SW1200RS Project – Handrails, Air Lines, Lift Bars

I spent a couple of hours at my new workbench, and the SW1200RS project continues to inch forward.  Today I installed train line air hoses and coupler lift bars on both ends of both units.  I wanted to start working on the rear steps and handrails, so I installed the drop step on the rear of both units. Once that was finished, I got to work bending handrails.

Some time in the 1960s, these units were refitted with handrails along the walkways and safer handrails at the steps.  The kit provides a template for bending these, and it turns out  it’s bang-on.   I’ve only finished the inboard handrails at the rear of 8152.  Here’s how it looks so far.

IMG_2661I took the time to paint the handrails because they didn’t show up very well when they were unpainted.  The lift bar and air hoses are still unpainted.  I’ll leave those for now.You can see that I took the shells off of the drive again.  I had them together while the models were packed for the move.  I’ll keep them disassembled now, until they’re ready to roll down the tracks.

Bending hardrails is one of those jobs that I dread until I get into it, and then I usually discover that my anxieties were unwarranted.  There’s probably an easier way to do this, but I’ll describe the approach I used with a few really basic tools.

IMG_2659I started these handrails by bending the semicircle with enough of a tail so that I could trim them back later.  I used that set of pliers with the red handles in the photo for the circular part.  I’d like to collect a variety small dowels or pieces of metal tubing for this purpose, because finding the exact spot to bend on the conical pliers is a bit more tricky than simply having a piece of tube to wrap the wire around.  But that mean I’d have to figure out what size tubing I need and then chase it down at a hobby store.  I’ve not had much luck purchasing scratch-building stock; it seems the only thing out of stock is the piece I need. Anyway, once I’ve bent the semicircle with the tapered-jaw pliers, I move outward with various bends until I reach both ends, then I cut off the extra bits.

For straight bends, I use a very nice pair of Xuron pliers.  I don’t use these pliers for anything other than bending wire and etchings, so they’re still sharp with true edges.  It’s hard to see in the photo, but the jaws of that pair of pliers are not serrated.

I bought a grab iron bending jig from Micromark last year, and it was very handy for bending the dozens of custom grab iron I needed for the 16 resin ore cars I built.  However, this jig is not the right tool for doing handrails.  Without overstating the obvious, the only other tools I’m using for this job include a variety of precision tweezers to handle the pieces as I’m building and test-fitting them, a drafting divider to measure distances between bends, and a small wire cutter.

I bent each piece according to the template in the kit instructions.  I had to throw out the first one, but the second and third attempts are now glued onto 8152.  So that’s the handrail bending “method” that I made up.  If you know of other techniques or tools  that will make this job go more smoothly, please let me know.

1 thought on “SW1200RS Project – Handrails, Air Lines, Lift Bars

  1. Not sure how many units you expect to bend handrails for in the future, but Micro-Mark has pliers designed for bending round wire shapes in specific sizes; they have a stepped instead of conical jaw, so you can use the steps to bend several things identically. The other choice is to wrap some tape around your pliers at the point where you need to bend the wire so you can line up several bends at the same point.

    Bending handrails is one of those things that drive me nuts. I can do it, but it’s not really much fun. I guess that’s why I never bothered to try to fix up the handrails on any of the units at the club.


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