Re: Sill Steps

Lawrence Rast

Terrific post, Richard. Many thanks!

Lawrence Rast

On Sun, Aug 30, 2009 at 11:45 PM, Richard
Hendrickson<> wrote:

On Aug 30, 2009, at 9:15 AM, Jim Betz wrote:

.... The best thing, of course, is to replace the plastic step with a
brass one - it is a lot stronger ... and often looks better.
Jim goes on at some length about this, and I entirely agree. Sill
steps are the most vulnerable parts on most freight car models and
plastic ones can be broken off in even a minor derailment (to say
nothing about the ham-fisted operators on many club layouts). I
recently built a kit in which the styrene steps were so fragile that
three of the four broke as I was (very carefully) removing them from
the sprue.

I use A-Line flat wire steps on almost all of my freight car models;
if none of the three available styles is correct, they can usually be
bent or tweaked to make accurate replacements for plastic steps.
I've learned a couple of quick tricks which improve the process.
First, I anneal the steps by heating them to dull red with a
resistance soldering tool and quenching them in water. They can then
be bent as needed without breaking, and that also removes the clear
coating that prevents them from tarnishing (and also tends to prevent
paint from adhering). I then blacken them with chemical blackener,
which slightly etches the metal so it takes paint very well and also
prevents the shiny metal from showing through if the paint gets
rubbed off. I drill mounting holes with a #69 drill bit; that's
slightly oversize but makes them easy to install, and they can then
be secured in place with a drop of gap-filling CA adhesive. If
needed, small bits of styrene can be cemented behind the side sills
to provide a secure mounting pad. Final adjustments are easy to
make, since the metal step is now soft, and if it's damaged later,
it's a simple matter to bend it back into shape.

Richard Hendrickson

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