MODELING: Making Drop Grab Irons

SSW horizon hand brakeI would guess that you have come across a freight car project where you need a drop style grab iron.  They are very easy to make with a few simple tools.  I am modeling a double sheathed boxcar with a 3″ drop on the grab iron.

Start by making a 90 degree bend in the wire near the end of the piece.  Insert the end into a pre-drilled hole.  Mark the wire with a pen or pencil at the second hole.  Place the plier about .015″ back from the mark.  Bend the second 90 degree angle.  Test fit this into the hole in the car side.


I used .015″ wire in this project.  Most of my cars are done with .0125″ phos bronze wire on my own projects.  Make sure you clean the wire with some 600 grit paper before starting to do the bending.

grab 2

The next step is to place the “C” shaped wire into a small vise with a .060″ styrene strip space holding the wire above the face of the vise.

Bend over the grab iron using a square block or a file.   This will form the drop shape.

grab 3grab 4

Mounting the completed grab iron is easy to do using a small gage.  I made a .050″ thick styrene spacer that is used to locate the grab iron.

grab 5

grab 6

As you hopefully see, they are easy to make.  Give a try on your next project.  Using scale wire greatly enhances the model’s appearance.

Happy Trails,



2 thoughts on “MODELING: Making Drop Grab Irons

  1. Primarily an HO modeler I found an Ambroid O-14 Reading reefer kit at an estate sale. It looked lonely. I took it home. Your blog will, I hope, give me some guidance as I build it. The grab iron post a step in the right direction. While I have built HO craftsmen kits O is a big new world…
    Gotham Central RR

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