A little something on Saturday


I haven’t had time lately to do much modeling, and by much I mean any. So I made a point to sit down and do something so what better to do than assemble some couplers. That turned into installing them on yet to be converted hardware and got these converted and a couple extra couplers ready to go.


Over course I had help from my youngest David as evidenced by the presence of his trains. I do have to say those ore cars look really nice with the Sergent couplers!



Lumber Loads


For quite a while I’ve wanted to make some lumber loads like Chris van der Heide detailed on his blog here. He makes them from scrap wood cut to scale and wrapped in a printed cover. One of the impediments for my was my table saw was in storage and it wasn’t a big enough project to justify getting it out of my garage attic. Well I finally got it out of my attic for another project so I thought I’ll whip a couple of them out quick… Well I got close on a couple but decided it wasn’t safe enough to do on my table saw. Perhaps with a better one or a cross cut sled it’d work better, or even a band saw (which I don’t have) but I gave up before I ended up hurting myself.

So back to the drawing board. I decided to see how much filament it would take to print a hollow box on my 3D printer. It turns out if I do the bottom, a couple perimeters and no top layers it’s only about 5-20 cents each (including electricity) and you get a little box like this (I changed filaments for a larger project between these two which is why the color difference)


If you want to print them you can get them here on OnShape. It’s parametric so if you want to adjust measurements you can easily do this. I just used the sizes from Chris’s blog. For printing I’d recommend doing no infill, you may be able to bridge the top to make it a solid box but I just didn’t do a top. This way if I want I can add weight later if I need to.

I printed out one of his PDFs (Yes I’ve combined 2D AND 3D printing for this. If it becomes possible to print another dimension I’ll have to try to incorporate that too!) and glued it to the box and viola:


I have to say it turned out pretty well, much better than my crappy cell phone camera* conveys. I will have to track down at least one lumber car as I don’t have any to put these loads on.

*Yes I technically do have a decent Nikon DSLR that was my wife’s until I bought her a nicer one but she’s since run off with the kit lens for her own use leaving me without a lens.

Decal Time


A few days I go a friend had some decals, or as the Canadian’s call them “decals”* he had gotten from someone else he didn’t need so I took a bunch of them with hopes that I could find what I need for at least a couple of my otherwise stalled projects


Since I’ve never done decals before this is a bit of a motivator to try something new and get some stalled projects moving. Since most of the decals were BN I knew just the project to start with. I have this basic Bachmann 40′ gondola that ironically was originally BN but I repainted it several years ago and in the last year stripped and re-painted it BN green (The Good, the Bad, and the Masking Tape).


Prior to this it was painted entirely in flat Vallejo paint, but since a glossy surface is, as I understand it, better for decals I needed to make it glossy. I have had Vallejo gloss for a while but as I detailed in “I hate airbrushes” my airbrushes are all broken so I broke down and bought a cheap one at the local big box hardware store. And when I say cheap… it’s like a $10 single action. At that money it’s basically disposable and something I can practice with until I decided to take another stab at fixing my other ones or break down at get a quality airbrush.

*Yes I know the decal/decal pronunciation joke only works if it’s spoken but I did it anyway.

Printing Bricks

3D Printing, Trains

I’ve wondered for a while if it’d be possible to print walls, such as brick, for HO scale models. Not because it’d be the most efficient way to get brick sheet but because I didn’t have any brick sheet, and have some brick buildings I want to build, and I have a bunch of filament and a 3D printer why not try.

Live has kept me busy but I finally got around to it and modeled a parametric brick sheet in OnShape. My first attempt was using a 0.4mm nozzle which is the stock size for my printer… it was so bad I disposed of it immediately. I more recently tried a 0.2mm nozzle and had a little better results.

My first attempt exactly off standard dimensions as I found them online. This looks good in cad but just didn’t have enough definition. It was so hard to see straight off the printer I painted it white and then covered in a red. The hope was to catch just the brick faces and leave the white mortar.


That didn’t really work, a wall of it might pass as brick but just didn’t feel detailed enough (and would be nearly impossible to try and lighten the mortar lines as they are just too shallow and narrow.

