When building a freight car I add safety appliances to match the prototype. The term “Safety Appliance” includes ladders. The 1949-1951 Car Builders’ Cyclopedia (Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation, 1949) defines ladder as, “Bars of wood or iron attached to the side or end of a freight car or caboose so as to form steps by which persons may climb to and from the top of the car. The individual bars , whether of wood or iron, and whether round or square are termed ladder rounds. They are sometimes fastened at their ends to ladder side rails.” The Freight Car Design Manual for Model Railroaders (Wm. K. Walthers, 1949) states, “ Four ladders are required on all house cars. These are located as follows: One on each side of the car, not more than 8” from right end of car and one on each end, not more than 8” from the left side of the car.” It goes on to state, “ Ladder threads (rungs), if made of wood shall be at least 1 1/2” x 2” cross- section and if steel, a minimum of 5/8” in diameter. Minimum length of tread; for side ladders, 16” for the end ladders, 14”. The maximum spacing between treads, 19” and a minimum space (clearance) between side of car and ladder of 2” (preferably 2 1/2”).” And, “The top of the ladder tread shall be located not less than 12” nor more than 18” from the roof at eaves. The maximum distance from the bottom tread of side ladder to the top tread of sill step shall be 21”. And, “End ladder treads shall be spaced to coincide with treads on the side ladders, a variation of 2” being allowed.”
Having described above some of the standards detail for ladders, I want to show you the various ways I make ladders for my freight cars if commercial ladders can not be used. On plastic fright cars we buy the ladders may be molded on. If a car with molded on ladders matches a prototype or is a good stand-in, I will usually remove the molded on ladder rungs leaving the stiles. I carve off the molded on rungs with a custom ground number 17 Xacto blade mounted in a Xacto #5 handle or the micro knife handle with surgical blades available from Micro-Mark.
|Knives with blades for carving off molded on ladder rungs.|
(click or tap on this or any photo to enlarge)
|A closeup of the blades.|
After rungs are removed and final cleanup is done, missing board grooves are scribed in with a scriber made from a dental pick. The back of a Xacto #11 blade could be used for a scriber.
Next, holes are drilled with a #80 or #79 drill along the stiles where rung fasteners if present or not are located. For new rungs, if tread length is 18”, I use Tichy Train Group (Tichy) #3021, 18” straight type grab irons for the rungs. If the rungs are not 18”, I bend straight grab irons ( see “grab irons” under “Labels”) from Tichy #1101, .010” or #1106, .0125” diameter phosphor bronze wire (PBW) or Detail Associates #2503, .010” or #2504, .0125” diameter brass to install.
The same ladder method I described above for plastic cars is common on resin cars so no carving is necessary. Normally, resin models have the stiles cast on the car body or ladders to be installed are provided in the kit.
At times I decide I do not want to use wire rungs. Instead, I will use Plastruct styrene round rod #90850, .010” or #90849, .015” to cut new rungs and glue them onto the existing stiles.
|View from higher angle of same Train-Miniature box car|
with rungs made with Plastruct #90850, .010" styrene round rod.
On plastic or resin car bodies that require ladders that come in the kit to be installed, I will use them unless I am aware of better ladders. I have bought kits that should have had them in the kit ; however, they were missing resulting in scratch building them since none of the commercial available ladders I had in inventory matched. One such case was a Red Caboose X29 kit purchased at an estate sale. My method to scratch build the ladders was as follows.
I used a spare ladder to make the ladder pattern on a 3 x 5 card. I taped the pattern to the underside of a piece of window glass. I cut the stiles from Evergreen #8202, 2 x 2” strip styrene and taped them to the top of the window glass on the pattern. Rungs were cut from Plastruct #90849, .015” styrene round to match rung size needed on ladder and glued them to the styles using the pattern below for location.
|Ladder pattern taped to back of glass.|
|Ladder stiles taped to glass on top of pattern.|
|Ladder rungs glued to stiles.|
|Nipper held at 45 degree angle to cut rungs to proper length.|
|Ladder is ready to install. Note ladder mounts installed|
on box car for mounting ladder.
On plastic or resin car kits another option is etched brass ladders made by Yarmouth Models Works. Different ladder types are available. The photo-etched ladders do require assembly. The ladder stiles have to be cut from frets, bent to create a stile into which wire rungs are inserted. I have purchased a Small Shop bender to bend the stiles that are inserted into a jig made from styrene to hold them in position for the wire rungs to be inserted.
|Finished brass ladders on side of resin car.|
A step by step article with photos written by Nelson Moyer on building the Yarmouth Model Works ladders appears on the Resin Car Works website blog. You can read his article at: http://blog.resincarworks.com/building-yarmouth-model-works-etched-brass-ladders/
Not all ladders on freight cars have ladders consisting of stiles and rungs. The ladders on older freight cars had ladders consisting only of the rungs.
|Ladder consisting of drop grab irons installed on resin car.|
|Box car with both a grab iron ladder and a grab iron ladder with stiles.|
I hope one of the above methods will help you to make your own ladders for your freight cars or encourage you to do so when necessary. The methods above work for me and I hope you can make them work for you.
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