I am currently working on a Westerfield B&O M-15H box car. A fun kit with interesting Indestructible ends. It comes with finely cast resin ladders and stirrup steps. But, I’m clumsy and I wonder how long those delicate stirrup steps will last?

I decided to replace the stirrups with scratch-built versions made from brass. There were two chief difficulties…

Firstly, I wanted to use .010″ thick brass as the steps are formed with a twist at each end so they can be mounted to the side sill.

In order to do this I had to cut my own strips from .010″ brass sheet (brass strips do not come in this thickness as far as I know). I have written about this in a previous posting – STIRRUP STEPS Pt1 – but to recap:

I’m not really set up to do metalwork, but this is how I have cut brass strip from .010” sheet stock. I made a fixture base of 1×3 poplar with feet that I could clamp to a table. I clamp the brass sheet in between it and another 1×3 block on top.

I set the brass sheet to protrude past the upper block the width desired plus the width of the saw blade. A strip of styrene is used as a gauge to do this. In this case, I wanted the strip width to be .040″.

The saw is fine-toothed from Excel. I held the saw blade against the upper block and it did not take long to saw through the brass stock. After each strip cut, I back off the upper block into uncut wood on the base. After cutting a brass strip, a little filing on the edges cleans it up. Crude, but it works.

The other difficulty was in my desire to pin the stirrup to the model, rather than just to glue it face-mounted onto the side sill. Pinning them will provide more strength. To add pins means drilling the brass. To keep the drill point from wandering I need to spot a depression. To do this I made a drill spotting fixture from styrene as follows;

Prior to using the spotting fixture, I bent up the brass strips into their respective shapes using two needle nose pliers and the Westerfield parts as a guide. These stirrup steps angle out away from the car and by bending the mounting tabs like that, I am able to insert a leg of the stirrup into the spotting fixture. To drill the hole, I used a #80 drill (.0135″ diameter) in a pin vise and gave it a good number of turns. It didn’t matter if I didn’t drill the hole all the way through, I just wanted to start a hole so I could finish drilling it without the fixture. This worked well – it doesn’t take much to drill through .010″ thick brass.

To solder a pin on each leg, I made another simple fixture:

I only soldered one pin, then drilled its mounting hole in the car side sill. I installed the stirrup into this hole. Then positioning the hole on the other end of the stirrup, I drilled the second hole into the side sill. I removed the stirrup and soldered on the other pin. Lastly, I trimmed the length of the pin on both ends using a flush cutter – I trimmed the outside length short to look like a mounting rivet.

Here is a picture of the fixture, the Westerfield resin parts (the wide stirrup goes on the right end of the car, under the ladder, and the other narrow one goes on the left end), a test strip, and two of my scratched steps.

And here is the wide one mounted on the model…