Category Archives: Tips

Modifying Sergent Couplers to Fit Kadee #78 Pockets

In addition to using PROTO:87 wheels on the Rail Yard Models Penn Central X58 boxcar, I am substituting the Kadee #78 with Sergent scale couplers. The Sergent couplers and the coupler pockets need to be modified slightly to work together. It’s quite easy but takes little time.

Required tools and materials

  • Sergent EC87A assembled die cast AAR type E couplers with compatible shank*
  • Sergent AFC precision cast EC87K assembly fixture
  • needle file
  • X-Acto knife
  • fine sand paper
  • digital caliper

Modifying the coupler

Start by putting a Sergent coupler in the assembly fixture. I found that using the fixture minimizes side to side movement and makes working on the coupler much easier.

Take a needle file and start thinning the shaft. Turn the coupler over on occasion to make sure that an equal amount of material is taken away from both top and bottom.

Unmodified Sergent coupler in assembly fixture.

Unmodified Sergent coupler in assembly fixture. (click to enlarge)

Sergent recommends to thin the coupler shank to 0.057″ (1.45 mm). Use a digital caliper to check the thickness from time to time. The modified coupler should look like this:

Sergent coupler with thinned shaft.

Sergent coupler with thinned shaft.

Fitting the coupler in the pocket

To fit the coupler in the Kadee #78 pocket, Sergent recommends to widen the hole to 0.135″ (3.43 mm) with a tapered reamer until it fits over the mounting post. I found that widening the hole is not necessary. Instead, I forced the coupler over the mounting post and subsequently chiseled off the sides so that the coupler is able to move freely on the post.

Modified Sergent coupler in open Kadee #78 pocket.

Modified Sergent coupler in the open X58 Kadee #78 pocket.

Next, fit the cover over the coupler pocket. You should be able to close the pocket without applying force. When the pocket is closed, the coupler should still move freely. Hold the pocket sideways and check if the coupler falls by sheer gravity. If it doesn’t, thin the shank some more.

Complete draft gear with Sergent coupler.

Complete draft gear with Sergent coupler.

As a last step, insert the spring that comes with couplers and fit it between the coupler and the mounting post. Note that the spring is not intended to center the coupler. It is only supposed to provide friction against side to side movement. Glue the pocket shut. Done!

If you have any questions, leave a comment below.

*If you prefer, you can use Sergent’s EC87K easy-to-assemble die cast AAR type E couplers with compatible shank instead.

Updated frame, new numbers and buffers on the PIKO Tds

This week, I spent some time on the PIKO Tds project. I spray-painted two completed frames with Weinert RAL 8012, which turned out to be a very close match to the color of the plastic. A coat of dull lacquer and weathering will make the difference invisible.

Painted PIKO Tds frames.

Painted PIKO Tds frames. (click to enlarge)

Next, I renumbered two of the three cars. It was good that I ordered spare decals because I did end up destroying a few of them and still have to reorder two sets. The lettering could be a little sharper especially around the edges as numbers on the decals are hard to read compared to the printed PIKO lettering. I also found that the lettering doesn’t stick to the film very well and I accidentally wiped of part of a decal with a ruler.

After a few tries, I finally got the hang of it and here is what I learned:

  • Cut the cardboard around the decal with a sharp pair of scissors
  • Using a steel ruler and an X-Acto knife cut closely around the edges of the numbers putting very little pressure on the blade – just enough to slice the thin film
  • Next put decal glue on the cleaned surface of the model and apply a little soapy water with a paint brush
  • Dip the decal in soapy water for 10 seconds using a set of good tweezers
  • Hold the decal still on the cardboard with the tweezers and gently push the decal film onto the model using the paint brush
  • Apply decal softener and carefully position the decal with the paint brush

Lastly, I installed brand new high performance buffers I got from Günter Weimann. In German, these buffers are called “Elefantenfüsse” or elephant feet for their thick and stubby look. They are the best detailed spring-loaded Ho buffers I have ever seen. Each one has screw holes on the front and individually molded lugs on the back. Unfortunately, my camera doesn’t do them justice. The buffers are available from Wagenwerk or directly from Günter.

Fully assembled and renumbered PIKO Tds in the Tds928 version.

Fully assembled and renumbered PIKO Tds in the Tds928 version.

PIKO Tds928 from the other side.

PIKO Tds928 from the other side.

Eisenbahnstudio.com is not affiliated with the manufacturers of the products mentioned on this site and did not receive payment or samples for review.

Etched grab handles and steps for the PIKO Tds frame

Now that the frame of the PIKO Tds926 hopper is ready, it’s time to replace the plastic grab handles and steps with etched parts Udo Böhlein designed for detailing the German Otmm61 and Otmm64 hoppers. The Tds is the covered era 4 version of the same car, so the parts fit the frame perfectly.

