Tuesday Train #70

01756_n_15amvrns7n1758.jpgCanadian Pacific Railways No 2317 builds steam and prepares to reverse out of the working part of the Roundhouse at the Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton Pennsylvania in the summer of 2000.  My dad and I went on a road trip on the August Civic Holiday long weekend to Cooperstown New York and the Baseball Hall of Fame, then to Scranton and Steamtown.  We were able to take the steam excursion from Scranton to Moscow PA and back behind the CPR Pacific as part of our visit.

Scenes from a Steam Excursion.  Running around in Moscow, removing the ash back in Scranton, and spinning on the turntable at the end of the day.

This is post 5/5 in my Retro August Scan Cafe finds for Tuesday Train.

Thinking outside the box in 3 Dimensions to get a 3D Print to Print

So, my current waiting game with Shapeways and my efforts to make them print things the way I want on their print bed so that it fits appears to be working.  I spoke about this a couple of weeks ago here where I looked at the issue of a standard 80’+ long modern passenger coach being too long for their printer in HO scale.

Traditionally, 3D designers have had to resort to adding sprues to models to force Shapeways to orient their model on the printer the way they want to get it within the size limits of the machine, or to attempt to control which surfaces have the best finish.  Shapeways changed their pricing on FUD earlier this year to more clearly identify what you are being charged for.  One of the changes is a clear separate charge for print material, support material, and machine space.  The result of these, is that adding sprues or more material to force an orientation would potentially drastically increase the price of the part to force (and the part isn’t cheap to begin with at around $100USD without any markup for me if I want to sell it down the road).   If I was going to get the car to print, I was either going to have to split it into multiple parts (with the alignment and appearance problems that can bring), or find another way to get it to print.

I don’t know how others work in their design drawings, but I work using the X and Y axis as my length and width for a car.  The X axis is the “front” if you look at an elevation, and Y as the depth.  The Z axis is the height of whatever I am drawing.  In this case, for a passenger car, the X is is the long side of the car (i.e. where windows etc are.  I set my base point on the X with one end of the car at zero and measure out from there.  For the Y depth, I do a 50/50 split, the zero Y axis is the centreline of the car, over the centre of the tracks.  This lets me mirror the sides of the car once one side is done.  I draw with half the width is in positive Y, and the half in negative Y.  This is important as being a bit rigid helps me visualize what I am drawing, and makes measurements easy as you are working along with the linear axis in the software from zero.

So, back to the issue at hand of parts being too big for Shapeways.  The rendering below shows two rectangles, one in grey is the Shapeways FUD printer maximum print bed X and Y (my models have no issue with being too tall, just too long).  Designing as I describe above, when I scale the car down from 1:1 to 1:87, it is too long and hangs off the end of the printer bed.

ShapewaysAnalysis1Passenger car too long when scaled down to be printed by Shapeways, or is it?

So, how to overcome this?  Shapeways system won’t try to re-orient a part in anything less than a 90 degree increment (i.e. they won’t place it at an angle across the print bed).  In thinking about it, I wondered if while they won’t orient a part at an angle, if I did so in the .STL file that gets uploaded for them to print from, if that would work.  When you upload a model, their system runs a bunch of automated checks looking for obvious failures that would prevent printing, and the size so it can calculate a price. Once I was done the model, It was scaled down to HO, and then I took it and rotated the part until it just fit inside the length of the printer as shown below.

ShapewaysAnalysis2Look at me being cheeky (and a little clever), I turned the part inside my 3D software to a jaunty angle so Shapeways system considers it to be within the maximum print size for FUD.

Doing this, allowed the part to pass the automated checks, the most critical of which is the “Bounding Box”, or the automated systems analysis of whether the part would fit within the maximum size the printer can produce.  Having a positive outcome on this, I went ahead and placed the order.  As of when I am writing this post, the body has successfully printed!! I have no idea what turning the part like I have will do to the print quality, or anything else.  For all I know, the turn will create exaggerated stepping on the model instead of it being oriented lengthwise along the bed, but, it has printed, and I can’t learn if I don’t try.  It’s worth one shot to me to see if it works, given how close the car was to fitting as one piece in the normal orientation.

ShapewaysAnalysis3.jpgShapeways Order Status page showing the car has moved from “In-Production” to “Packing”, meaning its done printing, now the long wait on shipping!

So, the question all of you (or at least some of you… someone, anyone???) are asking, is what is this mystery car you’re working on!!  I’m not ready to tell you yet, but I can tell you that if everything goes to plan, and the order from Shapeways arrives in time, I will have the car at the Brampton Model Railroad Show on September 30th and October 1st, 2017.  I know that’s over a month away, but not everything in my Shapeways order has printed yet, the target ship date is August 31, and my past few orders have taken almost 3 weeks to arrive thanks to getting stuck in CBSA purgatory for taxation at the border (seriously, if you’re going to tax it, just get it done, the math to add 13% to the exchanged value plus a $10 service charge isn’t that hard!!). I’ll also hopefully have a post ready to go for the Saturday morning introducing the model for anyone who isn’t in the Toronto area.  I’ll have more details about what I’ll be doing at the show and the show closer to the dates in September.

