Improving the EPM Est
“Romilly” modernized coaches (1)

Original page created on 20/08/2023; last modified on 30/08/2023.

Romilly coach, profile view

EPM Romilly coach before modification.

The observation

These coaches are registered in the Ouest SNCF region, a rather curious choice given that it did not receive a large number of coaches: 15 in all, far behind the Est (376 coaches), the Sud-Est (131 coaches) and the Nord (75 coaches).

Similarities and differences with De Massini

On the whole, there’s nothing to distinguish these coaches from the De Massini that were released several years ago, apart from the fact that the bogies, buffers and gangway platforms are painted grey this time rather than in a translucent raw material. The windows are flush. The top of the body, where the roof meets, is still somewhat undulating, as there is no reinforcement.

There’s a plethora of spare parts. Warning: the spare electric jumpers are the old parts, less detailed than those fitted, and translucent.

Spare parts assortmentLe constat

Bogies

The bogies are clipped into the chassis, and are a little hard to remove. The running is very good, except for one of the six bogies, which ran badly. Probable cause: the bearings were incorrectly inserted. Remedy: remove 0.2 mm from the axle tips.

Dismantled bogie

Power is supplied via insulated half-axles and conductive sidewalls. Slats under the chassis rub on the horizontal part of the sidewalls. They act as a spring, which lifts the coaches. As a consequence, they don’t rest on the chassis supports. So, their height is 0.5 mm higher than on the De Massini.

View under the chassis with the bogie removed

The wheels are not burnished.

Lighting

The big novelty is the lighting, which I could have done without, as it increases the price, whereas I’ve designed suitable strips for my De Massini.

The lighting strip is green (white would have been better), with a 6-pin NEM 651 decoder socket, and two slide switches: SW1 for the lamps, SW2 for the lighting. A trimmer is provided to control the light intensity.

A 220 µF / 25 V capacitor provides a — small — energy reserve in the event of a power cut. This reserve is of the order of half a second, whereas with my circuit (admittedly only designed for the DCC), it is at least four times longer.

On the internal side of the strip, the LEDs are framed by small pieces of black foam, perhaps to prevent the light from diffusing sideways, but it looks a bit amateurish. There is one LED per compartment, per platform and also in the toilet, the latter being a bit useless as the capacitor prevents the light from passing through.

Current consumption at 12 V DC is 7.2 to 7.5 mA, depending on whether the lamps are lit.

View of the underside of the lighting strip

The following photo clearly shows the light switches and the six-pin decoder socket.

Top view of the lighting strip

Interior fittings

The floor is dark grey, the railcar-style benches are light grey. It seems to me that they were actually dark green, as confirmed in Correspondances ferroviaires magazine No. 26, p. 21.

The grab handles are not silver. There is no sign of porthole doors on the end partitions.

Electrical improvement

I’ll start with the electrical upgrade, because it’s very easy: just solder latching reed switches in parallel with the switches, which will of course be set open.

Fitting latching reed switch on the B5Dt mixed van coach

This is the only coach that requires two switches. Using electronic flux to make it easier, I put a drop of tin on the relevant tabs of the switches. The positive common is on the right tab. The yellow and blue wires going to the lamp latching reed switch are soldered.

Soldering latching reed switch wires

Note: the strip has not been dismantled. A protective aluminium plate is inserted between it and the body.

The latching reed switch is soldered at the lamp end, with the soldered joints protected by heat-shrink tubing. The reed switch is stuck in place with Fischer double-sided adhesive, which is highly effective.

reed switch for lamp control

Similarly, the lighting control reed switch is installed in the centre of the coach, in parallel with SW2 (blue and green wires).

Lighting control reed switch

Narrowing the power pick-up slats

As we saw above, the power pick-up slats between the bogie and chassis are springy and raise the body compared to the De Massini coaches. From an aesthetic point of view, this is not too annoying, as it falls within the height tolerances of the real coaches. The main problem is that the three-point suspension system becomes ineffective.

There are four possible solutions:

  1. Increase the coach weight. This seems complicated because it requires dismantling. And is there any space left for that?
  2. replace these slats with flexible wires soldered on either side. The disadvantage would be to prevent, or rather complicate, the dismantling of the bogies. The advantage would be better electrical contact;
  3. narrowing the slats to make them more flexible;
  4. replace them with very fine bronze or nickel silver wires (ø 0.2 a priori), which are therefore very flexible. This will require risky soldering because the slats are crimped onto the plastic frame.

I tested the 3rd solution: reduce the slat width. Warning: you absolutely need very fine scissors (Xuron). And even with them, you can’t necessarily avoid bending the slats without cutting them. I cut them roughly in half — lengthways, of course. Here are two good ones. Out of modesty, I won’t show you any other less attractive ones…

Reducing the width of the contact blades

Intact coach in the background.

After getting them back into shape, if necessary, I carry out two checks, one electrical and one mechanical.

Insulated track coupons

Electrical continuity test

Checking the height

Click on the image to zoom in.

The intact coach is on the right. Not only is it higher, but, more annoyingly, it is obviously leaning sideways. See the handrails that will be discussed on the next page.

Checking the height, with the intact coach manually pressed down

Now I press down on the right-hand coach to apply it to its supports (the ends pictured both have two-point supports). This time, it is at the same height as its neighbour and much less wobbly. I hope I’ve convinced you of the benefits of this operation.

heat-shrink tubing 2:1
diameter after shrinkage 0.8 mm; length 2 m
€2.99 each, free shipping, price 2023
at NetElectroShop on ebay.fr

Thick transparent double-sided adhesive
Fischer, width 19 mm, length 3 m
€14,34 € + €2.99 shipping, price 2023
on ebay.fr