Friday, March 26, 2021

Modifying Tichy Flat Cars, Part III

In the first post I showed how I modified the deck and assembled the basic kit.
The second post covered scratchbuilding side sills and measuring and installing stake pockets.
The impetus for this particular project was a photo of a T&P flat car.

In this post I'll be looking at...


When I got back into the hobby and started looking at kitbashing or potentially scratchbuilding things, rivets sort of seemed like kryptonite. I collected as many articles as I could find, but still felt it was well beyond my capabilities.

There are three basic options for adding rivets to a model. The first, using a punch of some sort to emboss them won't work at this stage since the sides are already on the car. 

The second option, and a method I learned about from Ted Culotta, is harvesting rivets. You scrape the rivets off of a model (Athearn snow plows are a popular options), and then glue the individual rivets on the model.

Another option are the rivets Tichy sells, but they are quite large. I always thought you drilled a hole for every one, but later learned of those that would cut just the rivet head off, and then it's just like working with harvested rivets.

But the thing that finally put the possibility of adding rivets to models for me are the excellent Archer rivet decals (yes, I know there are others available, I have found their consistency and quality, particularly adhesion, to be unacceptable). I was comfortable with the idea of working with decals, so this was something I could do. But I appear to have exhausted my current supply, and since there aren't that many rivets and I'm always working to improve my skills, I decided to give harvesting rivets a try while I replenish my supply.

Harvesting rivets.

This requires a donor model and, as I found, a little patience. Athearn blue box models appear to be the most common source, especially the plow, but I don't have those. In fact, I have pretty much sold or given away any spare models that I won't use. I did have a bunch of NERS windows and tried one of those, but found that there's a reason to use the old Athearn kits. The rivets are larger (overscale, really). This is important because even with a razor blade, the kerf is reducing the amount of rivet you end up with.

I did have some parts for E&B Valley passenger cars, courtesy of Ted Culotta (thanks, Ted!), which is appropriate since this is a technique he uses frequently and has told me it's not that hard. I had kept these because the steps are excellent and I think I can use some for future heavyweight models. These have tons of oversized rivets. So I tried that.

With a single-edge razor blade I shaved off a bunch of rivets onto the box (because it's white and they'll be easy to see).

Not all will be usable (some too small), but it's not all that bad. Simply wetting the corner of a scalpel or hobby knife is enough to pick up the rivets. Overall it goes pretty quickly, although I found that gluing them sometimes made it tough. I tried putting either CA or wetting it with styrene cement first to give it a little tack, then carefully wicking CA from the side seemed to work OK. Eventually I decided that gel AC (that dries slower) gave me just enough time to put it in the correct position. Once dried, I brushed styrene cement across the rivets to ensure they were fully adhered.

Styrene cement melts the plastic, but I find that if I brush it on and I'm careful not to touch it, then it retains its shape while it is softened, but otherwise doesn't cause any issues.

I copied the rivet pattern from the model on the first side.

For the second side, I realized that the rivet pattern on the CP car was different, so I followed the drawing in the Car Builder's Cyclopedia for the other side. Although I didn't make major modifications to the underframe to match the prototype CP car, I lined up the rivets with the underframe components where I could.

For comparison, this is a box car end I made as an experiment years ago with Archer rivets. A few have been rubbed off. This is an Improved Dreadnaught End for a 10' 0" IH car. I was kitbashing the Intermountain model for a class of NH box cars, but Intermountain has since released the correct model. I shortened the end at the top and bottom, and the original part was welded at the center, so I added the rivet strip.

Archer vs Harvesting

For that rivet strip across the center, definitely Archer. For individual rivets it's not all that different. With a gel AC, you'll have a little time to adjust the location, and with the Archer decals you can do the same while it's wet. When I did this end, I attached the decals directly to the end. In the future I would use Future to provide a better surface. Note that on the end I made, I also included the smaller intermediate rivets that attach the interior framing to the ends, something that is missing on most commercial models.

I'm comfortable enough with both approaches, so I think I would go the Archer route when there are a significant amount of rivets, and always if there are rows of more than a handful of rivets. 

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