Tuesday Train #69

00752_n_15amvrns7n0752Railfanning in Vimy France in May 2002 during my exchange course in England.  I had a great schedule, classes on Monday morning and afternoon, full day field trip for the Canadian exchange Students Wednesdays, and nothing Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which meant lots of travel.  I took weekends in Paris, Northern Ireland to see family, Dublin, Newcastle (family again) and one for England stuff not a part of the trip.  Others went much further afield covering off typical European trip hot spots like Amsterdam and Rome on their weekends.

The shot above is a TGV (either an Atlantique or Reseau set, the numbers aren’t clear enough on my shots and I don’t know the spotting differences).  The shot below shows a Nord-Pas de Calais Region TER Z 92050 electric multiple unit.  If you look closely, the cars are bi-level, with a lowered floor between the trucks where there is also an upper level. Behind the train is the at the time abandoned two story original Vimy station building.  The active modern platform with no station building or shelters where I was sitting was just up the line.  In looking at google streetview and maps images today, the original station has since been demolished and all that’s left is the shelter and seatless modern stop.


There are not a lot of times where I contemplate whether I have made good or bad life choices, but sitting in the rain as dusk fell on a Friday in early May 2002 at Vimy station waiting and hoping my train back to Arras would appear after walking up and down the ridge from the Town to the Canadian Vimy Memorial is one of them (the Canadian students who work at the monuments response was they couldn’t remember anyone ever saying they walked up from the train station in the Town).  I remember being thoroughly drenched, tired, hungry and pretty miserable when I took these pictures…which still put me light years ahead of the conditions experienced by so many people younger than I was (early 20’s at the time) 85 years before when the Battle of Vimy Ridge occurred in 1917.  Perspective means a lot, no matter how rotten I felt at the end of that day being tired, soggy and hungry, I was heading back to Paris for a warm bed and good meal, not to a wet trench or to face the horrors of war.  Maybe I was tired and soggy, but all things considered, I wasn’t that badly off, and what at times had seemed like a tough day walking through the French countryside, wasn’t that hard.

Lest We Forget.

The Canadian Vimy Memorial during my visit in May 2002.

This is post 4/5 in my Retro August Scan Cafe finds for Tuesday Train.

Sunday Morning Running Trains

At least running trains in so much as I can in our apartment.  I haven’t run any of my locomotives in a long time, too long frankly, as they do need to be used every now and then to look for problems and keep them lubricated.  Modern models don’t need lots of lubrication, and as often as not, when my intermittent running of them happens, I don’t need to add any, just running them keeps the lubrication that is already there from turning into a solid crud and jamming motors or mechanisms.

First step is to run the locomotive on rollers on my portable test track, just to make sure it is running properly.  Run it slowly at first one direction, then  build a bit of speed, then repeat in the other direction.  The locomotives above are a Heljan Metropolitan-Vickers London Transport Electric No.8 “Sherlock Holmes” on the left, and a Rapido Trains Toronto Railway Museum LRC 6917.

I don’t have a layout per say.  I have a partially sceniced test track that I built in the fall of 2010, and in late 2014 started making some “serious” efforts to scenic.  As you can see from the pictures, that effort didn’t get that far.  The layout isn’t based on anywhere or anything, it’s literally as much track and switches as i could functionally fit into the space

After some running on the rollers, the locomotives migrate to the test track layout.  For me, this is twofold, to see if the locomotives will negotiate Atlas Code 83 switches, and to try to find dead spots on the test track.  The locomotive testing on the left is a Bachmann British Rail Class 08 Diesel Switcher, on the right is the London Underground electric again.

I do not have a DCC system, it’s one of the things on my list of purchases to investigate, but there are a lot of options, and I don’t really know what my long-term needs are going to be.  There are attractive features to the Digitrax, NCE and ESU systems that I have operated with at others people’s homes, and that kind of investment is not one to be made lightly, but a DCC system is a post for another day.  I brought that up as my locomotives are a mix of DCC and Non-DCC.  I have actually installed DCC into a few of my british locomotives for when I take them up to a friends layout in Barrie to run trains.  Note there is a difference between “running trains” and “operating” on a layout.  Running trains is just what it sounds like, putting something on the track and running it for the fun of watching it go, no switching or timetables or anything else, just good old-fashioned letting it run.

Steam locomotives bigger than a 0-6-0 tank can’t really run on my test layout, they are too long to negotiate the switches, so they only get to run on the rollers.  This is a Hornby K1 which I renumbered to 62005, which is the sole preserved locomotive of this class, and a regular on the Jacobite steam service between Fort William and Mallaig in Scotland.  As least running a steam locomotive on the rollers is a bit more rewarding than a diesel as you get the joy of watching the valve gear go!!

