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Experts in Model Train Repair

The following is a word-for-word copy of Jim Barrett's Backshop, featured in the April/May 2007 issue of O Gauge Railroading Magazine. The article covers model train repair with The Brakeman's Riveting Set.


Best Friend of the Train Repairman

(Pages 101-104)


"This is a different "Backshop." It doesn't deal with a specific repair, but rather with an exceptional set of tools. These tools are unique to our hobby and allow us to do all kinds of repairs.

There's an old saying that goes, "You have to have the right tool for the right job." When it comes to train repairs, that saying is as good as gold. Keeping trains working and keeping them looking as good as new is a special "hobby within the hobby" of mine. It started as a matter of necessity since I grew up in a rural town. If any of my trains needed repairs, it was either wait until Dad went to the city on business when I could tag along with my broken treasure to the train store or learn to repair it myself right there at home.

The most difficult repair for me was anything involving a rivet. Rivets (at least in our train hobby) are pretty simple fastening devices. They are a solid connector with a head on one end and a hollow tip on the other end. The objective is to slide the rivet through holes on toy train parts, peen the hollow end out, and smoothly roll the metal over to form another head on that end as well. Peening is the mechanical working of the hollow end of the rivet by means of hammer blows, causing it to make a permanent connection.

As a kid I tried to invent (more like "rig up") tooling I needed for fastening rivets. The tools were crude center punches, filed nail tips, or anything else I could dream up. The repairs worked, maybe, sort of, but they always lacked the professional appearance and function of the original rivet. It seemed that no matter what I did, I just couldn't hold on to the item being repaired and perform the peening operation the right way. I always needed extra arms and hands. When it came to replacing tiny springs in coupler knuckles or replacing worn-out or abused accessory slide shoes on my operating cars, well, that was just impossible.

Time marches on and with it, thankfully, so goes ingenuity. Somewhere there was a guy named Carl Scire. He saw a great new function for an existing tool. He adapted an existing spring-loaded center punch used by machinists. What he came up with was a whole new simple and easy way to handle the job of installing rivets and staking metal parts together. In short, he revolutionized the toy train repair hobby.

Now, anyone who is the least bit handy can use Carl's tools and repair or replace virtually anything riveted together. All you have to do is replace the rivet and, using his tooling and backing stakes, perfectly peen the rivet into place. The Brakeman's Riveter tool makes it so easy that it is virtually impossible to tell your finished result from the factory original!

The secret to using rivets is total control of the method used to put pressure on the rivet and total control of backing behind the head of the rivet. A rivet press like the ones used to install rivets at the factory is prohibitively expensive. Carl's rivet tool is a great alternative. Instead of a continuous pressure as a press would use, the Brakeman's Riveter is a simple hand-held device that allows you to dial up the striking pressure as well as the number of strikes you use.

Using either the Brakeman's Original Riveter (the BR-1) or the Super Riveter (BR-2) and various backing devices, you can dial in the amount of "punch" the rivet tool will deliver and gently, firmly peen over the end of the rivet. The beauty of these tools is that you can do it slowly in stages determined only by the amount of punches you decide to apply or the amount of pressure per punch.

The BR-1 or BR-2 can be loaded with many different tips for literally hundreds of jobs or tasks to be performed. The BR-PB Universal Backing Post Base Plate can accept many different backing posts to perform the job of backing up the head of the rivet you are working on so that you can easily control the "hits" from die BR-1 or BR-2 tool on the other end.

There is no way within the confines of this article that I can cover all the things this set will let you professionally repair. If you own the complete set as I have for many years now, I'm sure that you will find countless more tasks it can perform that most of us haven't even come across yet. That is one of the beauties of this system.

Photos with this article show some of the most common and valuable operations that I perform with my set. (See more examples below.)

Replacement parts needed for these operations can be purchased from parts suppliers, such as George Tebolt Train Parts. Carl Scire's Brakeman's Riveter is advertised under Carl's Toy Trains."

List of Referenced Repair Parts

Armature Spring 480-38 Coupler Knuckle Spring 480-16 Coupler Roller Spring Rivet TT-234 Slide Shoe TT-208
Armature Spring Rivet 48019 Coupler Roller 481-11 Coupler Roller Assembly Rivet 480-19 Slide Shoe Rivet 480-20
Coupler Knuckle 480-8 Coupler Roller Pin 481-12 Dump Car Brake Wheel 2419-23 Slide Shoe Spring 6TC-12
Coupler Knuckle Pin TC-23 Coupler Roller Spring TCL-45 Shoe Plate TC-109 Slide Shoe Spring Eyelet 61-14