Friday, April 23, 2021

Modifying the Tichy Flat Car Part VI

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 third post covered how I was handling the rivets with an addendum from my buddy Bill Gill here. The fourth covered some additional prototypes. Fifth was the underframe on the NH car. 

The impetus for this particular project was a photo of a T&P flat car which also includes prototype information for that and similar cars.

With the underframe done, I needed to work on the body of the car itself. The side sills were done the same way as the other models, with strip styrene, the Tichy stake pockets, and harvested rivets. The car at the Trolley museum has some extra holes drilled on the side and end, but I skipped these as they looked to have been from various repairs over the years. 

But the end sill was quite different from the kit.

End Sills



I couldn't get a good full shot of the ends since it is sitting between two other cars. The end sill itself is just a simple steel channel with the flanges turned in toward the interior. In other words, from the outside it's just a flat end, and very easy to model. But what intrigued me was the rather substantial buffer, and the cast poling pockets that wrap around the corner. Also note the B-end is missing the handbrake altogether, although the support under the sill and retainer valve are still present.

Poling Pockets

I've been looking into the possibility of getting these 3D printed, but the parts are so small it may not be possible. A second option would be to 3D print the entire end sill. But I decided since I was working on these cars now I'd see if I could scratch-build them.

The casting is attached with two rivets on the end, and two on the side, one of which also attaches the grab iron. It is angled slightly toward the side, and has two stiffening ridges. The deck is entirely gone, so you can see how the end sill channel is notched to fit into the side sill (which is also a channel), and how the poling pocket casting ties it together.

I decided to try to replicate this, using a Cal Scale poling pocket and building the casting around it.

Because I find it easier to build something up, than to cut and shape it, the end sill is made of of three pieces of strip styrene. One across the top of the coupler pocket, and one on either side. Using liquid styrene cement means it will behave like a single piece when attached, and I brushed the cement across the face of it then smoothed it with a fine finishing stick to hide the seams.

After marking the end the width of the poling pocket casting, I glued a length of strip styrene to the end.

I found the easiest way to do this was to hold it on the end, and apply the liquid cement to the inside corner on the side. Once that tacked it down I could remove my finger and glue around the other sides of the piece. If you accidentally apply too much, don't touch the piece until it dries. The cement melts the plastic, but if you don't disturb it or squish it, it will be OK.

I then bent it around the corner, marked, cut, and glued it to form the corner casting itself. Next I drilled a hole for the poling pocket casting, at an angle since it would need to be tilted toward the side of the car:

These are the tungsten drill bits I got from Amazon, and I've found that the shaft is large enough I can just use it by hand for this. I then used a reamer to widen the hole.

I glued the poling pocket at an angle, then formed the casting with some thin strip styrene.

After doing the first two, I found gluing the center first, then bending around it once that had set worked best.

This is a process of bend and glue, bend and glue, and then trim once it has reached the desired shape. I then glued two pieces to form the stiffening flanges:

As you can see, I leave a good sized 'handle' to work with, then trim it once it has set.

It's hard to see with everything being white styrene, but I'm quite happy with how they came out.

Uncoupling Lever

The uncoupling lever is just bent wire, but after gluing it to the top of the end sill, I used the same approach to glue and bend the brackets.


This is a fairly substantial casting, but built the same way. I used several strips to make the basic shape, then glued on the flanges, applied rivets, and finally the face.

Shaping the mounting plate.

The 'box' is built around the coupler opening, now I'm making the first two stiffening flanges on top.

Once those have dried and are trimmed, I installed the rivets, then added the center two flanges.

One of the side flanges is trimmed, the other is about to be.

Test fitting (and testing with) a coupler.

When looking at a complex shape like this, it's good to identify the individual parts that can be used to fabricate it:

The way I broke this down was the back part. The first one I did I made the curved part of the plate that attaches it to the car, but it's so small I didn't bother on the second ones. I did narrow the coupler pocket significantly and have found this does not affect operation.

So the back plate was a piece of styrene across the top, plus one on each side. I then clipped diagonal and vertical to step it in toward the coupler.

The next step was to form the box around the coupler along the edge of the coupler opening.'

The stiffening flanges are more styrene, long then cut to shape. Four on the top, then one to each side, plus the one a the bottom. Add the rivets, and then add the face. Again, I did this as a piece across the top, then trimmed an angle for the side pieces before gluing them on.

It's fiddly, but once you are able to visualize it as individual parts, not too difficult to build.

Unfortunately, either my primer or glue application was too heavy, because once primed most of the rivets aren't as noticeable.

But overall I'm very happy with my first attempt at this sort of detail, and being an old car some weathering, dirt, and rust will help make the buffer look correct anyway. I may be able to bring out the rivets a bit more in the process.

As I mentioned, I decided to make this a very well used car by heavily distressing the deck. I simply carved it up with a scalpel, and used a brass wire brush to clean out the grooves. It was fun digging some real gouges, and I also have two holes going all the way through the deck. I had to carve and try to thin the edge of these holes from the bottom, because the deck is fairly thick in the main body.

It will need a final coat of black paint for the car body, and an unpainted (and well weathered) deck. I also have to see what decals I can dig up, and also if I can find an photo with its in-service lettering instead of the MoW lettering.


  1. I recognize some of those prototype photos. I think you did a better job of the polling pockets than I ever could in 3D.

    1. Thanks! It was fun giving it a try. I’m pretty happy with how they came out.