Required tools and materials

  • Böhnlein 20071 Otmm61/Otmm64 buffer plates
  • Böhnlein 20072 Otmm61/Otmm64 brake platform and grab handles
  • Böhnlein 34010 UIC steps
  • Böhnlein 80235 miniature rivets, head diameter 0.35 mm
  • miniature drill 0.3 mm
  • contact adhesive
  • pin
  • X-Acto knife
  • Xuron track cutter and high precision scissors
  • tweezers

Preparing the frame

Remove all pastic handles and steps from the frame using a sharp X-Acto knife. Smooth any kinks with fine sand paper.

PIKO Tds926 frame without plastic grab handles and steps.

PIKO Tds926 frame without plastic grab handles and steps.

Pre-drill the holes in the etched buffer plates with a 0.30 mm bit. These which will serve as drilling templates.

Udo Böhnlein's etched buffer plates serve as drilling template.

The etched buffer plates serve as drilling templates.

Carefully align the buffer plate on the bottom of the buffer plate and drill holes for the miniature rivets, which will keep the parts in place. I found that widening the holes with the tip of a pin makes installation easier.

Preparing the PIKO Tds926 buffer plate by drilling holes for the miniature rivets.

Preparing the buffer plate by drilling holes for the miniature rivets.

Preparing the parts

It’s best to leave the parts attached when preparing them for mounting.

The grab handles are part of Udo Böhnlein's etched parts for the Otmm61 hopper.

The grab handles are among the etched parts for the Otmm61 hopper.

Use the 0.30 mm drill to widen the holes on either end of the grab handles.

Pre-drill the holes in the etched parts before inserting the miniature rivets.

Pre-drill the holes in the etched parts before inserting the miniature rivets.

Insert miniature rivets into the holes and apply a tiny bit of contact adhesive with a pin so they stay in place. Finally, shorten the rivets with the track cutter. Do the same for the steps. (I had assembled these beforehand.)

Putting it all together

With shortened rivets in place, remove the parts and cut away excess material where necessary. I find Xuron high precision scissors where helpful for cutting and cleaning etched parts.

When ready, apply a little bit of contact adhesive to the miniature rivets and carefully insert them into the holes in the buffer plate. Use the flat end of a pair tweezers to push the rivets in all the way and carefully bend the grab handles so they face downward.

Carefully insert the grab handles in the holes on the bottom of the buffer plate of the PIKO Tds926.

Carefully insert the grab handles in the holes on the bottom of the buffer plate.

Here is the frame with all parts installed and ready for the first coat of paint.

Finished PIKO Tds926 frame with grab handles and UIC steps installed.

Finished frame with grab handles and UIC steps installed.

Detailing freight car frames with styrene strips

I have recently continued working on the frame of the PIKO Tds926 and wanted to give a quick status report. Here is how I added missing beams to the frame’s structure.

Required tools and materials

  • jeweler’s saw
  • X-Acto knife
  • styrene strips 1.0 mm x 1.5 mm and 1.0 mm x 2.0 mm
  • plastic cement

Preparing the frame

Prepare the frame by carefully removing the NEM coupler mechanism using a jeweler’s saw. Clean out any excess material with a sharp X-Acto knife.

Adding the styrene strips

Measure the spaces that need to be filled with the strips and cut the them to the appropriate length. Start with the two thicker (1.0 mm x 2.0 mm) beams in the center. Once these are in place and the cement has cured, add the diagonal beams (1.0 mm x 1.5 mm).

PIKO Tds926 frames comparison.

PIKO Tds926 frames comparison.

Here is the detail of the finished frame before airbrushing. This one already features Udo Böhnlein’s UIC steps, a Weinert brake hose and Weinert spring-loaded buffers.

PIKO Tds926 frame detail.

PIKO Tds926 frame detail.

I am aware that the profiles are not perfectly to scale but I am going for the overall appearance with this one.

Removing lettering from freight cars

Removing lettering from models can be a challenge – so I thought. Here is an easy way to strip lettering off unpainted* railroad cars.

Required tools and materials

  • cotton swabs
  • tape
  • nail polish remover
  • paper towels

Preparing the car

Start by masking areas where the lettering should stay intact. Even if there is no lettering directly around the area that you are trying to strip, it is a good idea to apply tape. This prevents unwanted discoloration of the plastic.

Once the masking is in place, put the car on a sturdy and level surface. Keep some paper towels handy in case there is spillage.

Removing the lettering

Take a cotton swab and dip one end in the nail polish remover so that it is evenly wet. Apply a little bit of nail polish remover to an inconspicuous area on the car and double check that the solution does not damage or discolor the plastic.

If the plastic stays unblemished, you can go ahead and spread the nail polish remover over the area you want to strip using the wet side of the swab. Let the solution soak in for about five seconds and use the dry end of the cotton swab to carefully scrape the lettering off the plastic. Use the wet side of the swab to apply more solution as needed.

Repeat this process a few times and you should be able to remove the lettering completely. Finish by dabbing the area with the dry side of the swab to remove excess debris. Let the car dry and take off the masking tape. Done!

PIKO Tds with the car number stripped in the center section.

PIKO Tds with the car number stripped in the center section.

*I would refrain from using this method on painted models, as the nail polish remover may inadvertently strip or damage the paint.