The next attempt increased the depth and width of these lines (which was really easy thanks to parametric CAD!). This had better results in my quick paint test.


It was definitely an improvement* but I didn’t like how the gap was narrower on the horizontal to ground lines but bigger on the vertical (and this maybe a printer belt issue that’s too small to have noticed previously) and the inconsistency with the brick face bugged me a little so I made the bricks a tiny bit shorter and the horizontal gaps the same amount bigger.


Pulling it off the printer immediately showed the improvement* but painted it really seemed to pop a bit more, especially at a distance. If you get up really close the mortar lines look a little big but I’m thinking that looking good at 3 feet but maybe not 3 inches is better than looking good at 3 inches but not 3 feet.

Certainly there will be more experimentation but looks promising for printing larger wall sections than say Walthers modular system, and with details like doors and windows exactly where I want them… and without having to run to the hobby shop for supplies 🙂

For my quick tests I also found another use for my printer, specifically the part cooling fan. It makes a great small part paint dryer


* I typed this post up as I was printing and painting these tests but since it was getting a little late I called it a night with the intent of taking pictures the next day and finishing up the post. The next afternoon I didn’t really have time to finish the post but decided fairly quickly that my opinion from the night before was wrong and that the first batch looked better just with a little under extrusion problem on the bricks. I ended up comparing it to a commercially available brick building and the second two attempts ended up looking fairly bad in comparison with giant gaps between the bricks.

So from here I’m going to try and adjust the model back to what I had originally and change my painting method. Rather than painting red on white going to paint them red and then use a white wash to try and get the low spots which might work better with the smaller gaps

Teeny Tiny Pallets

3D Printing, Trains

Earlier this week I posted a teaser on my model railroading facebook page (which you can find here) on a 3D printing project I was working on asking if anyone could guess what it was that I had on this small pallet.


I was being a little bit cheeky in that the pallet these things are stacked on isn’t HO scale, it’s actually O scale (roughly).


Here they are painted and side by side (HO scale on the right and scaled up to 200% on the left which makes it basically O scale) and finished painting so it’s much easier to make them out. You may be thinking, why pallets and it all comes down to Luke Towan’s recent video on making pallets. Just to see if it’d work I made a quick model in CAD and took some stabs at printing it. These are a bit of a challenge to print because they are so small and because there is a lot of bridging. They don’t look as good from the underside and require a bit of cleanup before painting but I think they are pretty nice. This was another project I was able to use my Vallejo Old and New wood paint set to good effect.


This is a very small sample of the ones I haven’t finished up yet, I’ll probably be working on these for a few years.

I hate airbrushes



I was trying to do some airbrushing this evening to use my new spray box but just had a heck of a time trying to get it to spray. What I inadvertently discovered was that if I left parts 1 and 2 off (no idea what they are called) it would spray just fine. Obviously that’s not ideal since that leaves the needle in the open unprotected. If I put part 1 on the air feeds back into the paint reservoir. I have a second identical part 1 that does the same and even tried one for a larger needle but the exact same result.

I’m at a complete loss as to what to try next, if possible I’d like to avoid replacing it again since this is my 3rd airbrush. Do any of my readers have any ideas?

Weekend Update 27

Trains, Weekend Update

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted as I just haven’t had any motivation to work on modeling stuff for a number of external reasons that aren’t really important here.

In my 3D printing I spend a little bit of time looking over websites like Thingiverse and recently I stumbled on a couple of really cool models, first a 1:32 scale EMD SW1500. I’m pretty sure I’m going to print this just because it’s so cool and massive. Second a more generic 16mm scale Diesel Locomotive. I’m very likely going to print that one as well just because it’s cool.

For a couple months now I’ve been searching all over the train room for the wheels to my fairmont speeder with no luck. More than a month ago I resigned myself to the fact that they were gone and I’d just have to order some new ones but thankfully I didn’t because I finally found them. Turns out they were in the garage in a small container on the garage workbench under a pile of miscellaneous stuff that’s piled up since fall. Now I just have to try to remember where I put the rest of the model, though I’m fairly sure that is still in the train room.

