The PIKO commuter coaches have been around for quite some time. They were originally quite cheap so they quickly gained a lot of fans. The coaches are a model of the German N-type that you used to see around urban areas and on branch lines. From time to time PIKO have released modern versions of these coaches, but done nothing else than repainting the older types in the new colours. This is fine, when you think of the price, but there are some small changes that you can make yourself to add a more modern look to the coach.
The coaches come with split windows in the door frames. This is not prototypical as the modern versions does not have that. Luckily it can be easily enhanced so the window looks more or less like the prototype.
The idea is to simply remove the paint from the window and leave it transparent. The details of the splitted window will of course still be there, but they will be much less visible and this is what makes the coach look more prototypical.
First you need to take the coach apart. It is done by simply pulling on the sides and lifting the bottom out. You can help yourself by using toothpicks which will make the process a lot easier.
Gently pull to the sides and pull the bottom upwards. The process can be fiddly, and you should be careful.
PIKO has a nasty habit of gluing everything in place. This is seriously annoying, so you will have to release the glazing from the body of the coach. This can also be a fiddly process, but an Exacto blade is helpful here. Take care though. The toilet windows might break off the rest of the glazing inlays, but that does not matter, since we do not need to take the toilet windows off. It will not damage the model either way.
Now that the window glazing is off (you can really see the nasty gluing) it is time to remove the paint from the door windows.
None of my paint strippers worked here, so I decided to use a mold line removal tool instead. This works perfectly fine, but take care not to scratch the windows. I use a tool from Citadel, but you can use whatever you want. The Citadel tool is awesome, if you are in the market for such a tool.
It takes about 2 minutes to do all the windows. As you can see I use the tool upside down, this greatly reduces the risk of the tip scratching the window surface.
Before putting the windows back into place you need to paint the window frame on the door in a black colour. I do this using a permanent marker. The benefit here is that you don't risk putting paint on the coach itself. The marker's tip is so sturdy that it only colours the raised areas.
The windows will not go back into place without additional gluing. They are not press-fit so they are designed to be glued. This is insanely annoying, but that is the way PIKO design their stuff.
Instead of gluing everything back the way it was, I use my trusty NOCH Hin & Weg-Kleber (61120) which is a glue that does not cure entirely but stays tacky - and removable. Woodland Scenics has a similar product which is called "Scenic Accents Glue".
The glue is useful if you want to glue passengers into coaches, but also want an option to "build back" to the original state - or simply re-organize stuff. The glue is perfect for the windows and allows me to take them back out if that should ever be necessary.
Let the glue dry to transparency before putting the windows back in.
I also paint the steps underneath the doors so they match the colour of the coach. Originally PIKO left them black but I think that looks weird. My gray colour is not exactly the same RAL colour code as used on the German trains, but it comes close enough. It dries a bit darker, but since the steps sit in almost permanent shadow, it does not matter much.
The job is done. The look is now greatly enhanced and I'm happy with the result.
If the coach were to be completely modern, I would also need to remove several of the splitted windows in the passenger compartment. Originally all the windows were sliding windows (the top window half can slide over the bottom half to open the window). The model reflects the original state, thus all the windows are modelled as sliding windows. This means that there will be a weird bump on the center of the window if I try and remove the part where the window splits. So I left them "as is" for this project.
PIKO are the only ones (that I know of in H0) who does not produce special glazings for the modern version of their commuter coaches. Both Roco, Märklin and others do that. The new ESU commuter coaches has it as well. PIKO could upgrade their coaches by simply producing new windows for them. It is an easy fix, so I think PIKO should consider that.
The new PIKO driving trailer of the Wittenberg type do reflect the modern look. With the above change to the existing coaches I think they fit better together. Here is me hoping that PIKO will one day manufacture new versions of their commuter coaches to go with this new awesome looking thing.
On the layout the model looks really good after the upgrade.
Here is a before image for comparison.
Upgrading older PIKO coaches can be a fun weekend project. I enjoyed upgrading my coaches.