Buying a loop of EZ Track or something similar that I can set up on the kitchen table (boy is that like being a kid again visiting my grandparents in Scotland where I first ran a model train) so that I have a bit of a bigger run is something I’ve been thinking about since shortly after we moved into our apartment in 2011, and I still haven’t done it (at least not in HO.  Surprisingly, I do have a loop of N Scale EZ Track for running my narrow gauge Talyllyn/Skarloey on!!).  Ordering that loop of HO track is just one more thing for my to-do list whenever I find the time to place the order!!

Now, back to running trains, there are a lot more steam locomotives kicking around this apartment that need my attention!!

Gaming the Shapeways Size Limits…I Hope

So, I wrote a few weeks ago here about my “Mystery Rail Vehicle #3” project, and how very inconveniently, a full length passenger car doesn’t fit in Shapeways print envelope.

There are several ways to fix this, but it seems that Shapeways has maybe finally accepted allowing users to turn their model so it fits into the bounding box.  All I did to get the model accepted through the automated analysis to get a price and confirm it could be fully assessed for printing was turn the HO Scale part in my 3D modelling program before I output the STL file for the 3D printed to generate a part from.  I assume, in light of recent pricing changes at Shapeways, this means they are charging me more for machine space, but letting the part go through.  Their system wouldn’t attempt to manually re-orient a part to fit the print tray, but it at least let me turn it myself and accept it.  Following an order, Shapeways does a series of manual more in-depth checks before sending a part to print, so now we see if it gets through their manual analysis, or if a human calls me on my efforts to at least beat their automated system.

If I have beat their automated system, and all goes to plan, I should have the print in early September.  If it does work, I am planning on being at the Brampton Model Railroad Show with the Toronto Railway Museum (I’ll be there either way, but won’t have a booth to be at if the museum doesn’t), and will announce what the car is and have it available to show to anyone who knows to ask about it then.  I am just waiting to hear back from the show if they still have space for us as we were a bit delayed in making a request to attend.

For now,  a couple of quick renders from Shapeways of the project sent to print, now the wait to see if they print it or reject it (either for my efforts to game them, or for them finding an error/thin area in my modelling).


Mystery Rail Vehicle #3 renders from Shapeways 3D Tools Visualization system.

I will update this post in the next few days as the Shapeways manual checks proceed to see if the car makes it through to print, or gets kicked back at me.

Update 1, Aug 23 9:30am – So the Chassis has made it through the “processing” and “pre-production” stages to “production”.  So it is at the printer.  the interior is still at “pre-production”, and the car body exterior is “processing” (which is the first stage of manual analysis of the file/part.  At least the parts are moving forward.  Still waiting to see on the big question of if they print the body exterior or not.

Update 2, Aug 23, 11:30am – So, I happened to check in on Shapeways again, the Body Shell has jumped right to “In Production”.  Hopefully that means it’s passed the tests and is actually going to print.  Fingers crossed!!  Now I really need to get on finishing the trucks for this car to tack them onto this order!

Update 3, Aug 24, 9:00am – The chassis for the car has printed and moved to the packing stage, so success on that at least.  Now the long anxious wait to see how it printed given this is the most detailed attempt at an underbody I have designed.  My first attempt at detailed trucks have also moved to printing.  I have designed these without having the wheels I need in hand, so I expect a major re-design will be in their future, but I wanted to try and have something.

Update 4, Sept 1, 9:00am – So last night I got the dreaded “Your order will ship late” email from Shapeways.  Better than the “Parts in your order can’t be printed”, but not great.  My order that was expected to ship Aug 31 is now Sept 4-7.  The issue seems to be the interior of the car which is in “White Strong & Flexible” Nylon.  Its a very large part, which had a 10 day lead anyways because of the size, but it has gone back and forth between “pre-production” and “in production” status, but I haven’t gotten any feedback that its my part that is the issue, and not someone elses in the same print job causing the issues.  Given how long the shipping to Canada has been taking of late, this really pushes back when i am likely to receive my order.

Update 5, September 7, 4:00pm – The order still hasn’t shipped.  I have however, had some very helpful interactions with Shapeways customer service team. The production department is trying hard to get the interior part to print, apparently the seats as shown in the render above, while meeting the minimum standards are too fragile.  I’ll have to add some additional support, but for now, it looks like if the 4th attempt to print doesn’t succeed today/tomorrow, it will be shipping early next week without the interior.  Not ideal, but I can live with that given that Shapeways has taken 4 shots instead of 1 and giving up and saying it won’t print.

Tuesday Train #68

01458_n_15amvrns7n1458.jpgJust to prove the rule that the CPR hates me, one of the few times I was successful shooting the CPR, I got this MLW C-424 Cab Car 1102 (Originally numbered 4212 when it was a locomotive, CPR Converted a number of old C-424 locomotives to cab cars and paired them with mother locomotives, in this case, the GP38-2 No 3068 behind).  This is in Campbellville Ontario at the level crossing on Main Street, there is a nice little park on the north side of the tracks where you can get decent photographs, if any trains ever appear.

This is post 3/5 in my Retro August Scan Cafe finds for Tuesday Train.