Mocking up Buildings


This has been a slow process, and finally putting that pile of boxes my wife has been bugging me to get rid of to use. Basically I’m trying to recreate a busy industrial scene, but don’t want to end up too busy. I’m not sure if I want to extend background buildings behind the cement plant or if that would look too busy/contrived. Another option would be to use fencing to obscure the horizon on the backdrop… or both.

On the leftmost picture in the bottom left corner there is building that’s open to the operator, my idea is to make this a building that extends off the layout and as such be a cutaway with detailed interior.

The large background buildings will likely be done in brick as older established buildings with some of the smaller foreground buildings mixing up construction types with more of an emphasis on more modern commercial building construction techniques (like steel or concrete etc)

Mixing 3D Printing With Scratch Building

3D Printing, Trains

I’ve been trying to learn CAD for a while now with a couple purposes in mind, first as a way to create drawings of what I’m trying to create to make it easier to convey. As an example of this drawing of a Thrall side beam.


The other would be to use 3D printed parts, or printed tools and jigs to simplify construction. In the example of the thrall side beam I’ve used a scribing tool with some success but it’s still time consuming and easy to make a very visible mistake as this contour is very distinctive. I figured I could go two ways with this, 1) print the piece directly and use it as if I’d cut it or were using a Details Associate or similar piece 2) print a jig to simplify cutting the piece.

Idea one in this case is the simplest so I started with that. Once I got the wheels on my first scratch built flat car it was clear to me just how much weight was needed. Fortunately for that one I had already planned on a load but what if I wanted to run one empty? I need a way to put on some pounds. I’m willing to sacrifice underbody details for the weight, I just need to put it somewhere. I happen to have a collection of steel plates that were salvaged from various lost causes in the past and while they’ll be a little underweight by NMRA standards they should still track a lot better empty.


The solution was to nibble a bit out of the the inside frames as shown on top in the diagram also with the space for the coupler box, bottom shows the profile of an outer frame.

The picture on the left is how the outer beams came off the printer (it’s hard to see  but trust me they are both there), and the right after I’ve removed the brim. The brim is used to give the print a bit more purchase on the print bed so it doesn’t get knocked out of place during printing. Trust me it’s a good idea (nothing like 5 hours into a larger print and having it all lost because one of the pieces came lose).


Here is a comparison of a beam I’ve cut and a printed one. Obviously the printed one has a bit of a stair step look on the angles which could be sanded down, and also obviously I’m not very good with an xacto blade.


The printed version is not without it’s faults either with some cavities that will likely have to be filled in, which for the record is much easier to see in person than to photograph. There are also layer lines, it’ll be interesting to see how noticeable  they are on a finished and painted model. I might also use some filler to smooth it out.

The inner beams I specifically left an area for the weight which is demonstrated on the right. In the left top beam some of the support material is left in place. because of the orientation of the print the center section needed to be supported while printing which just adds a little more cleanup to the part.

So far I’m pretty happy with how these parts came out, it will be interesting to see how they play with the rest of the build.

Goals Follow Up March


February was a slow month for me, for a number of reasons, but here is how I fared on my goals

  • Finish Speeder Shed track
    • I made some unplanned progress painting some of the wood features just because it was an easy and relaxing task on a couple of nights where a easy and relaxing task was needed. The track itself is almost ready to go, just waiting on a chance to apply some pliobond outside (because of the smell)
  • Figure out shelf layout operations
    • Just didn’t have the motivation for this
  • Finish DODX flat car construction
    • This I did, just needs paint, load, and couplers now
  • Upgrade SW1 drive shafts
    • This is close to being done, had a bit of a setback when one of the shafts bounced off my forehead and disappeared. I ended up cutting a new one just need to fine tune it for smooth operation

I’m optimistic about March though holding myself to a low standard as the weather getting nicer could easily foil modeling plans.

  • Paint some models
    • I’ve got a backlog of things that need to be painted or weathered
  • Attempt to build a 3D printer
    • How hard could it be right? 🙂
  • Mock up cardboard buildings on the shelf layout
    • I consider this to be a gateway to figuring out operations