doesn't matter how much $ anyone has, it's the personal input that counts. If a person were rich enough to hire someone to design, build, scenic and detail everything, how much enjoyment would they get from the hobby? Everyone has a favorite aspect in the process of building a layout. That's what makes this such a great passtime (addiction???). :D :D :D :D
  18. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    If you use the K&S wire...because it is hardened, you may have to apply heat to soften it enough to make tight bends without it breaking. I keep a butane lighter in the toolbox for that purpose. For most handrail bends, heating isn't necessary.
    I don't normally work with wire gauges, so can't answer your question. I came up with .015 for handrail by calculator....11/32" = .34375" , 1-11/32"=1.34375 , for HO scale divide by 87.1, =0.0154276" , round down to .015".
    Where I work in many scales, 1:87.1 , 1:64 , 1:48 , 1:700 , 1:160 , 1:24 , etc. I usually get actual measurements, and then figure the scale equivalent to determine the material size to use. The same handrail in O scale would be 0.0279947", or 28 thousandths. I would then find the closest commercially available size to that, to make O scale handrails.
  19. Pitchwife

    Pitchwife Dreamer

    I guess that I never really considered the size of wire needed to keep an engine, especially N, to scale. I probably would have bought a roll of 24 gauge stranded copper wire, used one strand, and cursed whenever it came apart. :curse: :D
    One soldering technique I have used many times in the past is to take a small piece of wood, sawed off end of a 2x4 works well, and use masking tape to hold the pieces in position while soldering them. By using the wooden block you can also work on 3D pieces and especially get good 90* angles too.
  20. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Guys,I would also look into the possibility of using Atlas or P2K hand rails on the Athearn locomotives...This wild idea came to me this morning while eyeballin' some of my units..I have not tried this yet but,the thought is worth looking into.

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